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Thursday, May 31st, 2012 at 10:20 am  |  37 responses

Post Up: Rondo Not Enough

Miami outlasts Boston in overtime to take a 2-0 series lead despite 44 from Rajon Rondo.

by Eldon Khorshidi | @eldonadam

Heat 115, Celtics 111 (OT) (MIA leads 2-0)

“We lost… Simple as that.” — Rajon Rondo

I feel you, Rajon. But with all due respect—notwithstanding the proportional weight of a single game in a best-of-seven series—Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals was anything but, “Simple as that.”

Far from it.

In what was easily the best game of the ‘12 Playoffs thus far, the Miami Heat erased their largest postseason deficit in franchise history to outlast the Boston Celtics in overtime, 115-111. Rajon Rondo played the best game of his career, putting on a performance that will be talked about and referenced five, 10, maybe even 20 years from now. Rondo played all 53 minutes of the game, scoring a career-high 44 points, dishing out 10 assists and grabbing eight rebounds.

But in the end, it was all for naught. LeBron James scored 34 points and grabbed 10 boards, Dwyane Wade scored 8 of his 23 points in overtime, the Heat’s bench outscored Boston’s 25-7 and Miami executed down the stretch to emerge victorious and take a commanding 2-0 series lead.

It was a game more reminiscent of a boxing match than a basketball game—both teams traded body shots for the first 48 minutes, with the Heat ultimately landing a few haymakers in the extra session to prevail. Games like these—the ones that you know you had in your grip but just let slip away—usually leave teams salty, possibly a little discouraged.

But this one hurts much, much more. When the final buzzer sounded, the still-very-conscious Celtics, just like a decent portion of America, were distraught, demoralized and confused. What? How? Boston shot 49 percent from the field, controlled the first half and led by 5 points with three minutes to play. The Celtics held both Wade and James to zero field goals in the fourth quarter, and scored 99 points in regulation, the most the Heat have allowed all postseason. And all of this occurred under the umbrella of one of the best performances ever seen, as Rondo became the first player in League history to post 40-10-8 in a playoff game. The Celtics emptied the tank and gave the Heat their best possible game, but still lost. This one hurts.

Miami was down by as much as 15 in the first half, but cut the deficit towards the end of the second quarter. Boston led 53-46 at halftime, behind Rondo’s 22 points, 7 assists and 4 rebounds. Rondo was aggressive as hell in the first two frames, getting to the free throw line 12 times after shooting zero free throws in Game 1. He was responsible, either by scoring or distributing, for 36 of Boston’s 53 points, and personally outplayed both LeBron and Wade.

At halftime, the box score read: Rondo: 22, 4, and 7. James and Wade: a combined 15 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists.

But in true Heat fashion, Miami came out firing in the second half. Two three-pointers from LeBron, two consecutive jumpers from Wade, and an and-1 from Udonis Haslem gave the Heat a 73-71 lead with 2:55 left in the third. After going 5-13 inside 5 feet in the first half, in the third quarter Miami went 7-8 from indoors to take the lead. The Heat stretched their lead to as many as seven in the third, ending the quarter on a 15-4 run to create a 81- 75 advantage entering the fourth.

A few minutes into the final frame, with the Heat leading 85-81, LeBron pick-pocketed Rondo and drove down the court gaining steam to elevate for one of his trademark fast-break dunks. But Mickael Pietrus wrapped up Bron, resulting in a clear-path foul. Only James missed both free throws and Mike Miller missed a three-pointer on the subsequent possession to negate the clear-path and keep the Heat’s lead at four.

Less than a minute later, Miami’s lead was gone. Pietrus sunk a trey, and Rondo followed with a steal and layup to put Boston up one, 86-85. Paul Pierce—who finished with 21 points and 6 rebounds in 42 minutes before fouling out—hit a jumper to give Boston a five-point lead with 3:50 left. But of course, the Celtics’ lead was soon gone, too. Miami scored the next nine points, and a Haslem jumper with 1:08 remaining put Miami up 98-94.

With the Heat’s lead shrunk to three, an ailing Ray Allen, who provided 13 points and 5 rebounds in a whopping 43 minutes (#salute, Ray), sunk a three-pointer with 34.3 seconds to tie the game at 99.

On the last possession of regulation, LeBron had two tries to win the game, but missed both. He first missed a layup, then grabbed the rebound off of his own miss and rose up for a fade-away jumper over Rondo. No good. Why did LeBron, one of the strongest and most explosive players in the League, choose to shoot a fade-away over a dude six inches smaller than him? Not enough room to dissect that in this post, but if you feel the urge, feel free to give your take down below.

In overtime, it was Rondo vs. the Heat. After a few back-and-forth possessions between No. 9 and Miami, the Heat capitalized on a Rondo missed layup (Rondo got hit in the face by Wade on the play, but the refs inexplicably didn’t call a foul), with Haslem converting on an easy dunk to put the Heat up 105-103. And after a turnover on the next Celtic possession, Wade drove the lane, switched hands mid-air and bounced in an acrobatic and-1 layup in Kevin Garnett’s face. Poof. That was pretty much it; 115-111, Heat win.

Rondo scored all 12 of Boston’s points in overtime, and finished 16-24 from the floor and 10-12 from the foul line, but it wasn’t enough. Mario Chalmers had an impressive performance for the Heat, scoring 22 points, and Haslem finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

Last night was one of those times that, no matter the circumstance, you weren’t going to miss even one second of the game. If you had to use the bathroom, you waited until a commercial break. If you had to pick up your spouse from the train station, or scoop up your child from a friend’s house, you lied and told them you were on the way, but stayed put, even if you could’ve paused the game to go and get them. Rajon Rondo was putting on one of the best hero-ball (positive connotation, obviously) performances in NBA history, playing all 3,180 seconds and doing everything he could possibly do to keep the Celtics in the game. Jumpshots—Rondo was 10-12 from outside 15 feet—driving layups, step-back threes, whatever. He got it done. He abused Wade, LeBron, Chalmers and whoever else the Heat stuck on him. It didn’t matter. But again, in the end, it was all for naught.

Now the series heads to Boston on a quick turnaround, with Game 3 tomorrow night. Did the Heat merely hold serve, protecting their home court through the first two games, or was this something more? Can the Celtics rejuvenate and recreate the energy and focus of Game 2 with practically no time to recover? Can Rajon Rondo do this—and more— consistently enough to give the Celtics a chance in this series? It’ll be tough for Boston to comeback, and at the moment the Celtics’ chances look bleak, but if they can put this one behind them and solely focus on the next two games, they have a chance.

After Game 7 of the Celtics-Sixers series, I wrote that the Eastern Conference Finals should be exciting, and ended the recap with, “This is going to be great.” In retrospect, all I can say now is, I’m sorry.

Great? What an understatement.

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  • CDaTyrant

    Rondo did phenomonal last night big ups n anyone else felt they were watching cavs versus celts when bron still rocked #23? cuz that’s exactly what this was except the celts were the cavs and rondo was bron. N If the heat think they’ll win another one like this then its gon b another looong summer.

  • http://slamonline.com Henkenzo

    Heat in 4!

  • Feez_22

    @CDaTyrant honestly you stole the words right from my mouth lol… this was like game 2 of the 2010 NBA conference finals. if i remember correctly, rondo had a 29 point triple double that game and the heat lost by 20. Rondo was so amazing last night… that was one of the best individual playoff performances ive ever seen tbh. he played all 53 minutes, made a plethora of jumpers and was just killing it out there.

  • Feez_22

    # game 2 of the 2010 NBA semis cavs/celts btw. sorry for the error there. But ya… The game last night left a sour taste 2 me… I dunno if it was because the draft lottery was rigged right before this game but this game felt like the celts had to battle the refs AND the heat. its not everyday that the heat win despite lebron and dwyane wade incessantly trying 2 give it away at the FT line. so many foul calls… i need to see a foul recap or something lol. I dunno… The game just left a sour taste to me. The refs were clearly biased last night towards the heat from what i saw.

  • http://nba.com GP23

    Get your brooms ready.

  • Heals

    C’s fan in me was a bit crushed (can’t be too disappointed when don’t expect to win), but the hoops fan in me was lovin’ it. Rondo scoring 44 while, regardless of their health or age, the New3 were still there was unfathomable a couple years back. The Heat role players are gettin it done, Battier and Mario from deep, Haslem when you leave him, just timely shots to keep the C’s at a distance or stop the lead from growing. Bron and DW3 slashing and chasing loose balls like bench players. If we only get 3 more games in this series here’s to hoping 2/3′s of them are of this type…

  • CDaTyrant

    SMDH Boston we have a pro… no we got a F#CKIN EPIDEMIC

  • Feez_22

    @Heals ya man the heat are showing resolve. but man rondo… that was the most awesome PO PG performance since chris paul’s masterpiece in game 1 versus the lakers last season. Rondo was so awesome… hitting jumpers like it was nothing. In the offseason, rondo needs to get a true jumpshooting coach… someone that can analyze this film and adjust rondo’s shooting so that he can be more efficient. he clearly has the potential. next yr the celts are gonna need rondo with a 15 foot J consistently. he was just awesome last night though… i have no words for his performance. just a masterpiece.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Oh, yeah, give Mario Chalmers credit. They put an inferior defender on him, and he attacked all night. That’s underrated.

  • T-Money

    this is why heat fans put up with all the boneheaded plays from mario chalmers. the guy is an absolute gamer. the shots he hit in the first half to keep miami from totally folding were really big time. even the tech he took jawing at dooling was needed.

  • LA Huey

    I’ll admit, I love to hate the Celtics (along with Lakers and Bulls) but Rondo is one of my favorite players. I hope he spends less time rollerskating and more time on his jumper this summer. And his teammates better strangle Ainge if any Rondo trade rumors come up.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    (repost)
    Also, to bring this point out. In three of the four quarters in regulation, Wade scored a total of 3 points.
    Think about that for a second.
    In the first, second and fourth quarters combined he had THREE points!
    Not only does that mean the Celtics squandered some golden opportunities, it also makes you wonder what would have happened if LeBron did that.

  • Rik Smits Mullet

    Got to cosign LA Huey.
    Iam a Heat fan and Rondo is one of my favorite players as well.
    Celctics heat games are always cheering with a tear for Rondo.

  • http://www.soundcloud.com/tray-5 T-Ray

    I still believe Rondo is the best PURE point guard in the league. When this dudes jumper is on point he’s unstoppable.

  • LA Huey

    Man, Lebron had his 5th 30/10 game of the postseason and cats are talking about how “quiet” or “average” of a game he had. I’m don’t even want to imagine what folks would say if he had the same 3 qtr output that Wade had.

  • Feez_22

    & yea chalmers shows up when it counts. gotta give him that. he’s a much better “gamer” than lebron’s 2nd in command mo williams in cleveland tbh. When the games got tough in cle, mo williams and jamison dissapeared. Now, lebron has guys like chalmers and haslem whom have showed up in a few big games already this playoffs. For chalmers specifically, he scored 19 points in game 3 v. the knicks on the road, scored i believe 25 versus the pacers in game 3 and has now scored 22 i think v. the celts in game 2.

  • Feez_22

    If lebron had 3 points in 3 quarters… esp in the first, second and 4th quarters combined… people would write articles about him coming up small… It would be like 2010 celtics cavs game 5 all over again. The funny thing though? No one will talk about wade’s average game. Everyone 2day will be talking about either the refs or lebron’s missed game winner. Period. people are gonna crucify lebron over the rest regardless. I can hear skip bayless now… “Dwade is the batman, Lebron is the robin. ya wade may have had 3pts in 3 qs including the 4th combined but he has the clutch gene ” lol… i have just accepted that lebron can’t do anything right. I still think he had an avg game for his standards though… horrible shooting percentage and some bad free throw shooting in the 4th quarter. But he will be crucified and blamed regardless.

  • T-Money

    gotta give some credit to spo too: in the second half, he scrapped the rotation and put his “warriors” on the floor even though it was a really small line up (rio wade bron battier haslem), and he also switched everything on ball screens which stalled boston’s offense.

  • T-Money

    the noise around lebron is not interesting to me anymore. media folks always complain that the aau mentality is ruining the game and the players are too selfish but on the other hand, they’re asking lebron to play a game within a game. winning is not everything, he has to do it in a certain way. the closing obsession is rather annoying.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Yeah, switching the ball screens changed up the Celtics attack. I guess Mike Woodson knew what he was doing in Atlanta after all.
    The Celtics will be ready for it next game, but on the fly they seemed confused on how to handle it. Also, the Heat really jumped out on Allen on screens. They really trust each other on defense because they were showing on those screens like they believed the rotation behind them was going to happen. And for the most part it did.
    It helps that KG only flashes hard to the rim like three or four times a game, MAX.

  • http://nba.com/celtics lights out

    T-money: was just gonna say what you said about Spo. switching on everything was an excellent adjustment.

  • LA Huey

    Rio still had a bone-headed pass but what I love is that he will attack a mismatch. And Battier, who I scream at a lot, has played very well out of position.

  • http://nba.com/celtics lights out

    side note: isn’t it amazing how scared defenses are to give Ray Allen the least bit of day light? i know they helped off of him in game one, but as soon as he hit a couple J’s in game 2, they were back to jumping out hard on him. i mean, the guy has bone spurs, clearly hasn’t been himself, and still, he has such a track record and such a legendary work ethic that defenses still s— themselves when he lines it up.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    That is who KG has become at this point in his career. He much rather take a 20-foot fadeway than attack the basket and who can blame him after seeing him get rejected by the rim in the Sixers series.

  • LA Huey

    Also, credit to Haslem for playing Rondo pretty well when he was iso’d against him after the switch.

  • http://www.google.be/imgres?q=NO!+meme&um=1&hl=nl&sa=N&rlz=1C1AFAB_enBE454BE454&biw=1600&bih=763&tbm=isch&tbnid=L3l0ZW3D5dDSDM:&imgrefurl=http://forthesakeofscience Max

    Brian “the big motivator” Scalabrine

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    Rondo was awesome. Fantastic…
    BUT. He has to start finishing better at the rim. He really should put on ‘ye ole summer 15′ and come back with some guns.

  • deafballer

    out of curiosity, what are the statistics of teams coming back from a
    2-0 deficit in the conference finals?

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    Someone told me it was 94% but that seems way to high.

  • http://slamonline.com 19821982

    ^LOL

  • deafballer

    94% is unfathomably high… (is that even a word?) and i think the best thing rondo could do is as lakeshow said, put on some weight. if he gets bigger he doesn’t really have to worry about it screwing up his shot seeing as he doesn’t have a shot. His shooting is so raw that one summer of working with a shooting coach could work miracles while still putting on the pounds.

  • T-Money

    94% is actually dead on, that’s the number.t he odds are only slightly better than coming back from 3-1 (96%). spurs and celtics are done.

  • Hey-Zeus

    Honestly, a lot of the Celtics loss in this game was the officiating. The non-call on Wade foul on Rondo could easily have changed the game, because something like that can create a 4 point swing, and then he got away with an offensive foul, where he used his legs to create space, but got an and-1 instead. Tough loss for the C’s, but the officiating has been horrible in this series so far.

  • T-Money

    they blew a 15 point lead. #also #aswell

  • Byebye

    Rondo was great but he was wide open on every shot he had to show some pride and make some shots

  • Bruno

    spurs are done?

  • Marge Required

    Rondo might be as competitive or more so than KG. That’s saying a lot.

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