The Celtics Are Still Here
Once again, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett lead the charge.
by Jonathan Evans
Act Two. With a chance to rewrite the script and heal the wounds from last year’s Game 4 overtime letdown during 2011’s semis against Miami, Boston made just enough plays, got just enough stops, and had just enough luck to live to fight another day. Just like last year’s Game 4, poor execution on the offensive end looked like it would once again be Boston’s undoing. But this time around, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo—and his two healthy elbows—persevered in a slugfest to earn a 93-91 overtime win. On a night where their execution was shaky, KG (17 points, 14 boards, 5 bocks) and Rondo (15 points, 15 dimes and 5 boards) willed their team across the finish line to knot the series at two apiece.
As brilliant as KG and R-Double were, it almost didn’t matter. Wade still almost put Boston on its death kneel, but his last second three rimmed out. Wade, who shook off another slow start, up-faked Marquis Daniels and had time to collect himself for a clean look from deep. But like most shots of the overtime, it missed.
“I got my legs on the middle and shot it, and it was on line,” Wade said afterwards. “It just decided it didn’t want to go in.”
“Red wasn’t going to let that go in,” Rivers said of Wade’s shot.
In the slugfest of an extra period where both Pierce and LeBron fouled out (more on that later) the Celtics shot 1-for-6 while Miami was just 1-for-8 in the extra period. There was no bigger factor in Miami’s poor shooting than Garnett’s defense.
“He was a single man zone for us, he was amazing,” Rivers said of Garnett. “His talk his defensive leadership. I don’t think Kevin gets enough credit for our team defense, he just directs out there.”
“I told Kevin it’s time,” Rondo said of one of their chats during overtime. “We gotta take the game over.”
Rondo held up his end of the bargain as well. His floater was the only field goal for the Celtics in the extra period. The shot was the perfect move at the perfect time for a guard who’s proven to be perfect at conducting the offense. Rondo can play at another gear and can still understand and react to the moment in a flash. All game he deftly knew when to push it down the throat of the defense or when to pull it back. Time after time, Rondo got an outlet pass, pushed it forward, paused to size everything up and then made the perfect decision. At times he looked so good, it was as he was just toying with the game.
“He’s just a great basketball player,” Rivers said. “And now he’s consistent. He’s been just terrific for us.”
Behind Rondo, the offense was clicking and “The Jungle” was rocking. Paul Pierce slogged his way to a team-high 23 points and Ray Allen flashed that sweet quick release for several back breaking clutch jumpers. Keyon Dooling was doing his best Eddie House impression and the Celtic defense was forcing Miami into tough shots.
Predictably, when either KG or Rondo went to the bench, Boston struggled and Miami went for blood. Boston’s offense looked listless and directionless with Rondo on the bench. Out of sync, Miami outscored Boston 21-12 in the period.
“We were really unorganized the whole second half,” Rivers lamented. “I thought we tried to throw knockout punches. Our execution in the first half was flawless and we got completely away from it. We ignited them with the way we played in the first six minutes of the third quarter”
Indeed as Boston struggled, Miami, behind another big game from LeBron, scored at will. Bron carried the load for Miami, finishing with 29 points, 6 boards and 3 assists. After Garnett and Rondo combined for big play after big play down the stretch of regulation, LeBron rose up and drained a three to tie the game, setting up the overtime. The MVP took Boston’s best shot and threw a counterpunch that was all too reminiscent of his knockout blows of last year’s Game 4. With a chance to end it in regulation, Garnett and the Boston defense forced Bron to pass to an open Haslem who missed the potential game winner.
Unfortunately for LeBron, the refs took over the game and he never got the chance to do anything in overtime. Several questionable and unpredictable whistles for both teams marred this one throughout. The refs, who were booed before and during the game, injected themselves into this game at a frustratingly high level.
“The play calling was all over the place,” Garnett said. “I thought both teams played through it. Then, when we had to, we got stops.”
Rondo and Garnett, once again, made the necessary plays to will Boston to the series tying win. While it won’t take the sting out of last year’s exit, it does give Boston a fresh start to these Eastern Conference Finals. While Boston’s rolling, Miami is showing they can take the Celtics best shot and still be right there. All in all, it looks like we’ve got ourselves a series.