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April 18, 2010
Playoff Prospectus
Celtics-Heat, game one

by Bradford Doolittle

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Boston 85, Miami 76

Pace: 87 possessions

Offensive Ratings: Celtics 97.3, Heat 87.0

A game only a mother could love. Well, it was actually pretty entertaining at times for a contest that featured so little offense. The Celtics fell behind by 14 points midway through the third quarter before putting the clamps on Dwyane Wade and the Miami offense and held serve in Game One.

The Celtics had two main advantages in the final numbers. First, they forced 22 Miami turnovers, which more than offset the edge the Heat enjoyed on boards. Also, Boston outscored Miami 22-10 from the line. The Celtics were whistled for just 11 fouls in the game. Miami fans aren't going to like that stat, but it seemed to be much a function of Miami's offense than it was inequitable officiating. The Celtics hot a huge lift from reserve guard Tony Allen, who scored 14 points in his 29 minutes and provided a timely sparks of energy in both the first and third periods.

The Celtics went inside early and often against a Miami defense that normally shuts off the paint. Paul Pierce was exploiting Quentin Richardson on the blocks, while Rajon Rondo was victimizing Carlos Arroyo, who was leaving Rondo to trap. When he Arroyo wandered, Rondo cut right to the hoop. Boston scored 20 of its 28 first-quarter points in the paint. Boston also went to work on Jermaine O'Neal with Kendrick Perkins, who flashed the nice jump hook he has when he gets a defender on his left shoulder. Tony Allen got some early time for Boston and provided a spark on both ends of the floor, scoring eight points in the first frame. Miami superstar Dwayne Wade was passive early, allowing Michael Beasley, Jermaine O'Neal and Carlos Arroyo to control the offense in the opening minutes. He got it going later in the period, taking advantage of Rasheed Wallace's lackluster help defense, and finishing with nine points on five shots in the quarter. The Heat had several runouts in the first period as Miami played the passing lanes against Boston's turnover-prone offense and led 29-28 at the end of the quarter. Boston was getting better shots, but Miami was getting to the line, hitting the offensive glass and forcing turnovers. The 25 first-period possessions for each team indicated a game being played at a faster pace than one would have anticipated.

The game ground to a halt in the second quarter, as the Heat outscored Boston 15-13 on 19 possessions. Miami's putrid 78.0 Offensive Rating still beat Boston's paltry 67.6 mark. Rebounding became more a factor in the period, as Miami grabbed six of its 11 misses, while Boston managed to corral just one of its nine. Both teams struggled for points in the first half of the quarter, but Miami was able to get some second-chance opportunities while limiting Boston to one shot on the other end. Ray Allen, who didn't attempt a field goal in the first quarter, attempted seven in the second. But he hit just two of them and went 0-of-4 from three-point range, the Celtics' only attempted treys in the half. Overall, Boston was 2-of-8 outside the lane in the half. Miami's approach was the opposite--24 of its 39 shots were from outside the lane--but what was killing the Heat was the 11 turnovers they committed in 44 first-half possessions. Seven of those miscues came in the second period. During the regular season, Miami was the fifth-best team in the NBA in terms of taking care of the ball. At one stretch, the Celtics went six minutes without a field goal, before Perkins ended the drought with a second-chance dunk. Miami eventually pushed its lead to eight, but Boston closed the half with a five-point run to make the score 44-41.

After Kendrick Perkins scored the first two points of the second half, Miami went on a 10-0 run. Wade was working off the dribble and drawing the Celtics defense, then kicking to jump shooters who were hitting, including Arroyo and Richardson. Wade capped the run when O'Neal missed an open look Wade created by coming from out of bounds for a follow-up jam. Meanwhile, the Celtics continued to disregard the outside game and, instead, kept working into the strength of the Miami defense. The Heat upped the advantage to 11, its biggest of the game. Wade took the game over in the third period. When he wasn't picking apart the defense and creating for his teammates, he was getting to the hoop on his own. The Celtics seemed dispirited and flat-footed, which happens when you are continually frustrated on offense. Things finally turned for Boston in the last half of the third quarter. Boston's ball movement became more crisp, resulting in a succession of good looks close to the rim. Also, Boston managed to overload its defense on Wade's side, forcing him to give up the ball early, while rotating to contest the shots that resulted. The Heat went small to try to re-ignite its offense, but that left Beasley on Kevin Garnett and the results weren't pretty. Pierce capped a 13-2 run to trim Miami's 14-point lead to 63-60 with 2:32 to go in the period. The methodical advantage Miami had built disappeared in about four minutes. After a Miami timeout, Mario Chalmers ended the run with a three-pointer, but Pierce added four more points to close the period and had the look of a player ready to go off. Miami's commanding edge was gone, and while the Heat still led 66-64, the momentum was clearly with the Celtics entering the final period. Both teams shot lights out in the period and the Heat pitched a shutout on the defensive glass, but Boston forced five more Miami turnovers, upping its total to 16 for the game--six by Wade. Nevertheless, D-Wade had nine points on five shots, three boards, three assists, a steal and a block in the period.

Miami's sudden disappearance on offense continued in the last quarter. The Heat scored just two points in the period's first five minutes. Time after time, the Wade was giving up the ball and then the offense stood stagnant as the shot clock wound down. As analyst Hubie Brown pointed out, the Celtics were able to contest shots in the lane witout fouling. They also had sealed off the defensive glass. On the other end, Rondo's dribble penetration became a huge factor and Glen Davis provided a spark by working with Rondo on the pick-and-roll. Eric Spoelstra went small again midway through the fourth quarter as the Heat grew desperate for points. It became apparent that if Wade was doing it, it wasn't going to get done. Beasley, as he has a tendency to do, became too quick to settle for jumpers. Going forward, he's going to have to make the Celtics defense move if he's going to do anything the help open things up for Wade. The Heat went 4-of-21 from the floor in the final period and committed six more turnovers.

The action turned ugly late as Richardson and Udonis Haslem appeared to come over and sort of double-pound Pierce into the first row of seats. Pierce's shoulder may have been injured on the play (Richardson claimed he was faking) and a scuffle broke out. Garnett was in the thick of it, throwing an elbow, and got two technicals and an ejection. Wade hit a free throw to bring Miami within five, but couldn't hit a pull-up jumper after a timeout that could have brought the Heat within one possession. That was it for the game, as the Celtics added some free throws to seal the win. Miami scored 15 points in the last 19 minutes of the game. We're awaiting word from the office regarding the fallout from the Garnett incident, which has sparked a fresh wave of "KG is a punk" blog entries. The early consensus is that Garnett will be suspended for Tuesday's Game Two.

G1: Celtics 85, Heat 76 (Celtics lead 1-0)
MIA  29  15  22  10 - 76
BOS  28  13  23  21 - 85
HEAT          Pace   oRTG  eFG%  oREB% FT/FGA TO%  TCHS
First Quarter   25  117.8  .524  .200  .333  .122  5.03
Second Quarter  19   78.0  .417  .545  .000  .364  4.04
Third Quarter   21  105.0  .583  .250  .056  .286  5.09
Fourth Quarter  22   45.3  .190  .133  .095  .136  3.69 
-------------------------------------------------------
FIRST HALF      44  100.3  .474  .381  .179  .228  4.54
SECOND HALF     44   73.5  .372  .235  .077  .116  4.39
-------------------------------------------------------
FINAL           87   87.0  .423  .273  .128  .217  4.46
=======================================================
CELTICS       Pace   oRTG  eFG%  oREB% FT/FGA TO%  TCHS
First Quarter   25  113.8  .571  .125  .190  .163  5.80
Second Quarter  19   67.6  .286  .111  .357  .260  2.58
Third Quarter   21  109.8  .559  .000  .235  .095  5.30
Fourth Quarter  22   95.0  .333  .300  .500  .091  4.08
-------------------------------------------------------
FIRST HALF      44   93.5  .457  .118  .257  .205  4.19
SECOND HALF     44  101.1  .443  .136  .371  .064  4.74
-------------------------------------------------------
FINAL           87   97.3  .450  .152  .314  .160  4.46
=======================================================

Bradford Doolittle is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Bradford by clicking here or click here to see Bradford's other articles.

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