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June 2, 2012
Playoff Prospectus
Unlikely Heroes

by Dan Feldman

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Boston 101, Miami 91 (Miami leads 2-1)
Pace: 85.6
Offensive Ratings: Boston 120.3, Miami 104.4

Before the season, the Bucks essentially gave Boston a second-round pick just to take Keyon Dooling off their hands.* In March, the Celtics considered waiving Marquis Daniels.

Friday, Dooling and Daniels lifted themselves fully from the scrap heap to lead Boston to a pivotal playoff victory.

*Assuming 30-year-old Albert Miralles, who has never played in the NBA, has no value

Though Dooling (seven points and four rebounds) and Daniels (nine points and five rebounds) didn't light up the stat sheet, they made the Celtics considerably better. Both pestered Miami defensively while guarding LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, especially during a 15-0 run that overlapped with an 8:42 stretch of the Heat not making a field goal. Plus, Dooling (3-of-4) and Daniels (4-of-6) were uber-efficient offensively. That's why this happened:

  • Dooling and/or Daniels on the floor: Boston 59, Miami 43 in 27 minutes
  • Neither Dooling nor Daniels on the floor: Miami 48, Boston 42 in 21 minutes

Of course, Dooling and Daniels were far from Boston's best players tonight.

That would be Kevin Garnett, who had 24 points and 11 rebounds, gave Miami fits with his size and finished +27; Rajon Rondo, who kept attacking to the tune of 21 points and 10 assists; or Paul Pierce, who spaced the floor well and attacked effectively off the dribble for 23 points, four rebounds and four assists. Even Ray Allen, who didn't have a vintage performance with just 10 points, turned heads by converting a post-up on one possession and dunking on another.

Dooling and Daniels just made it so the Celtics' stars playing like stars results in a comfortable victory. (Boston led by 24 in the fourth quarter.)

LeBron, who also played like a star, didn't have the same luxury--even when it comes to the help he received from Wade.

LeBron's final line--34 points on 16-of-26 shooting, with eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks--is somewhat disappointing considering he dominated the first quarter (16 points on 7-of-12 shooting with four free-throw attempts). In the first period, the Heat forced transition opportunities--even after Boston makes--and the speedy LeBron took advantage of his teammates' excellent long passes down the court. But after that, LeBron settled for too many isolation jumpers, earning just one free-throw attempt in the final three quarters.

Still, on the whole, LeBron played well.

Wade can't say the same. He needed 20 shots to score his 18 points, never seemed like a real threat and didn't attempt a single free throw. Wade had never played more or shot more in a game without taking a free throw.

Desperate for answers, Erik Spoelstra played Mario Chalmers, Wade, Mike Miller, Shane Battier and LeBron to start the fourth quarter. That lineup went on an 11-0 run early in the quarter, but when Garnett returned to the game, Miami's comeback stalled. The unit eventually snuck within eight, but never closer.

I'm not sure the Heat's ultra-small lineup did anything other than catch Boston off-guard and already at ease. But if the Celtics lead again in what has become a competitive series, Spoelstra might turn to it sooner.

Wade has run hot and cold in these playoffs, and whether aggressiveness returns will likely determine whether Spoelstra should tinker earlier in games. Starters and bench, the Celtics played awesomely tonight. But the Heat is still probably good enough to control their own fate.

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

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