at Boston 93, Miami 91 (Series tied, 2-2)
Offensive Ratings: Boston 109.4, Miami 104.1
Miss, offensive foul, miss, miss, make, split free throws, miss, make, miss, miss, offensive foul, miss, miss, miss, miss, split free throws, miss.
That, in all its ugliness, was overtime. Boston 4, Miami 2.
The Celtics and Heat combined for a great four quarters and at one point had me questioning, Has the level of play in these conference finals been high enough for the eventual NBA champion not to face scrutiny for winning in a down, lockout season? If the extra five minutes are any indication, the answer will be a resounding no.
Those two offensive fouls listed above were especially relevant. Paul Pierce fouled out on the first, and LeBron James fouled out on the second. It was Pierce's third foulout in his last five games and LeBron's fourth in his entire career.
Fittingly, Boston--led by Rajon Rondo (15 points and 15 assists)--was just a little more used to playing in a game like this and pulled out the victory.
Perhaps, more accurately, the Celtics hung on for the victory. Their offense, incredible in the first half, turned equally horrific after the break.
- First half: 131.3
- Second half and overtime: 67.5
That change was due to both Boston's regression to the mean and Miami turning up its defensive pressure. On the regression side:
- First half: 7-of-16 (43.8 percent)
- Second half and overtime: 2-of-11 (18.2 percent)
Free throws :
- First half: 10-of-10 (100 percent)
- Second half and overtime: (4-of-10) 40 percent
As far as the Heat was concerned, Udonis Haslem played a huge role in turning the tide, and he even started the third quarter over Joel Anthony. Haslem (12 points and 17 rebounds) helped Miami end one of Boston's main advantages.
- First half: 40.0
- Second half and overtime: 12.5
By holding Boston to 12 points in the third quarter and 16 points in the fourth quarter, the Heat earned a chance to win the game on the final possession of regulation. LeBron, facing a triple team, threw a deflected pass to Haslem, who missed a long jumper at the buzzer. LeBron, who will undoubtedly face tons of criticism for passing on the shot, correctly realized that, when he's triple-teamed, someone else is open. But he erred by not accounting for the triple team, especially as applied by the lengthy Kevin Garnett, making a pass more difficult. Neither LeBron shooting over a triple team or passing out of a triple team is a great proposition in that situation, but passing is not the obviously better option.
Regardless, LeBron certainly won't face the same scrutiny as Dwyane Wade, who missed a three-pointer to end overtime. Wade, with Marquis Daniels guarding him after a switch, pump faked to create a clean look, but hit rim.
It was a tough night for LeBron (29 points on 25 shots with seven turnovers) and Wade (20 points on 22 shots--though, he defend and passed well, notching three steals, three blocks and six assists). Kevin Garnett (17 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, five blocks and two steals) blocked each LeBron and Wade twice.
Really, Garnett was at the heart of the Heat's uneven play and unsteady lineups. Erik Spoelstra started Anthony, presumably for his ability to defend Garnett. It didn't work. Boston outscored Miami, 29-20, in the 14:36 they shared the court. The next solution? It might be Chris Bosh.
The Celtics, on the other hand, seem to have a much firmer grasp of what they're doing, and it's working just well enough. Take Rondo, for instance. He had three turnovers tonight, but all three came on charges. Those dead-ball turnovers, a sign of aggressiveness that has made Boston's offense click, prevented the Heat from getting into transition, unlike steals would have. By channeling his aggression through dribbling more than passing, Rondo has limited a Miami advantage.
It might not sound like much, but in a tight game and tight series, those small tweaks make all the difference.
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Dan Feldman is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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