Paul Pierce gets the hero nod tonight as he drains a 15 footer* over the outstretched hand of Dorell Wright. This make put the perfect exclamation point on Pierce’s breakout playoff performance on the offensive end. Pierce netted 32 points in a game that sorely needed a vintage offensive explosion from the Captain. The Celtics looked listless at the start of the game and the third quarter, happy to trade baskets with a Miami team they had grown accustomed to seeing cool off. Unfortunately for C’s fans, Dwyane Wade was poised to not let a repeat of the game two debacle happen on his home floor.
Wade got some help early from Udonis Haslem, who came in for Michael Beasley after some quick fouls were called. This early bench move ended up paying dividends for the Heat as they enjoyed Haslem’s consistent jumper while Beasley got a chance to figure out what he needed to do to bring some much needed help to this Heat squad.
Beasley may have found his stride while trying to work with what little the suffocating Celtics defense gave him, but that consistency, Haslem’s jumper, and some surprisingly inspired play from Dorell Wright were the only bones thrown Dwyane Wade’s way. Adding insult to injury, Wade continuously tweaked his ankles and had to deal with leg cramping that will surely rear its ugly head again before this series is over.
All signs point to a quick end to this series after an emotional and heroic win for the Celtics. Hopefully, the Celtics can take some hard lessons from how close they came to being up 2-1 instead of 3-0.
Some bullets after the jump:
- Kendrick Perkins had probably the oddest stat-line of the post season so far: 0 points, 12 rebounds. This line would make any casual observer believe that Perkins is a liability on the offensive end, but that is not the case. Frustrating for Celtics fans, Perkins does not have the ability to make any put-backs that do not require an unnecessary bounce on the floor. Not only does this customary bounce usually end up not paying dividends in terms of points, but it is almost always accompanied by a “Perkins Shuffle.” Words like dominance, unstoppable, and scary-good come to mind when one dwells on the what-ifs surrounding Perkins’ offensive game. That used to be the topic of conversation concerning his weight, but those questions have since been answered. The lighter Perkins is really showing how well he can alter shots and contest without making enough contact to foul. What he lacks in outright quickness and athleticism, he makes up for in timing, anticipation, and feel. The bottom line: If you have Rasheed Wallace in there instead of Perkins, this game is over before it starts.
- Paul Pierce might have been stealing the show all night with his offense, but Rajon Rondo was the real story tonight. When Rajon Rondo is the facilitator on the floor, Ray Allen should get 25 points and Kevin Garnett should get 16. Rondo has also begun to consistently prove that he is a threat from jump-shot distance by knocking down back-breakers. It is going to be really interesting, should the Celtics advance to the next round, if a) Rondo’s shooting keeps its consistency (viscosity? what?) and b) how the Cavaliers/ Bulls will defend him.
- Speaking of Paul Pierce, he was electric tonight. By closely-watching Paul Pierce all season, I can confidently say that I have not been as confident as I was tonight that Paul Piece was going to knock down that game-winner- especially given how well Wright defended him. Despite the below average shooting overall, Pierce was absolute money on his isolations, going 5-8 for 14 points (ESPN Stats and Information). The usual thoughts of “you can’t do whatever you want anymore,” were replaced by, “this cat is confident tonight!” Pierce showed that he is capable of taking a game over if need be, and that is exactly what he did tonight. Still, the Celtics do not get a completely free-pass when it comes to the last two minutes of the game. I understand the value in taking wide open shots, but threes are not necessary in a tie game. This game could have been a lot different had both Pierce and Allen sacrificed their open looks from beyond the arc for higher percentage shots- and I mean that in both respects. Had Pierce and Allen knocked down those three’s (well one of them anyway) this game would most assuredly have stayed out of reach for the Heat. Had Pierce and Allen drove in and missed a bunny and not have gotten the call, the Heat would have had some serious momentum. All in all, I am satisfied with the result? Are you?
- Kevin Garnett had a solid game tonight, and hopefully that is all the Celtics will ask him to do in the post season. Glen Davis proved on Monday night that he is capable of stepping in on the offensive end (which he backed up tonight by swishing a baseline 17 footer) but he cannot corral nearly every defensive board within his reach the way Kevin can. Securing almost every defensive rebound and quickly outletting the ball to Rondo has been a huge reason for the Celtics success against the Heat. If Garnett can continue to do the little things, hell, anything is possible. Right? Garnett has also been feasting on the shorter Heat front line all series. He is not going to see that type of advantage no matter what other team the Celtics may play. Still, it’s nice to see him take advantage while he has it.
- A quick note on the officiating: While it is widely accepted that Bennett Salvator is simply awful and there were some very questionable calls tonight, should the Celtics have lost the “blame it on the refs” excuse would not fly in an anti-gravity chamber. The truth is, they were equally as bad to both teams. Wade lobbied the referees all night despite getting that suspect offensive foul call when Rondo ran in between him and a breakaway Ray Allen. Rasheed Wallace fell victim to a ton of touch fouls, but so did Michael Beasley and Quentin Richardson. The only egregiously terrible call that I can recall was the mugging Perkins suffered after securing a great offensive rebound. The ball ended up sailing into the backcourt where the Celtics grabbed it and were called for a backcourt violation. The replay clearly shows Perkins getting hacked on the pass out. Just awful.
That’s it for now. I am sure I have missed a bunch of stuff. And I am sure you will all let me know. But hell, that is why I love you.
*After watching the replay, it really was just a step in from three. Pierce actually said he got to his “sweet spot” in the postgame interview, but we all know his sweet spot is right around the right elbow.
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