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Escape From South Beach: Celtics 100, Heat 98

 

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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.

  • Paolo

    pierce. with the ballgame.

  • DRJ1

    And they win… with the much-dreaded Paul iso. A perfect reminder of how far the switch has flipped.

  • Adrian

    They aint ready for the heavy. GAME

  • Jrmz

    The refs really piled on the fouls on us in the fourth but they couldn’t stop the hot hands. Rondo with the key offensive rebounds that took away any extra time for the Heat. Perkins with a domination of the boards..and Rasheed being Rasheed, 11 minutes 4 fouls. Is he paid to generate fouls?

  • DRJ1

    Jrmz– Can’t blame Sheed in this game, even tho he did actually foul a couple of times. The refs were doing their best to help Miami. Pretty damn clear. Hell, KG got twisted around by the head and neck… no call. Wade runs into Rondo’s BACK (!!) and Rondo is called for the foul. And on and on. It’s a real accomplishment when you win 5 vs 8, on the road, in a playoff game 3, with the NBA losing millions by your winning.

  • RBD

    Great win. They weathered the early storm (despite some sub-par first quarter D) and broke Miami’s back.

    Fully expect Miami to roll over and die Sunday. They just might need a little push.

    Don’t see the refs conspiracy stuff tonight. They let a lot go both ways, even if the eyes of Celtics fans will inevitably focus on non-calls that annoyed us rather than the other way around. Only 1-2 calls that seemed flat out wrong to me. I’m sure the Heat fans have their own legit list of gripes.

  • al

    that was more of a 18-20 footer, give the man his proper credit!

  • DeVelaine

    I could have sworn they missed a call on Perk being out of bounds after a rebound in the 3rd. I’d have to go back over the game again to catch it. Otherwise, I saw some questionable stuff both ways. The O’Neal throwdown was a clear foul, but eh… I think it just amped up KG more to go at him.

  • Adrian

    I think Perkins needs to do more on offense in the 2nd round because he is way too slow whenever he gets the ball. i think he is offensively challenge i unno

  • J-Bad

    Great Win for the C’s. Paul Pierce is the man. And all this foolish talk about this series going 7. Please….What did I tell yall. Regular season aint nothing.

  • dslack

    Pierce’s shot was a 21-22 footer. Seriously, I don’t think he was more than 2 feet inside the arc.

    Regarding the foul on Rondo for not running fast enough — isn’t that exactly the same play that Hollinger praised Kidd for here? http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/15270/thursday-bullets-168

  • I love Green

    I loved when like 3 heat players pulled Perk to the ground and a backcourt violation was called

  • ed judson

    too bad the c’s don’t have a classy guy like q-rich to call out wade for being an actress on the next to last play

  • Brendan Jackson

    Spot on EJ, I meant to mention that. While I don’t question Wade’s pain, I also didn’t question Pierce’s but if I was in that lockeroom, you better believe I am asking Richardson about that.

  • zeus

    Allen also had a solid game with smooth quick release shots and good assists.. especially when the offense got stagnant ; think Allen and KG creates shots for others as much as Rondo creates for them

  • zeus

    Did u guys also notice that KG just got up and walked after the hard foul by O’Neal ; I cd just see him thinking “i gotta get out of here”

  • ed judson

    zeus, check out the ref’s surprise when pp went to help kg up following the hard foul.

  • John V

    Perk was not just 0-4. He also had 5 turnovers (with zero steals and zero assists), and was a -10 in 30:53. Sheed didn’t get many touches, but he set a lot of screens, and didn’t miss a shot or have a turnover. He was +11 in 10:39.

    I know we’re all disappointed in Sheed, but the level of criticism is getting ridiculous. On this night, he was clearly a better offensive player than Perk.

  • DRJ1

    @zues– Absolutely. KG knew the refs were not calling it (no whistle), understood that they weren’t gonna give him any slack or respect in this game, and forced himself to do NOTHING…. just walk away. The hardest thing of all to do. It was beautiful to see.

  • DRJ1

    John V– right on about Sheed. Good game for him, pretty bad one for Perk. Credit Perk for rebounding and D. But man, this guy needs to learn the rules of traveling, because he’s CONSTANTLY breaking them. And he is the NBA leader in time (and dribbles) needed to “gather himself”.

  • Colin Blair

    I’d have to disagree 100% on Perk not being a liability on the offensive end. He sulks when he doesn’t get the ball, get the call, or doesn’t make the bunny. Doc spent the last two days praising Perk for being a playmaker for a reason.

  • sneezy

    “Did u guys also notice that KG just got up and walked after the hard foul by O’Neal?”

    Yup, sure did, and it was great to see. Don’t get baited into doing anything dumb, just walk away and get back to taking care of business.

  • http://www.icandyclothing.com complexity

    Even though Paul Pierce had 32 points, it felt like when Ray Allen was in, positive things were constantly happening. Two or three. shots in the fourth quarter is unforgivable.

    Get Ray the ball.

  • Ray Leighton

    Great buzzer-beater at the end, even though I still cringe when we have that many options and still insist on going to Paul on the iso. Glad it worked.

    Perk — I’ve picked on Perk a lot this year, but tonight… we have a real problem at the 5-spot on offense. 0 points, 0 assists, and 5 turnovers and he played for almost 31 minutes. So long as the team plays great defense and everyone else is hitting, we can survive that kind of awful performance on offence, but….. A large part of our turnover problems this year has been Perk. If he’s not going to score, why even pass to him? We’d have five fewer turnovers and this game would have been over earlier. Perk did another great defensive job on O’Neal, and he was solid on the boards, but he is going to have to play smarter against Cleveland and Orlando.

    I can’t say enough about Rondo this game — when he plays that well, he just creates so many opportunities for the rest of the team. And that late offensive rebound may have won the game as much as Pierce’s buzzer-beater.

    Time to finish off the Heat on Sunday and then go home and get some more rest.

  • Jrmz

    Because if we don’t pass to Perk, their big men will be free to double team on Pierce every time he tries to drive in, or on Rondo or KG. We have to keep any opponent’s big men on their toes at all times and to do that, we have to ensure that Perk gets his fair amount of shots. That said, Perk has a pretty high percentage FG wise this year..60% I think? So he does make his shots and when they fall, they are consistent. Perk does have an issue with his passing since he tends to make not ill advised passes but passes that are far too predictable..if he wants to make those passes he should try to avoid directly passing to a cutting teammate because its too obvious.

  • http://loscy.com LOSCY

    If you’re Erik Sp., why not go to a zone to double and trap Pierce at 18′ off the elbow? Run a 2-1-2 zone and force Ray or Finley to make the big shot?

  • Josh A

    Clutch!

  • Chris O

    Great point Jrmz on Perks shooting %. Dude almost just broke the franchise record for shooting % in a season and now everyone is trashing him on one 0-4 with 5 turnovers. Yes the dude is the worst option offensively out of the starters but when you have PP, Jesus, Ticket and Rondo he’s not really a hindrance. I do realize Perks limitations but considering he is usually adequate on offense and is very good borderline great on D and a good rebounder I will take it. Perk is a Beast and has had a solid year (especially the first half). As awkward as this sounds Perk and Rondo could be the determining players on whether or not we win #18.

  • Chris O

    BTW…where are all the Miami fans squaking Heat in 6….on that’s right their MIA

  • Chris O

    *they’re, correction to previous post…I still like to see some Heat fans jump on here now. Haven’t seen one recently.

  • http://loscy.com LOSCY

    By the way, Rondo and Pierce chipped in 44 minutes each. Whoa.

  • Chris O

    Same thing I thought LOSCY, which is why them winning makes it so worth it. A loss would have been rough, not only because the series would be close but they played sooo much.

  • Sami

    Yeah This was definitely a night where I knew a Pierce iso at the buzzer would work. Knew that shot would go in he got near his sweet spot an let it rip.

    Rondo as they were say was a great facilitator this game.When he’s doing that he will not only get his points but Ray, KG, and Paul will all get what they need tonight.

    You can get on Perk all you want but 12 boards and 2 blocks we need that from him just as much as we could use some points from him.

    Awesome game looking forward to wrapping this up tomorrow.

  • http://www.hotmail.com Josh

    Hope you boys are strapped in for another long postseason run!!!!!!

  • Jeff

    @dslack: I thought of the same play, but didn’t Kidd have the ball? It does make a difference because without the ball you’re setting a moving screen, which is what Rondo did. The ref should call it, and — surprise, surprise — one of ‘em did.

    I thought Perk was getting over the extra dribble/excessive time to gather himself thing, but even with it he contributes way more to the team than Rasheed Wallace. He works hard on defense, attacks the boards, and understands that he’s the fifth option on offense. He may complain when he doesn’t get calls, but he does NOT sulk when he doesn’t get the ball. To want more than hat he gives the Celts is just being unreasonable.

  • http://celticshub.com Stephen

    Besides Dwight Howard, Perkins is probably the best low post defender in the game. Any offense the C’s get from him is a bonus, but certainly not required.

  • dslack

    @Jeff, you’re right about the difference between the plays, but I’m not sure that it was a moving screen. Rondo is allowed to keep running, and there’s no rule about how fast he needs to run. He’s just not allowed to duck into Wade’s path. But I think he was already in Wade’s path and he just slowed down, which I don’t think is against the rule. I could be misunderstanding the rule or misremembering the play, but here’s a quotation from the rules: “The screener may move in the same direction and path of the opponent being screened.” (http://www.nba.com/analysis/rules_12.html?nav=ArticleList)

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