The Celtics were right in their comfort zone. After giving up a late game lead, they came roaring back to tie the game at 86. Paul Pierce, after going toe-to-toe with LeBron James all game, forced James to mis-dribble and Ray Allen secured the loose ball. With the ball and 20 seconds to go, you wouldn’t find a person alive that wouldn’t have bet on Boston to execute a play and get a good shot. It was only one year ago that the Miami Heat saw this late game execution first hand when a Rajon Rondo alley-oop sent a game to overtime, an eventual Boston win.
Tonight was an anomaly, although a perfect punctuation to a contest that lacked offensive execution. Coming off a timeout, Paul Pierce got the ball at the top of the key and began to dribble down extraneous seconds. Then the Celtics began to make their move only instead of setting a pick on a Miami player, Allen and Kevin Garnett had done the unimaginable: they set a pick on themselves. Out of sorts and without a screen coming, Pierce is forced to go left and throw up a prayer that was not answered. Backboard, rim, out, overtime.
Both the Celtics and the Heat were playing unbelievable defense to that point. Aside for Boston’s bullet-filled feet, the two team’s played each other to a standstill. Something had to give and with the Celtics’ tired, old legs and the Heat’s all-game aggressiveness, a Boston loss was inevitable.
Now the Celtics are forced to go back to South Beach with their season, their title hopes, and their pride on the lines. For the Cs, there are only two options: win or go home. As tonight proved, the former will be extremely difficult.
Much more analysis to come….