It was billed as “The Rematch.” It turned into a rehashing of opening night.
The Celtics jumped out to a big lead and withstood a charge mounted by LeBron James and…LeBron James (OK, Udonis Haslem chipped in with a pretty efficient 10-11 night. Nothing special.) to earn the 112-107 victory in Miami.
Thanks to a hot shooting night from Ray Allen, the Celtics’ lead was as high as 20 points. But James tried to take matters into his own hands, getting to the line 14 times in the second half to pull Miami back into the thick of the game. The Celtics stayed in control, however, and got their second victory over Miami of the young season.
If there is anything to take away from this one it is that the Celtics clearly wanted it more. The Heat were coming off a tough loss of their own after blowing a 22-point lead and falling in overtime against the Utah Jazz, but they didn’t play with any semblance of passion. And their fans didn’t lift the team up either. The Heat looked relatively apathetic, and reverted to the LeBron James show in the final period. As I mentioned, it played out just like the opener, a game which I compared to watching the Cavs last year.
Here’s a few other tidbits from a big win for Boston.
Praising Jesus: That was a great performance from Ray Allen on both sides of the floor.
He had a hand in holding Dwyane Wade to just eight points on the night, and of course went off for 35 points, including hitting his first seven 3-pointers. Rajon Rondo was looking for him all night, and he delivered.
The Heat were so cognizant of stopping Rondo (which didn’t happen, as he had another strong night with 16 assists) that they often switched LeBron James onto him on the defensive end. That lead to Wade slipping over to take Paul Pierce, and Jesus Shuttlesworth getting lost in the shuffle. And boy did that prove to be a mistake on Miami’s part.
Before this game I had felt that Allen’s greatest achievement this season was handling the role as the biggest threat on the second unit, which has struggled at times with Nate Robinson’s shooting problems and the lack of consistency outside Glen Davis. But when the Celtics get Allen the ball, he is still deadly. He came into tonight shooting 47 percent and kept that up in this one. With all the star power the Celtics have, Ray Allen’s quiet and consistent efficiency is sometimes overlooked by fans and the opposition alike. You can be that Miami is regretting that.
Full Throttle: Once again, the Celtics got out to a hot start and the Heat couldn’t keep up.
The C’s shot 60 percent in the first half and dominated the first 24 minutes, scoring more than 60 points against the team that had come into the game with the best defensive numbers in the league. Miami had been blowing out opponents at home (remember that Utah was down big before Paul Millsap pulled it back into the game), but the Celtics made sure that wouldn’t happen this evening.
The great thing about this game was that the Celtics were getting good looks on offense. You don’t shoot 60 percent from the field by hitting all jumpers, and the Celtics passed well and got easy buckets—like Rajon Rondo’s impressive dunk.
Perimeter Game: The Celtics scored 38 points in the paint, and obviously Ray Allen’s performance from beyond the arc was spectacular, but the Celtics kept the Heat from having a three-point fest of their own.
Wade and James were a combined 0-10 from three, and despite a few timely buckets from outside by old friend Eddie House the Heat was basically abysmal. Miami was just 3-16 on the evening, and for a team that was supposed to get a number of perimeter looks thanks to its ability to penetrate, those looks were few and far between.
Why was that? Well, the Heat failed to drive the lane with any sort of aggression for much of the game. Wade in particular didn’t go to the hole at all, and that didn’t allow for other easy looks for the role players.
Fouth Quarter D: Granted, there were a few questionable calls toward the end of the game, but the Celtics allowed the Heat to climb back into this one thanks to some poor D in the final period.
Mainly, they just failed to cover the open man. I lost track of how many times Udonis Haslem was given open looks from his favorite mid-range spot, and that helped Miami climb back into this one. I don’t know whether the Celtics got a little lax toward the end of the game or just were just too focused on James’ penetration, but it was another troublesome sign of the C’s fourth quarter woes. To be fair, however, the Celtics have pulled out quite a few games at the end, which is a good sign of the character of this squad.
Miami’s “Big Three:” Dwyane Wade? Eight points on just 2-12 shooting. Chris Bosh? A largely invisible 15-point night, which mostly came from his only solid stretch of basketball in two games against Boston, which was in the second quarter of this one. And despite his 35 points, LeBron James reverted to individualism and didn’t play a team game tonight.
And yes, I know that he nearly had a triple double. But James’ numbers were inflated by 22 trips to the line, and he didn’t get his fellow stars involved. James largely runs the show for this Miami team as a “point forward,” and he spent much of this one looking for his own offense. As disappoitning as Bosh and Wade were tonight, I felt James’ display was even more disconcerting.