The Deflection: Keyon Dooling vs. The Miami Heat

June 3, 2012
Eastern Conference Finals, Game 4:
Boston Celtics (2-2) vs. Miami Heat (2-2)

Keyon Dooling fidgeted anxiously, rubbing his hands together as if to keep warm.  He stood near the baseline, a stride’s length separating him from a corner-bound Mario Chalmers.  He watched Shane Battier send the sideline inbound to Dwyane Wade several feet above the arc.  He rocked side-to-side on his feet, separated his hands, leaned forward, and waited.

There were 21 seconds left in the fourth quarter, and the Celtics and Heat were locked in an 89-all tie.  Sixteen seconds earlier, LeBron James had erased a three-point Celtics lead with an improbably wide-open, maddeningly uncontested shot from downtown.  Shortly after that, Boston’s chance to respond had gusted away on the blow of a whistle; an off-the-ball offensive foul called on Kevin Garnett, who had ensnared James’ hand as he attempted to break to the hoop to put a contest on a driving Rajon Rondo.  James’ efforts to pull free drew Garnett smack into his body with a force that tumbled the two men to the floor in a heap.  It was a 50-50 play that just as easily could have been called a double personal.  Instead, Boston came up with the short straw, turning possession over to the Heat.

LeBron’s three-point dagger had been the culmination of a second-half scramble that had seen Miami use three separate 7-0 runs to overcome an 18-point first-half deficit.  For the second time in three games, they had found themselves tied with the Celtics in regulation’s dying moments.  For the second time in three games, it was up to them to decide whether to run it back or pull the plug.

Dooling grasped his calves and shifted some more, perhaps knocking the last few kinks out of a body that had grown stiff from the more-than-30-minute stretch he had just spent on the bench.  This was now his sixth stint of the game.  He had played anywhere from two to four minutes in each of the previous five, turning in 10 points off three triples and a free throw while providing an unrelenting, ultra-aggressive, in-your-jorts defensive effort.

He had also provided what was, to this point, the most rafter-quaking, soul-stirring moment of the game.  Through the first quarter, the Celtics had put forth an incredibly potent offensive effort.  They had scored 34 points, hitting 13 of their 22 shots to build an 11-point lead.  The performance carried through to the start of the second quarter, as Kevin Garnett answered a James Jones three by sinking a long two, then picking off a Dwyane Wade pass to give the Celtics a possession that would result in three more points from Ray Allen.

On the ensuing Miami possession, Wade put up an unbalanced runner that rolled off the far side of the rim and into the arms of Mickael Pietrus.  Mickael handed the ball off to Rondo, who opened the throttle on a transition run.  Keyon Dooling sprinted up the sideline ahead of him, pulled to a stop in the corner, and cocked the hammer.

With momentum carrying him forward all the while, Rondo stepped into the free throw circle, faked a shovel pass to a lane-filling Garnett, pulled it back, and then laser-sighted the ball to Dooling.  The pass came in low.  Keyon collected it at the knees, gathered it into himself, and uncorked a shot over an onrushing Mike Miller.  The ball dead-stopped against the inside of the rim before splashing the net.

The crowd, which had been in full throat from the onset, exploded in rapture.  A barely-audible whistle blew, signaling a Miami timeout.  As it did so, Dooling ran to the half-court line and let loose with the old Michael Jordan flying scissor-kick fist-pump celebration.

After that, he turned the Mean Mug-o-Meter up full blast.  That amp goes up to 11, you say?  This baby tops out at 51!

On the very next Celtic possession, Keyon had not just the audacity to stick another three in Mike Miller’s face from the exact same spot, but the unmitigated gall to cover yet another player’s copyrighted celebration move, this time taking Jason Terry’s JET out for a spin.

Dooling’s last stint had ended at the 9:49 mark of the fourth quarter.  He had now been called upon to assist the Celtics’ efforts toward extending the game by another five minutes.

With 14 seconds remaining, Wade walked the ball to his right, triggering the onset of Miami’s final play.  LeBron James stood in the corner opposite, defended by Pietrus, while Udonis Haslem and Shane Battier took station at the elbows.  Keyon leaned forward at the waist and gathered the fabric of his shorts into his fists, taking on the appearance of a gunfighter on the verge of the draw.

James sprung forward from the corner and curled along the line of the arc.  As he did so, Chalmers took off along the baseline, filling LeBron’s vacated corner at the other end.  Wade swung the ball to James and cleared away, leaving the league’s MVP in a momentary iso against Pietrus.

Six seconds remained.  Dooling trailed Chalmers to the extended elbow.  At five seconds, Miami’s players began to fan out across the court, positioning themselves as bail-out options for James.  Battier stepped into the corner, Haslem and Wade to the blocks, and Chalmers out beyond the arc, behind the action.

The Celtics aligned their defense in response.  Paul Pierce stayed below the hoop, prepared to react to a pass in whatever direction it might sail.  Garnett and Rondo danced about the elbows, with KG positioned to help out on the back end of James’ drive while Rajon stayed in contesting distance of the now-open Battier.

Dooling had been caught against Haslem’s body on his drift from elbow to block.  He had let Chalmers go, recognizing that Mario was effectively removing himself from the play.  He jogged forward, angling slightly toward James.  With four seconds to go, LeBron made his move, rising slowly up on his toes and then driving hard to his right, into the middle of the Celtics’ defense.

Keyon burst forward as James approached, sliding just to the right of LeBron’s body as he stepped inside the arc, teaming with Pietrus to create a split-second trap.  LeBron raised the ball above his head, pivoted left and leapt.

Dooling timed his jump perfectly, rising up just a shade before LeBron.  Now behind James, he raised his right arm and swiped, just as LeBron loaded up to fire a pass to Haslem, who had drifted from the block toward the corner.  Keyon’s fingers caught the ball before it was released, turning what was surely intended to be a frozen rope into a limp bounder.  The ball bounced into the floor just off the elbow, then eephused gently toward its recipient.  By the time it arrived in Haslem’s hands, Garnett was fully upon him.  One second remained, just time enough for Udonis to take one dribble and launch an off-balance fade-away jumper that missed the rim entirely.

The buzzer sounded.  The Celtics got their extra five.

Boston would go on to win, 93-91, evening the series at two games apiece.

Bonus Tracks

Partway through the game, Rajon Rondo engaged a bench-bound Chris Bosh in an impromptu staring contest.  These photos were taken mere seconds before Bosh cracked, dissolving into a pool of tears and nosebleed.

We’re pleased to announce the return of the Celtics Fan of the Game award, which goes to this kid in the cast.  Congratulations, kid!

Finally, we have access to a fair bit of information on how people find our work.  Among other things, we can see the search terms that people use to get to our site.  The least acceptable term that’s been used to get to our site?  “Rajon Rondo Sucks.”  We wish we could throw that click back like it was a Butch Heddo homerun at Wrigley.

The most acceptable term, however, came in just the other day: “Rajon Rondo Ripped.”  To the reader who was looking for pictures of a totally jacked Rondo, we’re happy to contribute to the enjoyment of your day.

Here’s a version where it looks like he’s in a Bee Gees video.

Tags: 2012 NBA Playoffs Boston Celtics Defense Eastern Conference Finals Game 4 Keyon Dooling Miami Heat

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