Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Boston Celtics Are One Win Away From Their Third NBA Finals Appearance In Five Years
Why do we devote so much time and energy in our lives to sports? Precisely for moments like tonight, when the Boston Celtics continued to shock the NBA as they beat the Miami Heat 94-90 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals at AmericanAirlines Arena to take a 3-2 series lead.
Believe it or not, Boston's Big 3 improved to a perfect 9-0 in Game 5's when the series is tied 2-2.
After losing the first two games in Miami, Boston righted the ship with two wins at home but this evening was the best part thus far: picking up the all-important road win which they needed to have a shot to get by the Heat and advance to the 2012 NBA Finals (Oklahoma City leads San Antonio 3-2 in the Western Conference Finals).
The reasons that the Celtics are suddenly winning the series while carrying all the momentum are pretty simple: they are deeper than the Heat, they play better defense, they have a clue on offense (thanks to a special point guard) and they are winners led by an outstanding head coach. I think that about covers it, right?
It is nice to know that even with so many things wrong with the NBA, a team that can still be based on unity, chemistry, defensive effort (how many loose balls did the Celtics win last night?) and unselfish play can win at such a high level (as corny as that sounds).
Miami has been held to 93 points or less in every game except for Game 2 (which went to overtime). If not for that one, they would have been held to under 100 points in every game so far. Boston has scored 93+ points in every contest since Game 2. To show you how close it's been, Miami has scored 480 points while Boston has 478 points.
A sign of a championship caliber team is when they continue to get unexpectedly great games from lesser players. Tonight, that meant Mickael Pietrus had 13 points for the Celtics including one of the biggest shots of the entire game-a 3-pointer following a spectacular block by Dwyane Wade (27 points, 6 rebounds). The ball deflected to Rajon Rondo (7 points, 13 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 steals) and he had the presence of mind and athleticism to poke it to Pietrus who was camped out in the corner.
Paul Pierce (19 points) wasn't much of a factor all game since he shot 6 for 19 from the floor but he hit what was the dagger of this contest and could very well end up in the series. His 3-pointer made it 90-86 C's with 52 seconds left. From there, Ray Allen (13 points, 8 of 8 on free throws, 7 rebounds) and Kevin Garnett (26 points, 11 rebounds) hit a pair of free throws to ice it while Miami's fairweather fans departed early as they so often do.
Brandon Bass finished with 10 points for the Celtics while Keyon Dooling hit a key 3-pointer off the bench and Greg Stiemsma had three points and four rebounds in eight minutes. Even though they only played nine guys, eight of them (Marquis Daniels did less than nothing in three minutes) made tangible contributions to the win.
LeBron James (30 points, 13 rebounds) carried Miami but this turnaround by Boston has proved that it takes more than two superstars to beat a true team. Chris Bosh (9 points, 7 rebounds) returned and actually played pretty well in 14 minutes off the bench but they'll need to let him loose if they want to see a Game 7 back in Miami. Mario Chalmers had nine points but no Heat player other than LeBron and Wade reached double-figures. Udonis Haslem snatched 14 rebounds in the loss.
After playing poorly in the first half of Games 2-4, Miami started out much better tonight. They were up 24-16 after one quarter and pushed it their advantage up to 13 (31-18) before Boston started to wake up. The Celtics only trailed by two at halftime (42-40) and like Miami they reversed an earlier trend: this time they won the third quarter (25-18) thanks to a 15-1 run that ended it. The fourth quarter was an awesome frame of playoff basketball as both teams traded big buckets, rebounds, defensive plays, you name it. Miami outscored Boston 30-29 but it wasn't enough.
The Heat are really struggling from downtown (7 for 26 on 3-pointers). Boston is clearly content to let them keep firing away from distance. Showing how much the C's stole their mojo, Boston attempted (27-25) two more free throws than Miami (which I didn't think was allowed when the Heat were home) and hit three more (22-19). Miami had 10 more rebounds (49-39), three more offensive (12-9) but Boston had six more assists (19-13) proving how much hero ball the Heat play. The stat of the game for the Celts was steals which they led 13-6. The Heat had three more turnovers (15-12) and I think that slightly superior defense and attention to detail is part of what has brought the C's to this position.
As the cliche goes, the toughest part of a playoff series is the close out game. We all remember the Celtics' recent struggles in that spot this postseason (Game 5 in Atlanta; Game 6 in Philly) but snapping a four-game road losing streak and handing Miami only its second loss at home means that this is Boston's series to lose at this point. They won Games 3 and 4 at TD Garden so with a similar effort in Game 6 (8:30 p.m., ESPN) on Thursday night, I think they can get it done.
The Big 3 are 9-2 in series when they go up 3-2. Bottom line, they want no part of a Game 7 back in Miami. The atmosphere should be electric, you know the crowd will do its part. The Celtics don't have to change anything up. Just play the same style that has resulted in three straight victories. Tight defense (Miami has scored 91 points or less in Games 3-5) and big boy performances from Rondo and KG, that should do it.