The Celtics won the game tonight. Let me write that one more time to let that sink in. The Celtics won the game tonight. It sure wasn’t easy, but somehow the Boston Celtics overcame another HORRIBLE third quarter tonight (which they lost 21-12) and pulled out the win in overtime 93-91 at the TD Garden over the Miami Heat. I’m not going to lie and tell you this was the prettiest game, because in all honesty I don’t remember any game having quite as many offensive fouls called over the course of a game as tonight had, but a win is a win is a win.
The Celtics jumped out to an early 21-6 lead in the first quarter and the team that looked really old down in Miami last week seemed to have found the fountain of youth on Causeway Street. Led by Rajon Rondo the C’s were actually out and running and just flat out taking it to the Miami Heat. The home team made 16 of their first 25 shots in taking a 61-47 lead at the half, and even then the 14 points seemed like closer to 20 or 25 as the Heat just didn’t seem to really be in the game physically or mentally.
Even at half-time Rajon Rondo called out the Heat for their lack of effort. When asked by Doris Burke what holes the Celtics were exploiting in helping them to score over 50 points in a half again versus the Heat, Rondo answered “they’re complaining and crying to the refs in transition” (you can see the interview below). If that’s not telling things exactly like they are then I don’t know what is, and even after the game Rondo stood by his comments, even though they have probably earned him a hard foul or two come game five.
Unfortunately in life, all good things must come to an end, and when it comes to the Boston Celtics of 2012 the third quarter has been the bane of their existence. Tonight was no different as they saw that 14 point lead shrink down to 5 after 3 quarters. Dwyane Wade, who shot 2-11 in the first half, came out in the third quarter ready to play and knocked down 4 of his 6 third quarter shots, including a key 3 pointer. That’s been the trend with Wade this series, as in the first half of the four games so far he’s shot 8-31 with only 22 points, but in the second half of games he is back to the Wade you would expect. The Heat need both LeBron and Wade to be on their games for them to be able to win this series, and Wade’s third quarter effort brought the team back into the game.
The rest of the Celtics lead evaporated in the fourth quarter, along with any momentum that they might have had. What started as a Celtics blowout turned into a foul and tension filled fourth quarter (and overtime) and the Celtics needed to survive a pair of last second shots by Udonis Haslem (to end regulation) and Dwyane Wade (at the end of OT) in order to even up the series tonight. Thankfully for Boston both were missed, and LeBron James and Paul Pierce played no part in the final possession of the game after they both fouled out on questionable calls in the extra session. When it came down to the final possession in regulation I wasn’t really that scared, LeBron had the ball and was triple teamed and “had” to pass the ball to Haslem for a tough look. But then for the final possession of the game, Wade found a great look that would have won it for the Heat that had my heart in my throat, but as Doc Rivers said in his postgame press conference “Red wasn’t going to let that go in, not in the Boston Garden”.
The Celtics were led tonight by Rajon Rondo’s 15 points and 15 assists. When asked at halftime what player in NBA history Rondo reminded him of, former Laker legend Magic Johnson really couldn’t come up with just one and instead named many other legends including himself, John Stockton, Isiah Thomas, and Jason Kidd among others; high praise for Rondo to say the least. The Celtics also got 23 points and 6 rebounds from Paul Pierce, 17 points and 14 boards from Kevin Garnett and 16 points from Ray Allen. Reserve guard Keyon Dooling provided a huge spark off the bench and went 3-4 from downtown in scoring 10 points for the C’s which meant way more than they probably should have.
The next game is Tuesday night in Miami and no doubt the Celtics will need to bring the same kind of intensity that they did tonight. All without the help of the raucous Garden crowd. They will also need to put together their first excellent 48 minute (if not 53…or more) game, which they have yet to do in this series and as Doc said they know they can play better for a full game. The first half of tonight’s game is the new benchmark and I cannot wait to see how the rest of this series plays out. With tonight’s win the only guarantee is one more game in Boston, and as a fan of this Celtics team that’s all I can ask for.