Posted Apr 28 2010 12:14AM
BOSTON -- Sometimes, basketball comes down to simple math.
In the case of the first-round series between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, it boiled down to the fact that five is greater than one.
It's not fair to call the 2009-10 Miami Heat a one-man team. As great as Dwyane Wade is, he can't win 47 games by himself. But in this series, the Heat star just didn't have enough help. As a collective group, Miami had nothing on the guys in green over the last 11 days.
The Celtics were a cohesive unit all series, but never more than in their 96-86 Game 5 victory on Tuesday. Defensively, they moved together to keep the Heat out of the paint. Offensively, they moved the ball as well as you will ever see, recording 28 assists on their 35 field goals.
The Heat were an excellent defensive team in the regular season, the best in the league after the All-Star break. But this series was an example of how a great offense can beat a great defense. The Miami D simply couldn't handle the Celtics' ball and player movement.
"[The ball] was moving so fast, there were guys turning down good shots for better shots," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said afterward. "When we play like that and no one cares who has the open shot, we're really good."
For the third time in this series, Ray Allen was the shooting star, hitting five of his six attempts from 3-point range and leading the Celtics with 24 points. But those looks from beyond the arc were all wide open, because the ball was moving so quickly and the Heat were on their heels all night.
Allen was just as effective as a passer. When he came off a down-screen and was challenged by the screener's defender, he quickly got the ball to the wide-open screener on the baseline. The ball move from side to side, from the outside in, and from the inside out. And the Heat defense just couldn't keep up.
"They're a veteran team, well-coached," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "And they make you pay. There are so many guys that can make plays and, more important, are unselfish. When they start to read how you're playing something, they just dissect you and continue to move the ball. They did a terrific job of just executing."
Rajon Rondo was the quarterback, finishing with a game-high 12 assists. He pushed the ball up the floor and found his teammates for easy shots early in possessions. But this was a ball-movement clinic by the whole team from start to finish. Each of the other four Celtics starters had two assists before Rondo had one. And the scoring was just as balanced.
Wade did all he could. He finished with 31 points, was two rebounds short of a triple-double, and led a Miami second-half comeback for the second time in three days.
The Heat played hard. Down three games to one and losing by 21 points in the second half in an arena where they haven't won in over three years, they never laid down. They cut that 21-point lead down to four early in the fourth quarter, but it just wasn't enough.
"Our effort was there," Spoelstra said. "It just seemed like we were chasing them one step too late."
The vaunted Celtics defense clamped back down once the game got close, holding the Heat to just four scores on their final 14 possessions of the game, one of several droughts Miami went through in this series.
"For 3 1/2 quarters, we were absolutely great defensively," Rivers said. "We're getting there. We're really close."
Before this series started, with the Celtics seemingly struggling down the stretch of the regular season, there didn't seem to be much of a gap between these two teams. Now, it's clear that the Celtics are on another level. And when they begin their conference semifinals series in Cleveland on Saturday, they'll be playing their best basketball.
Wade is one of the three best basketball players on the planet. He was an absolute beast in this series, averaging 33.2 points on 56 percent shooting. If this was his final game with the Miami Heat, he went out firing.
But basketball is a team sport. And as terrific as Wade is, five is greater than one.
"The better team won this series," Wade said. "We fought them. We didn't give up. But at the end, they just had more than us."
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