Posted May 2 2011 12:32PM
MIAMI -- Dwyane Wade was talking about the Boston Celtics after Game 1 on Sunday.
"They make you pay for any mistakes," he said.
The Celtics are the veteran team that takes advantage of any slip-up by their less experienced opponents. Their biggest strength is their ability to execute with precision and timeliness. Forget to box out and Rajon Rondo will sneak into the lane for an offensive rebound. Overpenetrate and Glen Davis will step up to take a charge. Turn your head to help on Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen will burn you with a three.
But in the Miami Heat's 99-90 victory in Game 1 of the conference semifinals, the Celtics made their opponent look like the veteran squad. It was the Celtics' mistakes that defined this game. And playing the role of Allen was the Heat's James Jones.
While the Celtics' offense has been its weakness over the last couple of months, this loss was about their defense. And while Dwyane Wade's offensive explosion had something to do with it, the Celtics can blame themselves for a good portion of Miami's 99 points.
Each of Jones' threes was a perfect example of how the Celtics' let their guard down defensively. On each, a different Celtic made a mistake to allow Jones to get open.
Three No. 1: Second quarter, 10:02. Culprit: Glen Davis
Chris Bosh sets an early screen for Mario Chalmers beyond the 3-point line on the left side of the floor. Davis, who was defending Bosh in transition, fails to contain or slow down Chalmers. Chalmers drives toward the foul line, forcing Jeff Green to help off of Jones, who is set up on the right wing. As Green closes, Chalmers feeds Jones for an open three.
Three No. 2: Second quarter, 9:28. Culprit: Jeff Green
In transition, Mike Miller drives into the paint from the left wing. As he does, Jones drifts from the right wing to the right corner, and nobody in green has any clue where he is. Green is the defender closest to Jones, but he never locates the shooter, even though Jones just hit a three on the previous possession. As defenders close in on Miller, he kicks the ball out to Jones, who drains a wide-open three.
Three No. 3: Second quarter, 6:58. Culprit: Delonte West
With LeBron James dribbling on the left wing, Jones cuts through the paint, defended by Ray Allen. As James comes off Bosh's screen, Delonte West gets lost trying to close out on Chalmers. As Joel Anthony screens Allen on the baseline, West is actually in good position for a switch onto Jones, but as Jones curls out to the top of the key, West realizes his man has drifted into the corner. He heads there, joining Allen in defending Chalmers, as James finds Jones all alone at the top.
Three No. 4: Second quarter, 3:35. Culprit: Ray Allen
Wade comes off a high screen and crosses over into the paint. Allen, defending Jones on the weak side, turns his head in looking to help on Wade, but doesn't do anything to actually stop him. Wade crosses the lane and finds an open Jones, who drifted to the corner while Allen was in no-man's land with his head turned.
Three No. 5: Third quarter, 3:02. Culprit: Kevin Garnett
The problems with this defensive possession aren't nearly as egregious as the four above. With Miami playing small, Garnett is defending Jones, who cuts through the paint and curls around on the weak side for a catch-and-shoot three near the top of the key. Garnett loses Jones for just a slight second on the baseline and then gets caught on Anthony's screen. With Jermaine O'Neal ignoring Anthony to help on the strong side, no one's there to switch onto Jones.
Against a Boston defense that's looking to load up on the strong side and keep James and Wade out of the paint, a weak-side shooter like Jones is critical. And this won't be the only game in which his makes (or misses) have a big effect on the outcome.
Jones' effect on the Miami offense went beyond his 25 points. When he was on the floor, the Heat scored 69 points on 50 possessions (138 per 100). When he was on the bench, they scored just 30 points on 39 possessions (79 per 100). His ability to space the floor only helps James and Wade in their quest to get to the basket.
And the Celtics' mistakes went well beyond Jones' threes or just Xs and Os. Most obvious were Paul Pierce's two technical fouls, uncharacteristic losses of cool from a veteran that knows better than to react to a little extra contact. There was also Jermaine O'Neal's unnecessary elbow to a cutting Jones, which was called a flagrant one and helped the Heat register a five-point possession.
There were sloppy turnovers, two defensive three-second violations, and a play when Wade cut to the basket from the weak side, with the only person there in the lane to defend him being Anthony, his own teammate.
For the Celtics, Game 2 on Tuesday isn't about adjustments. It's not about defending Wade differently, making changes to the rotation, or running different plays. It's about being the team that takes advantage of mistakes, not the team that makes them.
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