Arbella Game Preview: Game 2 - Celtics at Heat
BOSTON – It seemed as if it took forever for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals to arrive for the Boston Celtics. The wait won’t be long for Game 2.
After a full week off, Boston fell to Miami in the opening game of their series, 99-90, on Sunday afternoon in AmericanAirlines Arena. Now, just two days later, the Celtics will look to even the series up when the two teams go at it again at 7 p.m. tonight on TNT.
The long layoff between sweeping the Knicks out of the playoffs on April 24 and Game 1 on Sunday came back to bite Boston and put it in a 0-1 series hole. The Celtics looked like a well-oiled machine against New York, and while Miami is a much better defensive team than the Knicks, Boston just did not look the same two days ago.
“I just thought early on we were so eager to score; we call it ‘being thirsty,’ that we never allowed the offense to take,” Doc Rivers said after the opening game. “We never got to the second pass and we never got to the second options. I thought we were very easy to guard.”
The only Celtics player who wasn’t easy to guard was Ray Allen, who yet again set fire to the nets during this postseason. Allen notched 25 points in Game 1 thanks to a blistering 9-of-13 shooting performance. He drilled five 3-pointers in the contest to raise his 2011 postseason average to 4.4 made 3-pointers per contest.
While Allen was draining shots from all over the court, his teammates struggled to take care of the ball or put it in the hoop. Allen was the only Celtic to shoot better than 50 percent in the game, and he did not account for any of the team’s 14 total turnovers.
Paul Pierce was the only other Celtic to score more than 10 points, as he finished with 19. Seventeen of those points came in a flurry in the second half, but he was eventually ejected from the game as a result of two technical fouls. Both of those techs were assessed on double-technicals, first with James Jones and then with Dwyane Wade shortly thereafter.
While speaking to the media at Monday’s practice, Pierce let everyone know that he was more concerned with his personal decisions than those of the referees.
“I was more upset about letting my teammates down,” Pierce said. “I'm too important to this team."
Pierce is correct with that assessment; the Celtics cannot beat the Heat without him. In order to steal Game 2, he will need to be on his A-game and Boston will need to bottle up Miami’s top scorers.
That was something that didn’t happen in Game 1, when Wade (38 points), Jones (25 points) and LeBron James (22 points) combined to score 85 of Miami’s 99 points. Wade was essentially unstoppable, as he made shots with defenders draped all over him and took the ball to the hoop for several and-ones. Jones, Miami’s top 3-point threat, made five of his seven attempts from long range.
Boston has shown the ability to defeat the Heat three times already this season, including one showing in AmericanAirlines Arena. Thankfully, that Game 1 performance didn’t have long to simmer in the Celtics’ minds and the team can get right back into action tonight with its eyes fixed on stealing away home court advantage.
Overcoming the Defense
Watching the defensive performance of Miami in Game 1 was reminiscent of watching Boston’s defense from its championship season of 2007-08. That’s not an overstatement.
The eye test can say a lot about a team’s defensive abilities, and the Heat didn’t just pass that test on Sunday, they aced it. It seemed as if they had six or seven players on the court at all times defending the Celtics’ five, and that’s the mark of greatness.
“They are a great defensive team,” Rivers said after the loss. “They are the best defensive team numbers-wise in the league. You knew it would be harder (to get good shots), you knew it would be this type of game.”
We’re not sure if it was expected to be that tough. The Celtics were completely taken out of their offense with Miami’s perimeter traps. As a result, the team rushed shots and was unable to penetrate the paint. That type of play led to 24 3-point attempts by the C’s.
In order to win Game 2, the Celtics will need to slow things down and dictate the pace while they’re at the offensive end. Overcome Miami’s defense and you have a great chance at pulling out a win.
Limit the Turnovers
Rivers has said since Day 1 of the season that the one thing you simply cannot do against the Heat is turn the ball over. Every time a question is posed to him with the words “turnover” and “Heat” in it, Rivers always notes how James and Wade were unstoppable off of turnovers even when they played on separate teams last season. Now they’re both wearing the same uniform, so they’re even more dangerous.
Wade and James were turned loose because Pierce and Rajon Rondo were turnover machines in Game 1. Those two Celtics combined for nine turnovers, and they were the only players in the game to commit more than three apiece.
There is no doubt that Boston will need those two players, who handle the ball on the perimeter most frequently for Boston, to take care of the ball tonight. These teams scored equal points off of turnovers in Game 1, 26 points apiece, but the Celtics need to win that battle in order to win the game.
Something on the Post
As we’ve already detailed, Miami’s staunch defense forced the Celtics into a perimeter-oriented offense in Game 1. That’s the antithesis of what Boston’s thought process was when it put this team together over the summer.
The combination of Kevin Garnett, Glen Davis, Jermaine O’Neal and Shaquille O’Neal was supposed to give the Celtics the size advantage it needed against a Miami team that is loaded on the perimeter but rail-thin up front. That advantage wasn’t established in the opening game, as Boston scored just 26 points in the paint and did not get many good shots from the post.
That has to change tonight. Boston doesn’t want to get into a jump-shooting competition, because that’s not its strength. The Celtics need to establish its big men on the post, highlighted by Garnett. If KG can get it rolling on the block and force the Heat to double-team him, things could and should open up for Boston’s offense. It also won’t hurt if the C’s get any minutes from the largest man in the league tonight, Shaq, who demands a double-team every time he touches the ball.