Arbella Game 6 Preview: Heat at Celtics
BOSTON – The Jungle is going to be rocking at 8:30 p.m. tonight for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Tonight’s contest will be the first opportunity for the Boston Celtics (11-7) to close out the Miami Heat (10-6) and advance to the NBA Finals.
Boston put itself in this position by knocking off the Heat Tuesday night in Miami, 94-90. The Celtics were led by a stellar performance by Kevin Garnett, who logged 26 points and 11 rebounds, and some clutch shooting from Paul Pierce and Mickael Pietrus. Boston outscored Miami 17-10 over the final 4:11 of the game.
“I thought our execution down the stretch, defensively and offensively, the different lineups we threw out on the floor, going back to man and zone with guys that hadn't been in those positions,” said Doc Rivers late Tuesday night. “I think I asked a lot of our guys, maybe too much at times, and they came through, and that was terrific.”
Rivers might have understated how well his team played down the stretch. One could say that the Celtics played flawless basketball over the final seven minutes of the game, when they shot 6-of-12 from the field, 7-of-7 from the free-throw line and committed just one turnover. They literally made every big shot they needed to.
A similar performance might be necessary to close out the series tonight. Miami now has its back against the wall, a position it hasn’t been in since the Dallas Mavericks won the 2011 Finals 360 days ago.
When Erik Spoelstra made his way to the postgame podium Tuesday night, he did his best to convince the public that his team would move on from the Game 5 loss.
“It was a tough one to lose here at home, but it's over with,” Spoelstra said. “It has to be behind us right now. Our energies have to be ready for Thursday night.”
That night has finally arrived, and now it's all on the line for both teams. The Celtics and Heat can both make a statement by walking off of the parquet floor with a victory. For the Heat, it would help them avoid the start of their summer. For the Celtics, it would advance them to their third NBA Finals in the past five years.
Increased Role for Bosh
Chris Bosh returned to Miami’s lineup for Game 5 and played very well. In his first game since May 13, Bosh totaled nine points and seven rebounds in just 14:23 of playing time.
Many questioned why Spoelstra didn’t lean more heavily on Bosh Tuesday night, but Spoelstra responded to those inquiries by saying that he believed it wouldn’t “be fair to [Bosh] to throw him in with three minutes to go” in the contest. Don’t expect a similar mindset tonight, because Bosh could start and play big minutes.
“I don’t know. I’m still going through that thought process,” Spoelstra said of possibly starting Bosh. “But I think he’ll be able to handle a bigger load of minutes, and it will be based more on how he feels during the game.”
Bosh used great energy and hustle to accumulate his stats Tuesday night. The Celtics will need to match that effort tonight, and for a much longer duration of time.
Brink of Elimination
Since Miami put its Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Bosh together, the group has faced elimination only once. They’re 0-1 in such situations.
On June 12 of 2011, the Mavericks defeated the Heat 105-95 in Game 6 of the Finals to end the season. Miami’s Big Three didn’t necessarily play great basketball in that game, as they combined to score just 57 points. James and Wade alone have combined for more than 57 points on several occasions during this postseason. Additionally, none of those three players had big games in the rebounding or assisting categories during that elimination game.
That performance is the only one we can use as a gauge for what might come tonight. Boston has Miami on the ropes, and the hope is that the C’s can throw a knockout punch similar to the one Dallas threw nearly one year ago.
Efficiency from Pierce and Rondo
The Celtics squeezed out a win Tuesday night despite the fact that Pierce and Rajon Rondo struggled to put the ball through the basket. Pierce made only six of his 19 shot attempts, while Rondo shot just 3-for-15 from the floor. Rondo also committed five turnovers, some of which were of the disturbing fashion.
Boston was able to grab one win while those two struggled, but doing so again would be almost impossible. The C’s don’t need Pierce and Rondo to both score 20 points, but they do need both players to shoot the ball effectively and take care of the basketball. When that duo is clicking offensively, it makes Boston’s offense much more dangerous, and it needs to be dangerous tonight.