Tuesday, April 27, 2010
TD Garden, 7 p.m.
TV: CSN/NBA TV
RADIO: WEEI 850 AM
The setting may be different, but the stakes will be the same.
When the ball goes up for tip off at 7 p.m. Tuesday night in the TD Garden, the Boston Celtics will have 48 minutes of basketball to end the Miami Heat's season.
On the flipside, the Heat will have 48 minutes of basketball to delay the end of their season, and that's exactly what they did Sunday afternoon in Miami.
Led by Dwyane Wade's spectacular 46-point performance, the Heat were able to knock off the Celtics in Game 4, 101-92, for the first time in seven tries this season. The Celtics battled back from an early 18-point deficit and held a six-point advantage heading into the final quarter, but that's when Wade took over. He dominated the final period from long distance and scored 19 fourth-quarter points that helped propel this series back to Boston.
"He took the game over," said Rajon Rondo, speaking of Wade's fourth quarter outburst. "That is why he is who he is. That is why he is the man for the Heat. He did a great job tonight. He made his teammates better and he closed out the game."
While Wade was busy closing out the game, the Celtics were missing out on an opportunity to close out the series. No team in NBA history has come back to win a best-of-seven series after trailing by three games, but Miami is now one-quarter of the way toward making that happen.
The Celtics are committed to preventing that history, and they know that they will have to clean up their play if they are going to close out this series.
"They got 28 points off turnovers and it is hard to beat a team with that. When you look at that it is a big factor, and we missed 11 free throws." Tony Allen said of Boston's Game 4 performance.
"A lot of the turnovers were lackadaisical. Guys were either too anxious or a bit nonchalant. They all end up being turnovers. We just have to be better at the end of the day."
That's the great thing about playoff basketball -- mistakes can be made one day, but there is an opportunity to clean them up against the same opponent just a couple of days later. The C's haven't made many mistakes against the Heat in this series, hence their 3-1 lead, but they will certainly need to step up their game now that Miami's confidence is growing.
If they take care of business, at the end of this day they may wind up with a flight booked for Cleveland for an Eastern Conference Semifinals date with LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
Of the two games played in Miami this weekend, Boston won one by two points and lost the other by nine. Clearly, that was a drastic turnaround from the average of 19.0 PPG they beat the Heat by in Games 1 and 2.
One of the main reasons Miami has been able to hang around, and in one case seal a victory, was because they got off to hot starts. Those starts were partially due to the Heat's strong play, but the Celtics' play, particularly in Game 4, also played a large role in Miami's early-game success.
"We have to get off to better starts," Doc Rivers said after Game 4. "I felt like we came in the game thinking of ending the series instead of thinking about playing basketball. I thought we took our eyes off of the process."
What Rivers means by "the process" is the Celtics playing the type of basketball that put them up 3-0 in the series. He felt as if they altered their playing style in hopes of breaking Miami's will early in the game. That cannot happen again tonight if Boston wants to close this series out -- stick to the process that Rivers spoke about and things should work out.
Much of Miami's success offensively has resulted from the Celtics' lack of discipline on defense. This is true in a sense that the Celtics have made some gambles defensively, but more so that they have failed to play defense with great angles and positioning. Instead, they have used their hands to reach in while failing to be in the right spot.
That type of play has resulted in an average of 22.5 personal fouls whistled against them in the past two games. Contrast that average to that of the first two games in Boston, where the C's averaged just 12.5 personal fouls per game, and you will quickly realize that it is a critical factor in the final score of these games.
The Celtics will need to get back to their smart defensive tactics tonight and do everything they can to avoid unnecessary fouls. Doing so will put them in position defensively as well as in position to close out the series.
Don't give Miami any life
With Boston failing to close out the series over the weekend in Miami, they are now in a spot where they need to close out the Heat as quickly as possible. As many people in Boston know, it's possible for a team to come back in a best-of-seven series after trailing 0-3, and all it takes is a couple of wins for that thought to begin creeping into the back of the minds of the players who were initially dominating the series.
A win tonight will obviously finish the Heat off, but a loss by the Celtics would boost the Heat's confidence to a new level. If Miami can steal this game, they will be thinking something along the lines of, "Now all we have to do is win on our home court, then it's Game 7 -- and anything can happen in Game 7."
The Celtics need to prevent that thought from even crossing the Heat's mind, or else they will wind up playing an extremely confident team in Miami Thursday night that would be gunning for a shot at Game 7.