Heat 86, Celtics 96
Pack your bags for Cleveland; it's time for the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
It certainly wasn't all roses in getting there tonight, though, as the C's had allowed a 21-point second-half lead to be whittle down to three. But in the end, Boston delivered in the clutch, and a 9-2 run during in the middle of the fourth quarter is what sparked them to victory.
Up by only six points after Udonis Haslem hit two free throws for Miami, the Celtics ran a pick-and-roll with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett at the right elbow, a play that is considered by many to be their bread-and-butter. Garnett set the pick and popped back when his defender sagged off to Pierce, and the captain saw the open space. He dropped off a pass to KG, but it was errant and low, causing Garnett's to reach below his knees and taking away his ability to put up an immediate shot. So Garnett made it happen on his own. He grabbed the ball, made a face-up move and fired up a beautiful, perfectly released step-back jumper that swished through the net from 17 feet.
That shot got the crowd pumped up, but the rest of the run put the Garden over the top.
Dwyane Wade missed a layup at the other end Paul Pierce took the rebound coast-to-coast and knifed to the basket for a driving layup that put the C's up by 10 with 6:33 remaining in the game, forcing Erik Spoelstra to call a timeout for the Heat. That timeout was supposed to settle his players down and halt Boston's momentum, but it did anything but.
On the very first play out of Miami's timeout, Udonis Haslem, of all people, wound up driving to the basket from the free-throw line only to find Glen Davis perched in front of the basket waiting for him. Davis, who spoke at length before the game about the art of taking charges, added to his season total by landing in perfect position just outside of the restricted area and drawing the offensive foul. That play kept the crowd rocking, and when Garnett hit another jumper at the other end from nearly the exact same spot, this game was all but over.
At that point, Boston had doubled their lead in less than a minute, and they added three free throws to extend that lead to 13 after Joel Anthony made a bucket for the Heat. Gino appeared on the scoreboard just minutes later, and with that, the C's were one-quarter of the way to their ultimate goal of winning another NBA championship.
Key Box Score Line
When the Celtics needed a scoring boost tonight, Ray Allen was the man they turned to. His ability to deliver that boost is one of the main reasons why Boston has punched a ticket to the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Allen, who has played spectacular since Game 1, fired in a team-high 24 points tonight to go along with three rebounds, three assists and two steals. But that wasn't the most impressive part of his night; what stood above all else was that Allen managed to put up those numbers while playing 40 minutes and 18 seconds despite prolonged foul trouble, and he scored all of those points in the second half. In fact, he played the final 9:50 of the game with five personal fouls.
Boston's sharpshooter nailed nine of his 15 field goals that included a 5-of-6 night from downtown. All of those 3-pointers came in the second half and helped the Celtics pull away for good en route to their series-clinching victory.
Box Score Nuggets
- Kendrick Perkins broke out of his scoring slump to score eight points tonight in addition to his six rebounds, two assists and three blocked shots.
- Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade each missed a triple-double by two rebounds.
- Rondo finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and 12 assists. He also grabbed four steals, while turning the ball over only twice.
- Wade finished with 31 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists.
- Miami shot only 39.2 percent from the floor.
- Each team recorded 38 rebounds.
- Both team's shot 19-of-22 from the free-throw line.
- Paul Pierce had a big night with 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
- Ray Allen scored a team-high 24 points for Boston.
- Four Celtics starters grabbed at least six rebounds, led by Rondo and Kevin Garnett's eight apiece.
- Boston recorded 28 assists compared to Miami's 18.
- All of Boston's starters finished with at least a plus-13 in the plus/minus statistic.
- Wade shot only 2-of-7 from 3-point range, and the Heat shot only 5-of-20 from downtown as a team.
- Boston's bench scored only 13 total points.
- Mario Chalmers scored 20 points off the bench for Miami.
- The Celtics outscored the Heat 12-2 in fast break points.
Quote of the Night
Erik Spoelstra on the Boston Celtics: "With their starting lineup intact they're 38-18. That seams like a pretty good record to me. So that got healthy at the right time and again they're a veteran team, that's well coached, and they're unselfish. They put aside their personal agendas."