Ford Keys to the Game: Heat 80, Celtics 88
Heat 80, Celtics 88
The most anticipated game in NBA Opening Night history quickly turned into a dud when the Boston Celtics pummeled the Miami Heat early on, limiting the South Beach Trio and Co. to only nine points in the first quarter. In addition, the Celtics jumped out to a commanding 45-30 lead after the first 24 minutes of play.
That 15-point lead quickly grew to 19, the largest lead of the game, early in the second half. That domination quickly disappeared, though, when Paul Pierce was forced to the sideline with a bruised back at the 3:53 mark of the third. While he was out, LeBron James took over, scoring nine points before the quarter concluded to help the Heat crawl to within six.
From that point on, this one was a game, and on James’ layup with 1:10 remaining Boston’s lead was suddenly cut to a one-possession game, a three-point deficit, for the first time since the 6:13 mark of the first quarter. The Heat had the fortitude to fight back, but the Celtics had the ability to persevere.
Doc Rivers called an immediate timeout after that basket and drew up a play to help Boston bump that lead back up. Interestingly enough, the advice he gave in that huddle may have played a larger role than the actual Xs and Os he drew up.
Said Rivers, “We drew a play out of the timeout, and the only thing we said is if it's not there, it won't be there because they have to rotate, and if they rotate, if we make the next pass, the ball will find the open guy.”
Doc Rivers, you are a psychic. Really.
Out of the timeout, the Celtics swung the ball around for a solid 20 seconds before they found the shot they were looking for. Paul Pierce, in fact, had a good look himself, but with Rivers’ advice lingering in the back of his mind, he passed on the shot and dished the ball off to Ray Allen in the left corner of the court. Allen rose up, and as he does “nine times out of 10,” according to Pierce, the sharpshooter drilled a huge shot for the C’s in crunch time. Allen’s 3-pointer put Boston ahead by six with 49.8 seconds remaining, and it essentially put the game away. Pierce tacked on two free throws to close out the night’s scoring and the C’s prevailed in a huge 88-80 win on Opening Night.
Key Box Score Line
How often does a player who scores only four points on 2-of-9 shooting finish as the winning team’s most important player? Let me answer that for you – almost never. Tonight, however, Rajon Rondo pulled it off.
As the only Boston starter who isn’t already a sure-fire Hall of Famer, Rondo’s existence sometimes slips through the cracks in the media. Tonight’s performance was just another reminder that he, himself, is one of the greatest players in this league.
Rondo needed to dominate this game, simply because he was one of two positions the Celtics had any sort of advantage in. He did exactly that by knifing up the Heat for 17 assists, two more than Miami’s entire team. The vision he displayed was incredible, and the passes he whipped to the open teammates he found were even better. On top of those 17 dimes, which were one short of his career high, Rondo also grabbed five rebounds and two steals.
Box Score Nuggets
- Miami shot only 36.5 percent in the game.
- Ray Allen scored a team-high 20 points for the Celtics on 7-of-13 shooting.
- Kevin Garnett finished with 10 points and team-high 10 rebounds.
- Udonis Haslem's 11 boards were a game-high.
- Rajon Rondo's 17 assists were two more than Miami's entire team recorded.
- Boston outrebounded Miami 42-39.
- Ray Allen's 5-of-8 shooting from downtown helped the C's shoot 50 percent (8-of-16) from 3-point range.
- Boston's 20 turnovers led to 22 points for Miami.
- LeBron James (game-high 31 points) and Dwyane Wade (13 points) were the only Heat players to break double-digits.
- Three Heat players (Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Eddie House) each finished with eight points apiece.
- James (eight) and Wade (six) combined for 14 of the Heat's 17 turnovers.
- Garnett led the Celtics with seven turnovers.
- Paul Pierce finished with 19 points and nine rebounds.
Quote of the Night
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett on Ray Allen's knack for hitting big shots
Pierce:"I've been a witness of it the last three years, and he's one of the best players that I've ever played with. It's an honor just to be able to step on the court with him night in and night out. You've got a guy that can take that kind of pressure off you, it's an amazing feeling. I don't know if you guys realize it, but Ray, he's hit so many game winners for us and so many clutch shots for us, we have confidence to get him the ball in these situations. He delivers nine times out of ten.."
Garnett:"And this guy hits big shots himself."
Pierce:"I like watching, too."