Ford Keys to the Game: Heat 98, Celtics 90
Heat 98, Celtics 90
The Celtics trailed by three points with 3:01 remaining, and everything seemed to be slipping away. Then Delonte West brought everyone in the Garden who was rooting for the Celtics back to where they hoped to be – in position to win Game 4.
Paul Pierce was the scorer for most of the night, but he turned into the distributor for Boston’s two most important made shots of the game. The first came when he dished off to West for a 3-pointer at the three-minute mark that knotted this contest up at 81-81.
That shot turned a fading Garden crowd into a boisterous group that wanted to take the game over from the stands. Erik Spoelstra sensed that, and that’s why he called an immediate timeout to try and cool down the energy level.
His plan came to fruition, but only for an instant. Dwyane Wade missed a layup in the paint that led to a Kevin Garnett rebound, and Pierce showed off his passing skills yet again at the other end by finding Ray Allen open behind the 3-point line in front of Miami’s bench. Allen took the pass and promptly drilled the trey, popping Boston ahead by three points with 2:28 remaining.
At that moment, the Celtics sensed blood, and so did their fans. TD Garden was as loud as it has ever been on Miami’s ensuing possession, and the Celtics’ defense was as tight as it could have been.
LeBron James held onto the ball in the right corner of the court, right in front of Boston’s bench, and did nothing but let the shot clock run down. He had nowhere to go, and he knew it. He ball-faked several times, jab-stepped his foot a couple more times and realized that he would have to fire up a shot from his least desired location – 3-point land.
With the crowd at its peak volume and Pierce’s left arm just inches away from James’ hand while mirroring the ball, the two-time MVP rose up for the biggest shot of his life. Shockingly – at least judging by his big-shot failures throughout this season and his career – it hit nothing but net to tie the game up at 84-84 with 2:00 remaining.
Boston’s crowd went from jubilation to admiration, as every single fan took note of the enormous shot that James had just drilled to tie the game. Here’s what Allen had to say about that gutsy shot by James:
“That play right there was a back-breaker. Just thinking about how I just hit a three, and we come down, he’s got the ball, everyone is in good position. Paul was up on him, he didn’t want him to drive by him. If I have to think about it, which I probably will all night, I probably would have been more vocal to get up on him – ‘Make him drive, because everyone’s behind you in help position, don’t let him shoot it.’ But he made a tough shot. Paul was in his face, he made a tough shot, we didn’t expect it.”
Allen called it a tough shot. James called it something else.
“It’s just a big shot, it’s a big shot,” said James. “The shot clock was going down and it was a big play. I think it was right after Ray had hit that big three in front of our bench I just went up and shot it with confidence.”
After that shot went through the basket, James wasn’t the only one who had a change in confidence. He and his teammates saw a dramatic boost in that department, while the Celtics lost every ounce.
Pierce committed a turnover with a forced pass on Boston’s next possession, and even though the Celtics got yet another big stop against Miami just seconds later, they simply couldn’t capitalize. Rajon Rondo had a wide-open layup that is usually money in the bank for him, but he banked it too hard off of the glass and missed a key opportunity to put the C’s ahead by two points with 71 seconds left in regulation. Pierce also came up empty on a potential game-winner at the buzzer.
That shot by James played a role in every play that took place afterward. Had he missed, the Celtics would have had an opportunity to take a two-possession lead with a basket at the other end. Instead, the game was tied, and for the first time in a long time, Boston was flustered and outplayed in a nail-biter.
Key Box Score Line
Paul Pierce played like a captain tonight, and the box score proves as much. No. 34 led the way – and by far – for the Celtics in the scoring column with 27 points in Game 4 and also pulled in eight rebounds, which, for Boston, were bested by only Kevin Garnett’s 10 boards.
With Garnett and Ray Allen struggling to put home shots and Rajon Rondo nursing his recently-dislocated elbow, Pierce did everything he could to carry the load on offense. He attempted a team-high 20 shots, making 10, and his aggressiveness led to a 6-of-7 performance from the free-throw line.
Boston fans are pretty used to Pierce scoring points, but he also chipped in everywhere else. In a game that featured only 25 total assists, Pierce racked up three, which trailed only Rondo’s five and Dwyane Wade’s four. He also blocked two shots, which tied Garnett and Joel Anthony for the game high.
His efforts weren’t enough to lead his team to victory, and he missed a potential game-winner on a difficult fade away at the end of regulation, but that doesn’t mean Pierce didn’t play like a champion tonight. He did everything he could to lead his struggling teammates to a win, he just came up a little bit short.
Box Score Nuggets
- Miami outscored Boston 48-32 in the paint.
- The Celtics did not score a single second chance point.
- LeBron James recorded game highs of 35 points and 14 rebounds.
- Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 27 points, and he also chipped in eight boards.
- Two Miami players, James and Chris Bosh, finished with double-doubles, while no Celtic player reached that feat.
- The two teams combined to shoot 8-of-29 on 3-pointers.
- Pierce had a tough night from long range, connecting on just one of his six attempts.
- Playing just two days after dislocating his left elbow, Rajon Rondo scored 10 points and notched a game-high five assists.
- Boston's reserves totaled just two rebounds.
- Miami's reserves totaled just seven points.
- Both teams made 25 free throws, with the C's attempting one more (29) than the Heat (28).
- Bosh notched a double-double with his 20 points and 12 rebounds.
- Miami's Big Three attempted 63 of the team's 79 shots and combined to score 83 of the team's 98 points.
- The Celtics scored just 17 points in the fourth quarter and overtime combined.
- There were six blocks in the game, with three players (Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Joel Anthony) recording two blocks apiece.
- Garnett led the Celtics with 10 rebounds.
- Pierce shot 10-of-20 from the field, including 9-of-14 from inside the 3-point arc.
- Miami outrebounded Boston 45-28.
- Garnett shot just 1-of-10 from the floor.
- The Celtics committed 18 turnovers, which led to 28 points for the Heat.
- The two teams combined for 25 assists, which is two less than the Celtics dished out by themselves during Game 3.
- James committed a game-high five turnovers.
- James played a whopping 50:17.
- Delonte West scored 10 points off of the bench for the Celtics.
- Two Boston reserves, West and Jeff Green (seven points), scored at least as many points as Miami's entire bench.
Quote of the Night
Ray Allen on coming back from down 3-1 to Miami: "I look forward to it, it’s a challenge I think everyone on this team, we know we have to do. We can’t talk about it, we just got to put our best foot forward. It’s not going to get any easier, but that’s what makes it that much more special if you can pull it off."