C's Buried in Fourth, Drop Game 2 in Miami
Series Shifts to Boston for Saturday's Game 3
MIAMI - When you look at the box score from the Celtics' Game 2 loss to the Heat, the numbers look about as even as possible across nearly every category, except for free throws and LeBron James' stat line. Those numbers basically tell the story of why the Celtics battled hard but flew home Tuesday night down 2-0 instead of tied at 1-1.
James dominated the game during multiple stretches, converted several weight-room and-ones after contact, and finished with 35 points in a performance that carried his team to a 102-91 victory. Dwyane Wade also had another Wade-like game, dropping 28 points quietly, if that's even possible. Miami's not really getting much out of anyone else on their roster – okay, Chris Bosh had 17 points and 11 rebounds – but they don't seem to need a balanced attack. James was the straw that stirred the drink tonight.
"LeBron was physically, emotionally and mentally tough for us tonight and that set the tone for everybody," Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Miami earned home court against the Celtics in the regular season and on paper, they're supposed to be up 2-0 after a pair of games at the AmericanAirlines Arena, something Spoelstra touched upon in his postgame remarks. "This thing is just getting started. A series doesn't start until somebody wins on the opposing team's court."
After Sunday's Game 1 where it never looked felt like the Celtics were close, the C's managed to stay close almost the entire night in Game 2. That is, until they were buried by Miami's 14-0 run that started with a Mario Chalmers 3-pointer that snapped an 80-80 tie. From that point forward, the Celtics failed to get the ball to their best scorers, put the Heat on the line repeatedly (the Heat took 36 free throws to the Celtics' 22) and watched a golden opportunity slip away. Rajon Rondo (20 points, 12 assists) gave everything he had trying to stage an improbable comeback, but the C's never got close enough to ever make it a game again.
"They scored and we couldn't score, to simplify it. I always say if we can't score down the stretch, that's on me, I have to do something different," Rivers said, also noting that his best players didn't get the ball and hence were denied opportunities to score. Then again, with the parade to the trainers throughout the night, Rivers wasn't even sure who could handle getting the ball. "For me, it was tough, I didn't know who was healthy or who felt good out there."
Rondo had previously sat for a stretch in the third quarter when his back tightened up, and Delonte West filled in nicely during his absence, going 4-for-4 from the field for 10 points on the night. Ray Allen (bruised chest) and Paul Pierce (Achilles strain) also had injury issues throughout the night.
Most notably, Pierce strained his left Achilles early on in the contest, and missed several minutes getting worked on in the locker room. When he finally returned during the second quarter, he looked stiff and got very little lift on a pair of long-range misses. Pierce was better in the second half but never found a rhythm and finished with just 13 points.
Allen, who scored just seven points on seven attempts, when asked about Doc's assessment, initially said it was hard to tell if the ball went to the right places without watching the film. But one thing he and Rivers absolutely concurred on was that the C's have to do a better job of closing out quarters.
"You've got to give them credit," Allen said. "They're causing us to move the ball and put it in different places. We have to do a better job of attacking the basket. They're attacking us, but we're not attacking them."
Rivers talked about getting Kevin Garnett more involved in Game 2 since Game 1 ended. KG was certainly more aggressive to start, but hit just two of his first nine shots before finding his flow in the third, when he dropped 10 of his 16 points. Garnett, however, had just two points in the fourth quarter.
"For us, we've got to keep it simple, and get better ball movement. We've got to get the ball to the right guys and that's on me. Whether they do it on the floor or I call it, we gotta get it to the right guy," Rivers said.
Still, Spoelstra praised the Celtics' persistence; as the C's battled down to the final seconds but ran out of time and energy in Game 2. "Even when you think you're outplaying them they're still right there. They don't panic," Spoelstra said.
Allen echoed Spoelstra's sentiments as the series shifts back to Boston.
"The adversity we face is ultimately what makes us who we are," Allen said. "Being down 2-0 doesn't scare us, or make us nervous."
They'll have three days to recuperate and regroup for Saturday's Game 3 at TD Garden, so with a long flight home that will have them in their beds in the wee hours of Wednesday a.m., Rivers gave his charges the day off.
"We'll be ready. I can guarantee it. The rest is good, it's very good for us," Rivers said. "I told them to stay away from each other, stay away from film, stay away from basketball, and just relax," Rivers said.
Allen admitted he has a hard time stepping away from the game even for a day, and said he'd determine how he'd spend the off-day when woke up in the morning. If he resists the temptation to go to the gym and get some shots up, he may end up running on the treadmill to at least get a sweat going tomorrow. But one thing's for sure: He won't be sweating a 2-0 series deficit.
"We have an opportunity to go home and play in front of our crowd and play good basketball," Allen said.
Allen's got the right attitude, but make no mistake: the pressure will be on the Celtics on Saturday when they take the court for Game 3 at TD Garden. It doesn't have to be Allen, but you get the feeling that somebody in green will indeed have to shine Saturday to prevent the Celtics from falling behind 3-0.