HEAT 98 - Celtics 90 Game 4 Recap

BOSTON – The Miami HEAT may have just had their most significant night of their first season together, a night that could be talked about for many years. They beat the Boston Celtics, in Boston, took a 3-1 series lead and, most importantly, accomplished something they had been talking about all season.

There was rarely any doubt in rational minds that the HEAT could beat the Celtics on the road in a close game. They had the talent and, over the course of the season, shown sufficient chemistry and togetherness to beat anyone. But they were reminded, over and over, of the things they hadn’t done, and no matter how confident the team was, it’s impossible to say you’ve done something that you haven’t.

Now they have. They’ve absorbed the Celtics’ best shots and responded with force. And they’ve seen themselves do those things, felt success in situations that they hadn’t before and had their leaders step up in all the big spots. Now, with that first precious repetition in hand and mind, they can believe.

The differences between this game and Game 3 were many, but none more so than Chris Bosh. Fresh off one of his worst games of the season, Bosh began Monday shooting 2-of-8 in the first half. From there on, through overtime, he was 6-of-9 with 10 rebounds and four free-throw attempts.

Of course, had Kevin Garnett repeated his 28-point, 18-rebound performance from Game 3, none of that would have mattered. But Bosh, along with Joel Anthony – who replaced Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the starting lineup – and later on LeBron James, limited Garnett to catches outside of the paint, denying entry passes and feigning double teams as Boston’s power forward was forced to shoot over the top, again and again.

The result was 1-of-10 shooting for Garnett, and 32 points in the paint for Boston to Miami’s 48. For the third time in four games, Bosh won the matchup. He also may have hit the biggest shot of his career to date, tipping in a missed James jumper to give Miami a two-possession lead with 24.2 seconds to go in overtime.

It was also the shot that had TD Garden as quiet as it has been in three years, with only a loud exhale and Bosh’s yell to be heard.

With a nod to Anthony’s defense, the rest of the narrative belonged to James and Dwyane Wade. Miami’s All-Stars combined for 83 points in the HEAT’s 98-90 victory, with only two of their teammates reaching two field-goals made.

Though each member of the HEAT has had their struggles in Boston, nobody had more to gain from this victory than James after being ousted twice by the Celtics in the past three seasons. A dominant performance that led to a win could have been a most poignant moment, from a national perspective, the answer to shallow and often baseless accusations, and that performance came, but not without a brief hiccup.

James scored 11 of Miami’s final 13 points in the fourth quarter, engaging the burst with less than seven minutes to play and the HEAT down seven, his biggest shots being a three in front of Boston’s bench and an up-and-under layup to take the lead. But after Paul Pierce drove the lane and scored when help rotations were late, James controlled the ball on what could have been a two-for-one possession, only to turn it over.

James Jones may have saved the game here with an open-court foul on Ray Allen when the HEAT had a foul to give, but it was James who played the hero on the other end of the court. When Boston’s designed play broke early in the final possession, James found himself isolated on Pierce, above the right elbow, Pierce’s end-game sweet spot.

“I had a timeout to kick myself, tell myself you can’t turn the ball over in that situation,” James said. “D-Wade came to me, told me what he tonight I should have did, but there was still time on the clock and I had to let it go because they had the ball with the shot clock off.

“The only way for me to redeem myself was to get a stop and for us to have an overtime period and have a chance to win.”

So, Pierce dribbled left and set himself up for the elbow jumper. But James cut him off, forcing Pierce laterally away from his spot and into a fading jumper that struck iron, James’ hand in Pierce’s face the entire time.

Overtime was all Miami. A fadeaway from James and a stepback from Wade were talent shots, but they were balanced by a Wade-to-James-to-Bosh sequence in the paint and Bosh’s tip-in, a mix of playoff heroics, chemistry and hustle. Miami won overtime 12-4, took control of the series and reversed a number of storylines about late-game finishes.

But nothing is more important than the event itself. The HEAT were always able to do what they did, but now that ability is a fact rather than an analytical projection. They’ve ridden the bike now, they know how to balance, but they still need one more championship-level effort to dethrone the Celtics.

“I told them, that was one breakthrough,” Erik Spoelstra said. “So many of us have never had a win in this building.

“But, what we are going to face Wednesday will be our greatest challenge.”