So. We’ve made it to June. Both conference finals have completed three games. The NBA Finals are almost within reach. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to be any closer to figuring out which two teams will playing in said finals than we were at the start of the playoffs. Yes, we’ve eliminated 12 teams so far, so mathematically we’re closer, but I can’t tell for sure which of the remaining four will advance. It all seemed so clean cut after the first two games of each series, but then Thursday happened, and then tonight happened…now I don’t know what to think. But let’s see if we can’t puzzle it out, shall we?
Boston Celtics 101, Miami Heat 91: Heat lead series 2-1
This series was over. The Celtics were done. Their single biggest matchup advantage (Rajon Rondo) had the game of his life and yet they couldn’t manage to knock off the Heat despite taking them into OT.
And then game three happened.
Sure, a ten-point win at home may not sound all that impressive, but the game wasn’t really as close as the score indicates. The Celtics led by 22 after three quarters, and the Heat took advantage of Kevin Garnett’s absence by going small and playing LeBron at center. However, once KG came back, that advantage was mostly mitigated and that was that. So I would consider this to be very similar to game three of Spurs-Thunder, in which the Thunder, trailing 2-0, came out and made a statement in a blowout win.
Garnett finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds on 10/16 from the field and continued his remarkable resurgence during the playoffs. Rondo followed up his remarkable 44-8-10 game with a 21-6-10 that was less spectacular but showcased his unique skillset just as well. The difference in this game was that Garnett, Paul Pierce (23-4-4), Ray Allen and, in a surprise twist, Marquis Daniels (9 points and 5 rebounds on 4/6 from the field) backed him up.
Also the Heat played like hot garbage.
LeBron James showed up, putting up 34-8-5-2-2 and single-handedly keeping the Heat alive for much of the game, and so did Mario Chalmers, who had 14 points and 6 assists, but that was it. And Chalmers really only showed up in the second half. Dwyane Wade scored 18, but took 20 shots to do so and never attempted a free throw. Shane Battier went o/6 from the field and scored as many points in 37 minutes as Dexter Pittman and Juwan Howard did in less than one minute — zero. Udonis Haslem, huge in game three, scored a sterling 3 points, as many as Ronny Turiaf and Joel Anthony. Mike Miller scored 11, but only showed up for the fourth quarter. Although, given that he can barely walk, I have to give him a ton of credit for even managing to do that. Regardless, this was a classic ‘LeBron and a bunch of crap’ game that was oddly reminiscent of the LeBron-era Cavs. In fact, Wade was given the role of Larry Hughes on Twitter, given his poor play and odd shot selection.
So what does it mean? Well, it’s clear now that there are major chinks in Miami’s armor. They’re still pretty much a two-man team offensively until Chris Bosh gets back and don’t really have anyone who can hope to contain Kevin Garnett if he gets going. Rajon Rondo can more or less get into the lane at will and Ray Allen is going to cause problems if he can keep shooting as he did in game three. At the same time, they still have LeBron, Wade figures to stop sucking at some point, and Bosh hopes to be back at some point in this series. I still think Miami wins the series, but I’m not nearly as confident as I was before this game.
Saturday, June 2nd:
San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder Game 4, 7:30 PM, TNT