Instead of trying to convince everyone of how the non-call on Rajon Rondo being fouled by Dwyane Wade ruined the game, the Boston Celtics need to figure out how to win Game 3 and stay alive in this series. In a Conference Finals of adjustments, having James and Wade isn’t enough for the Heat. They’re simply making better adaptations to the situations.
Game 2 was all about that. The Celtics, especially Rajon Rondo, did what was necessary to put Game 1 behind them. Rondo performed perfectly, handing out one of the best postseason performances in recent years. He finished with 44 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds. No one has ever put up such a stat line. Not Magic Johnson, not Larry Bird, not Michael Jordan, not LeBron James. It wasn’t enough.
Rajon Rondo was aggressive, and he kept hitting jumpers. Mario Chalmers laid off him and let him shoot freely from anywhere but the paint, and Rondo connected again and again, finishing with 16-24 from the field. The Celtics decided they were gonna trap Dwyane Wade by moving Garnett on him whenever he caught the ball. Wade struggled all through the first half, which Boston finished with a 7 point lead after already leading by 15 points at a certain point.
The Heat changed things up in the third quarter. Mario Chalmers stopped being as effective as he was in the first half, but that wasn’t winning the Heat anything. Their fantastic ball movement on the perimeter didn’t change the fact that they couldn’t go inside like they did so well during their run since Game 4 in the Pacers series. They got open shots for corner 3′s, but the Celtics can live with the occasional Chalmers/Battier tre and deny James and Wade their points in the paint.
Using James to set the picks for Wade shifted the Celtics defense out of it’s order. They couldn’t trap both James and Wade, which led to more one on one opportunities for both of them to drive into the paint. The Heat were 11-15 from inside 5 feet in the second half, although it was mostly during their fantastic third quarter (35-22). In the fourth the offense was stuck again, leading to overtime. In overtime? It wasn’t just about adjustments anymore.
The Celtics were falling off their feet as three players were fouled out of the game (Paul Pierce, Pietrus, Dooling). Kevin Garnett was overpowered in the paint as Brandon Bass failed in the second half to make a dominant display. LeBron James’ huge offensive rebound and basket in overtime was probably the best sign of a place Boston lost the game.
Back to adjustments, and a little rewind. The Heat did manage to slow down Rondo a bit in the third quarter. Switching defenders on him, putting LeBron James and Udonis Haslem and Chlamers again did throw the Celtics out of rhythm and create turnovers. Miami’s defense and offense was halted again in the fourth quarter. James was guarding Ray Allen for a while, but just couldn’t help himself but help others which left Allen, on a 5-11 shooting night, open to hit a couple of big shots.
It came down to the two big plays in overtime – Rajon Rondo not scoring after clearly being fouled by Dwyane Wade, resulting in Udonis Haslem slamming the ball on a perfect fast break and assist from LeBron James; Wade scoring while being fouled by Kevin Garnett but adding a little kick of his own. The Celtics, be a fan of theirs or not, are a whining team. Some teams are just that way. And when they got a few calls going their way earlier in the game? People seem to forget the past.
The refs did miss the Rondo foul by Wade, but the Celtics, when you look at the overall pattern and progression of the game, couldn’t hold the fort and the paint on defense. The Heat shot 47 times from the line because they kept driving to the basket in the Second Half. Celtics players preferred fouling James and Wade than give them a shot in the paint.
Over for Boston? Not yet. But the game did show that the Celtics will live and die; get called old or current on the way Rondo plays and shoots the ball. The Miami Heat found out they can actually allow Rondo to go wild and still come away with the win. It’s funny how confidence changes so quickly, how small adjustments and sticking by a decision to drive into the paint relentlessly changes a team. Boston will be a different story, but as long as the Heat keep winning the adjustment wars, the Celtics don’t have a chance, historic nights or not.