The Boston Celtics aren’t a very good team, but once in a while they can do a bit better than everyone expects of them, as Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh weren’t enough to carry the Miami Heat through a game without LeBron James, while Rajon Rondo looked like a point guard worth keeping for the future.
The Celtics won 101-96, holding the Heat’s offense to only 37 points in the second half as a familiar thing happened to the Heat: A great first quarter (34-22) before completely shutting down on both defense and offense, which is something that happens when James is on the floor as well. This isn’t only a concern about how they’re going to catch up with the Pacers playing like this, but also on how are they going to make it back into the NBA finals with new vulnerabilities showing up each and every game.
Rajon Rondo finished the game with 9 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists. Something about seeing Mario Chalmers in front of him sparks something in him, although it didn’t translate into better shooting, something he’s struggled with since returning from his injury and frankly his entire career. Avery Bradley was the real hot player for the Celtics with 23 points and 6-of-9 from beyond the arc, not to mention his excellent defense in the second half.
It was also a very good game for Brandon Bass, finding space each and every time through the many cracks allowed by the Heat’s defense, returning to a no-Oden look in the lineup (Oden didn’t dress up for the game), and having Michael Beasley start for James in the lineup. Beasley had 12 points in 28 minutes. Jared Sullinger had a very good game for the Celtics off the bench, scoring 14 points; Jeff Green finished with 13.
But the story here, obviously isn’t the Celtics. As much as a win over the Heat (their second against them this season) means a lot to the team and fans, it won’t bring them any closer to the playoffs, or make anyone feel good about this season. The only plus side, for those loving to wrap themself up with rivalry issues, is messing things up for the Heat even more profoundly than they were prior to the Boston visit.
Norris Cole continues to be something of an Achilles heel coming off the bench. Maybe it’s about motivation and waiting for the playoffs to begin, but Mario Chalmers with 7 points and 11 assists was excellent if it wasn’t for the foul trouble he got into. The Heat have quite a few games this season with Cole doing a disastrous job in covering for the starting point guard, making everyone around him look bad as well.
The ball movement just wasn’t there in the second half, as the Heat couldn’t find open shots and couldn’t connect from downtown when they did, finishing with 4-of-17 from beyond the arc. Dwyane Wade led the way with 17 points. Chris Andersen had 16, Ray Allen and Udonis Haslem (in a scorching start to the game) had 14 each. However, without James in the game, they needed Chris Bosh to get hot as well, but with only 6 points on 3-of-11 from the field, the Heat missed out on an opportunity against one of the worst front lines in the league.
This loss won’t worry the Heat too much, but it’s just another example of just how difficult it’s going to be for them in the playoffs, and how muc harder the job is for LeBron James to lead this group to a three-peat.