Dwyane Wade’s numbers against the Boston Celtics during the regular season – 12.8 points while shooting 28.1% from the field. Miami were 1-3 in those matchups against the Celtics. Yesterday, in Game 1 – 38 points, 5 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. He shot 14-21 from the field and finished the first half with 23 points, one point shy of his playoff record of 24 from the 2006 NBA finals. Oh and yeah, Miami won, 99-90, leading the whole way.
It wasn’t all Wade, who came out aggressive from the start, creating nice looks and also hitting those not exactly comfortable shots. He had a very good time when Ray Allen was guarding him in some sort of isolated mode. The Celtics didn’t bring help in time when Wade set himself up for jumpers and penetrations.
The X-facter was James Jones, who also got a technical out of Paul Pierce, later leading to his ejection (Wade had the finishing touch). With Chris Bosh struggling offensively (but doing fantastic defensive job), James Jones stepped up and provided the Heat with the third scoring threat they need (ed). Jones scored 25 points without hitting a 2-points. Five tres and 10-10 from the line. The Celtics can’t allow that. All of Jones’ shots came without him even taking a dribble.
And what of LeBron James? He tried to force things early, which didn’t work out that well, but eventually, with Wade taking the burden of scoring, James had enough time and space to do everything else on both ends of the court. He finished with 22 points, six rebounds and five assists. A regular day in the office for him. More than everything, it was the defense, especially on Rondo and Garnett.
Rajon Rondo is the best player the Celtics have, there’s no doubt about that. His ability to dominate and create open shots for his teammates usually makes a big difference from a struggling Celtics team to one that cruises and has its way with opponents (Games 3&4 against the Knicks). Mike Bibby got a lot of help on Rondo, who was troubled early with foul problems. He sat out the end of the first half and never really got any rythm going, especially with his shooting, finishing with 8 points (3-10 from the field).
The Celtics got the points from Allen (25) and Paul Pierce (19), but those aren’t the players Miami were most focused on stopping. Rondo, Garnett (six points, 3-9 from the field) and in generally, the big guys (8-21 from the field) were stopped. Miami didn’t shut down the paint but managed to make every shot very difficult for the Celtics. Chris Bosh was huge, with all ‘soft’ nicknames disappearing from thought after his recent performances.
And of course, the referees. Too bad we had to have them involved, but it seems inevitable these days. One side to this discussion would argue that Pierce deserved the two T’s – The Celtics are a borderline dirty team. They enjoy that reputation, helping them intimidate teams.
The invisible blows, the trash talking, the getting in a players face after every foul, the complaining about everything and looking surprised when they actually get called for something. The refs allowed Miami to be just as physical, probably even more. Here comes the other side – Pierce shouldn’t have been ejected. He should have gotten a Technical for his James Jones incident, not for what happened with Wade. It was a tough screen, foul maybe, but the two players just talked some smack afterwards. No need for an ejection.
This series is undoubtedly the most interesting and most physical out of the four Semi Finals taking place. Miami finally came together as a fighting unit, showing they can scratch and step up defensively just like the Celtics are known for. I hope this will be the last whistle controversy we hear of in this series.