Sunday, June 10, 2012
Heat Close On 20-6 Run, Advance To NBA Finals With Game 7 Win
We all knew this day would come, there was no way that the Boston Celtics would win a title in 2011-12 when they had such an old core and so many injuries. Still, as the postseason progressed and they ended up in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat, we all believed that they might extend this magical run one more time after they led the series 3-2 with Game 6 in Boston.
For more than three quarters, Boston was right there with Miami. In fact, they were up 82-81 (after a Ray Allen 3-pointer) with 8:48 left in the fourth. That's when the Heat finally took over and closed on a 20-6 run to take a 101-88 decision in Game 7 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Miami will travel to Oklahoma City to begin the NBA Finals on Tuesday. Boston's Big 3 fell to 4-3 all time in Game 7's and the Celtics ended 3-7 on the road in these playoffs. Much like in 2010 when the C's choked away a 3-2 lead and lost Game 7 to the Lakers, one couldn't help but feel like Boston's real shot to win this was in Game 6 but they totally no-showed. There was nothing to criticize about their effort tonight, they simply ran out of gas against a younger team.
LeBron James was a force one more time against the Celtics, putting up a game-high 31 points and 12 rebounds. He only had two assists as his singular focus was getting to the hoop (12 for 17 on free throws). Dwyane Wade (23 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists) played second fiddle again but Chris Bosh (19 points, 8 rebounds) might have been the difference in the clincher. Out of nowhere, Bosh hit a career-high three 3-pointers in a game that meant everything to the Heat's Big 3.
Shane Battier (12 points, 4 3-pointers) and Mario Chalmers (9 points, 7 assists) also played well enough for Miami. James, Wade and Bosh scored the Heat's last 31 points. Haha really.
Rajon Rondo (22 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds) was brilliant as he picked up his 10th career playoff triple-double but he didn't get enough help to pull out what would have been a shocking upset. Paul Pierce had 19 points (but he was 7 for 18 from the floor), Brandon Bass scored 16 and had four steals, Ray Allen added 15 and Kevin Garnett was held in check with 14 points and seven rebounds.
We couldn't ask for a much better first half by the C's as they led 27-23 after the first quarter and 53-46 at halftime. Miami's defense clamped down in the second half and Boston couldn't get anything going offensively. The Heat outscored the Celtics 55-35 in the second half including a killer 28-15 fourth quarter.
For the game, Miami shot 51.4% to Boston's 46.7%. The Heat made three more 3-pointers (9-6), eight more free throws (20-12) and five more rebounds (38-33). The Celts managed three more assists (19-16) and two more steals (10-8).
I don't want this to sound like a loser's lament since I don't think they had a prayer to beat the Thunder anyway but it's a shame that the Celtics won't have that special opportunity. Putting our rooting interests aside, I don't know who would prefer Miami's boring 1-on-1 AAU style vs. Boston's team basketball. It would have been fun to see if the Celts could have thrown a scare into what looks like the NBA's newest dynasty.
It's going to be a fascinating offseason to see what Danny Ainge decides to do with this roster. There's a good chance that all of the Big 4 will return, then again I wouldn't be surprised to see Allen leave or maybe even KG retire. Rondo is the future and this team still has some potential next season provided that they surround the older guys with more depth and reliable youngsters. Boston has two picks in the first round of the NBA Draft (21, 22) on June 28 and it is supposed to be a quality draft so hopefully they can package those to move up or possibly get a veteran.
When we look back in a few years, this team should always hold a special place in Boston sports fans' hearts. They overachieved, played the game the right way and got absolutely everything out of what they had; what more could we have asked for?