Game 2: Boston at Miami
You won’t find a more evenly matched set of teams in a single game for the rest of the playoffs. Both teams had 42 rebounds. Both teams had only 8 turnovers—in an overtime game. The only difference that helped keep Miami even with a seminal performance from Rajon Rondo was the free throw discrepancy.
Boston committed 33 fouls to Miami’s 18. The Heat shot 47 free throws to the Celtics 29 (fortunately for the Celtics, the Heat only converted 31 of those 47 free throws; that’s Tiago Splitter territory). Greg Stiemsma had 4 fouls in 3 minutes before Doc just sat him on the bench and forgot about him. Paul Pierce fouled out; Mickael Pietrus fouled out; Keyon Dooling fouled out; Garnett had 4 fouls and Rondo 3. About the only guys on Boston not getting called for fouls were Ray Allen and Brandon Bass.
To give you another idea of the free throw discrepancy, LeBron James finished with 34 points on 7 for 20 shooting. He took 24 free throws (making 18 of them). To give you a comparison the most free throws taken in a single game during these playoffs before tonight, was Kobe Bryant’s perfect 18 for 18 against Denver. LeBron took 6 more than Kobe did.
The referees were very diligent making calls for the Heat, but they failed to make a big one with the scored tied and 1:35 left in overtime. Rondo drove the lane and got bonked on the head by Wade. Rondo hit the court (rightfully) complaining about the hit, but Miami was heading the other way and they quickly scored on a rat-a-tat-tat set of passes eventually finding Haslem to gain the lead 107-105.
When Boston got the ball back, Kevin Garnett—visibly exhausted—had his pass intercepted by Mario Chalmers (who had 22 huge points for Miami while Wade was struggling with his shot for most of the game) and it was Heat ball up 2 with 1:16 to play.
Wade held the ball at the top of the key, and LeBron came out to set a screen for him. Because it was LeBron, the Celtics couldn’t overplay the screen like they’d normally do to run two defenders at Wade and force the ball out of his hands, so Wade split them and drove the lane. Again, the refereeing came into question because when Wade made his final jump towards the basket, he extended his leg to make contact with Garnett (this is most memorably exemplified by Reggie Miller, when he would kick his legs after a jumper to try and draw the foul). Jeff Van Gundy very astutely pointed out how easily the call could have gone against Wade. It’s unclear in replays whether Wade initiated the contact or Garnett, but Garnett was called for the foul. And, oh yeah, Wade made his the lay-in for a 3-point play to extend the Heat’s lead to 5 with under a minute to play. Here’s a gif of the play, so you can be the judge.
Personally, I have no idea who is at fault. It’s really hard to tell whether Garnett hit Wade’s face/arm first or Wade’s foot kicked him. Regardless, the Heat took a 5-point lead into the final minute. Boston dicked around on their next possession and Garnett was forced to throw up a desperation 3 as the shot clock expired. It missed and it was Heat ball again. Instead of fouling, the Celtics let the ball get down into their end as percious seconda ticked off the clock. Doc was imploring them to foul, but at that point it was pointless. Battier missed a 3, but LeBron got another offensive rebound and passed to Wade who was fouled.
As I mentioned earlier about Rondo, he did hit 2 3-pointers in the final 14 seconds to make Wade sweat on his final set of free throws, especially since Rondo had cut the Heat lead to 3, and Wade missed the first one. He made the second and it was over. Heat victory.
Rondo spoke after the game about his incredible performance (via NBA Offseason):
“It’s kind of irrelevant. We lost. Simple as that.”
God, that just makes me love him even more. He doesn’t give a shit about how he played. “We lost, simple as that”; pithy fuckin’ genius.
If you wonder why I’ve excitedly talked with my old man about a possible Spurs-Celtics NBA Finals (something exactly 2 people in the whole world want: me and my old man), it’s because of quotes like that one from Rondo. At the end of the day, it’s not about anything but winning (Popovich and Duncan know this as well). I just wish the refs had given Boston a better chance tonight.
Back to Boston for game 3.
Final: MIAMI HEAT 115 - Boston Celtics 111 in OT
The Heat lead the series 2-0