Game 5: Boston at Miami
There’s such a contrast between the Eastern and Western Conference Finals even as they both follow the same script. In the West, the young guns took control after losing the first two games on the road to the older, favored Spurs. In the East, it’s the older, underdog Boston Celtics that lost two games on the road to start the series, only to come back and win the next 3. They’re parallel series’, but divergent in narrative.
The Celtics just seem to tease you with how they go about advancing in the NBA playoffs, and it’s not new to this year. They were stretched to 7 games by the Sixers and 6 games by the Hawks earlier in the playoffs, but in 2008 they were stretched to 7 games against the Hawks in the opening round and again to 7 games in the conference semifinals against ‘Bron and his woefully single-dimension Cavaliers team; the Celtics only ended up winning the title that year.
This year’s Celtics bunch, with prior year’s battle scars still stinging their uniforms, is just itching to rip the other team’s heart out and raise the mush of a a beaten muscle in commemoration of their victory; it’s that tenacity that defines champions and at the same time undermines the merely gifted.
As a team playing the Celtics, you become pliable and utterly at Boston’s mercy if you don’t put them away when you have a chance, and of course there’s Paul Pierce’s Will to Power.
LeBron James is the best all-around basketball player on the planet; not many people can argue otherwise—though many have tried—but he doesn’t have that tick in his personality: the Übermensch will to destroy and step on the throats of opponents that so defined Jordan, Bird, Kobe, Magic and Pierce. LeBron’s never had it, and he hasn’t gleaned it the way Durant has over in the West this year, and Dirk did last year. We all know this and continue to know this as we fret and preen on the screens of the Internet trying to figure out why. Why can’t LeBron win the whole thing? Why isn’t really as important as the fact he hasn’t, at least yet.
So we’ll castigate LeBron tomorrow and there will be a million different articles either defending him or calling him a fraud of an MVP. That’s not really important for tonight’s purposes, but prepare yourself for that plot point when you open up your sports site of choice tomorrow, or I guess now today. It wasn’t that LeBron and Wade lost this game, it’s that Pierce, Garnett and the whole Boston team won the game. Just like they’ve done everything else this year, they’ve done so as a team.
But tonight, it was Paul Pierce that exerted his will on this game, and shot the Celtics to victory in the closing moments and one game away from a return to the Finals. I could write mellifluous commentary on Kevin Garnett’s dominating 26 point, 11 rebound and 2 blocks as a commanding presence down low; I could go on about Rondo’s huge buckets late, 13 assists early and 6 boards that when combined mean he’s one of the top all-around guards in the game. There are plenty of individual components to the Celtics team, but it was Pierce’s burning desire to win that led him to take and hit that 3-pointer with just under a minute left before letting out a smile and a bit of smack talking as he trotted back up court for the Heat’s timeout. Pierce isn’t one to yammer away at you with his mouth since “real player’s don’t flex nuts ‘cause real players know they got ‘em,” but I’ll forgive him that because he wanted to remind the Heat what they already know: they don’t have him, they don’t have the will to win.
Pierce knows the secret to NBA success. LeBron doesn’t, and Wade must’ve forgot. The Celtics won game 5, and unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 5 years, they aren’t coming back to Miami for game 7. This series, more-so than the parallel series in the West, is over.
The Celtics will represent the Eastern Conference in the 2012 NBA Finals. They were the only one’s that thought that was possible. They were the only one’s that mattered.
And you wondered why Pierce was smiling.
Final: Boston Celtics 94 - MIAMI HEAT 90
The Celtics leads the series 3-2