The Boston Celtics were still hanging around after two quarters in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but LeBron James and the Miami Heat proved to be too much in the end and took a 1-0 lead on the series in a commanding 93-79 victory. LeBron led the Heat with 32 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks and proved to be too much for the hobbled Paul Pierce, who is still playing on a sprained MCL.
The Heat took a quick ten point lead by the end of the first quarter as LeBron outscored the entire Celtics team 13-11. But Boston came roaring back with 35 points in the second to tie the game at 46 at halftime. But LeBron and company would not be denied in the third, outscoring Boston by 11 and never allowing room for a Celtics comeback the rest of the way. Kevin Garnett led Boston with 23 points and 10 rebounds while Rajon Rondo finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Paul Pierce could only manage 12 points on 5-of-18 shooting while Ray Allen was even worse, shooting 1-of-7 to finish with six points. Brandon Bass didn’t help matters either with an underwhelming eight points on 4-of-11 shooting. However, most of the credit for the Celtics’ inefficiency on offense has to go to Miami, whose stifling defense certainly contributed to Boston’s shooting woes. The Heat racked up 11 blocks and challenged a number of shots at the rim. They only turned the Celtics over eight times, but by contesting as many shots as they did, the Heat were able to gain a huge advantage on the defensive end. They also controlled the boards, winning the rebounding battle convincingly with a count of 48 compared to Boston’s meager 33.
A lot of things played out in Game 1 like I predicted: a banged up Pierce couldn’t stop LeBron; the absence of Avery Bradley allowed Dwyane Wade to have a good night even though he didn’t play completely out of his mind (Wade had 22 points and seven assists), nobody on the Celtics got much going offensively other than Kevin Garnett, and Rajon Rondo was not prolific enough to make Boston more of a threat. Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers also proved me right by continuing to produce (even if it was at a moderate level), finishing with nine and eight, respectively. Shane Battier also turned out to be a pleasant surprise, finishing with 10 points and 10 rebounds. This game turned out to be thoroughly predictable and although the Celtics battled through two quarters, the outcome of this game was never in doubt given how dominant LeBron looked throughout the night. The Celtics also hurt their chances by racking up so many technical fouls; at this stage in the playoffs, you can’t afford to give your opponent free points, especially up against a team like the Miami Heat. Five technicals not only gives them free points, but it also sends the message that you can be bothered by outside forces and makes you appear weak. Granted, those technicals weren’t the reason the Celtics lost this game, but they certainly won’t help if Boston can somehow compete better in Game 2.
The Miami Heat are a high-flying and talented team led by the league MVP and they all play great defense. The Boston Celtics are an aging contender that has plenty of experience to fall back on, but is ultimately too banged up to pose much of a threat. I still think the Celtics can steal a game or two at home because of their team unity and veteran knowledge of how to win in the playoffs, but they can’t afford for Miami to shoot 50 percent from the field again. They can’t afford for Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo to have average nights. So in the end, Game 1 was a pretty good indicator of how this one-sided series will play out: Boston is doing a great job with what they’ve got, but the Heat are just too powerful for them to handle this year.