Rajon Rondo lit up the Heat for 44 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds, but the Miami Heat were too much for the Celtics in overtime, powering past Boston down the stretch to defend their home court with a 115-111 win in Game 2. Despite missing numerous free throws and a last-second attempt to win the game in the fourth quarter, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade gave the Heat a 2-0 lead on the series after Paul Pierce fouled out.
LeBron led Miami with 34 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists while Wade followed up with 23 points and six rebounds. The Heat rallied from a 15 point deficit in the first half to take a six point lead heading into the fourth. But Rondo and the Celtics remained resilient and fought back to gain a five point advantage with less than three minutes to play. But the Heat stormed back with a 9-0 run to go up 98-94 with a minute to play. Udonis Haslem once again proved to be a clutch piece for the Heat, knocking down key baskets in the fourth quarter and overtime to help out LeBron and Wade on the offensive end. Haslem ended up with 13 points and 11 rebounds and Mario Chalmers was also huge for Miami, finishing with 22 points and six assists. However, the Celtics showed their veteran experience by battling back after Wade missed one of two free throws, which led to a Ray Allen 3-pointer to tie the game. LeBron James, who scored 18 of his 34 points from the free throw line, had the ball with the game on the line but again came up short, which was especially disappointing because he pulled up for a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer instead of driving to the basket with the much smaller Rondo guarding him. However, LeBron and Wade’s performance up to that point was enough to give the Heat the victory, especially when they started hitting their free throws in overtime. But this will be an area of concern for Miami if they advance to face the Spurs or the Thunder in the Finals: how will LeBron and Wade perform under pressure with the game on the line?
On the Boston’s side of things, Pierce fouling out really hurt the Celtics and even Rondo’s prolific night wasn’t enough to prevent the Heat from taking control down the stretch. LeBron, Wade and Haslem scored all of Miami’s points in overtime while Rondo singlehandedly kept his team in the game by scoring all of Boston’s 12 overtime points. Unfortunately for the Celtics, nobody else showed up in the clutch. Pierce finished with 21 points before fouling out late in the fourth, Kevin Garnett 18 points and eight rebounds and Ray Allen added 13. But Brandon Bass only took four shots and Boston’s bench combined for just seven points as the Heat ran away with the game down the stretch.
Like I emphasized in my last post, Rondo needed to fully expose his advantage over Chalmers at the point guard position, but it still wasn’t enough to overcome Miami’s two elite superstars with the help of Chalmers and Haslem. Unfortunately for Boston, as much as they battled and showed everyone this series won’t be a cakewalk, they didn’t have what it took down the stretch to close it out. Part of the problem was Garnett wasn’t able to give the Celtics an edge in the paint because of his 6-for-18 shooting night. Moving forward, Rondo has to continue to exploit the Heat defense by getting to the basket (although expecting him to produce at such a high level for the rest of the series is a little too much to ask) and Garnett needs to step up his game just a little more so his presence in the paint allows the Celtics to spread the floor. However, this series looks just as decided as the Western Conference Finals, as LeBron and Wade are playing at too high a level to allow their team to lose. Boston should be commended for making it this far and could make things interesting by taking care of business at home, but they’re just too banged up to proved a real challenge to the Heat at this point.