This felt like a playoff game. Like last year’s Eastern Conference finals — it was chippy, there were some big highlights, and there was a very loud crowd fully into the game. It was a game that went down to the final seconds.
And just like last year’s playoffs the Miami Heat beat the Boston Celtics.
Miami’s 105-103 win extends its win streak to 23, the second longest in NBA history. And it could go on a while longer. Miami’s schedule softens up for a week — five of the next six are against teams that didn’t make the playoffs, the lone exception is a struggling Chicago team — until the Heat could be at 29 straight wins when they have to play the Spurs in San Antonio.
But that is the future. On Monday night Miami was lucky to escape Boston with a win. A Celtics team without Kevin Garnett (flu and strained adductor) showed a lot of fight.
That was because the aggressive Jeff Green showed up. Nobody — not in Oklahoma City or Boston — ever questioned his potential and ability to score. It was that he was too passive, he coasted through games. Everyone wants to see the aggressive, attacking Green.
He showed up in Boston Monday. Big time. He sparked a 17-0 Boston run at the end of the first quarter that put the Celtics up double digits. Green had 26 first half post on 9-of-12 shooting. As a team the Celtics shot 62.2 percent shooting in the first half.
But by early in the third it was close and this was going to go down to the wire. You could feel it. Green was putting up points at every turn, on his way to 43 for the night. LeBron James seemed to match him shot for shot at times, and the MVP to be had 37 and 12 assists.
And he had the Heat’s final four points with Green trying to defend him.
The Celtics were up 101-103 inside of a minute when (after a lengthy review) Boston had the ball out under their own basket. Mario Chalmers — who had 21 points on the night and as a big factor in the outcome — came off a LeBron screen and both Green (guarding LeBron) and Chalmers defender went to Chalmers, LeBron cut to the basket and had as easy a two points as he was going to get on the night. (Well, except for dunking over Jason Terry early in the game). The game was tied.
The game stayed that way as first Green (blocked by Shane Battier), then Dwyane Wade, then Brandon Bass missed shots — contested shots but the kind you need in this kind of game.
So for their final shot, the Heat isolated LeBron on Green out high, Green had to give him space to respect the drive, and LeBron hit the game-winning jumper over him from 20 feet out.
Paul Pierce had a shot to get the win, a pretty good look at a three, but he couldn’t get it to go. On the final play Battier got the ball in and burned the clock by throwing the ball off Pierce’s turned back.
Miami gets the win. Boston isn’t the kind of team that has moral victories, but they can take one from this with pride. They played well, with a real fight. But like 22 teams before them they fell short.