There are occasional games where the Celtics offense looks good. Games where Rajon Rondo looks like the best point guard in the land, driving the lane and knocking down threes. Games where the Celtics and passing and cutting and scoring with the shots they want.
Boston had one of those nights Wednesday. In a series where they were expected to struggle to score Rajon Rondo dropped 44 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds. He scored all 12 Celtics points in overtime. Ray Allen was knocking down threes. Paul Pierce had 21. Boston put up 111 points. Their offense showed up.
And the Heat still won in overtime 115-111 to take a 2-0 series lead heading back to Boston.
“It’s tough to have (Rondo) play that way and not win the game,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said afterward. “He basically did everything right. We had a lot of opportunities to win the game.”
This one is a punch to the gut for Boston. This was the game they needed to win. They played with the energy and resolve of a younger team, they were physical and just took the game to the Heat. Boston pushed Miami off the spots on the floor they wanted to be, Boston cut off the penetration. It worked.
They led by 15 in the first half, and while you knew a Heat run was coming the Celtics fought those runs off and had chances to win it. They will regret not doing so.
In the end, the Heat made plays. Miami showed the kind of resiliency we usually just credit to veteran teams like the Celtics. LeBron James got the offensive rebound on his own miss at the end of regulation robbing the Celtics of a last shot. (LeBron would miss a second attempt to win in regulation, a 20-foot jumper over Rondo when he should have attacked more. Then late the Celtics struggled to stop the LeBron/Dwyane Wade pick and roll. Wade attacked and got a key and-1 over Kevin Garnett. On the whole Boston did a good job on Wade, trapping on the pick-and-roll with bigs and trying to take the ball out of his hands. It’s why the picks set by LeBron worked so well — you can’t trap off him. Wade finished with 23 (LeBron had 34).
The Heat kept attacking — they took 47 free throws as a team. It’s a sign they were trying to get to the rim. LeBron took 24 free throws alone and helped Paul Pierce to foul out. The Celtics as a team only took 29 free throws. They think they got robbed (and they did at a key point in OT when Wade fouled Rondo on the head and it was not called).
Udonis Haslem stepped up with some timely key shots, finishing with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Boston just does not have people they can turn to for that kind of bench scoring — the Celtics had 7 bench points. It’s not enough. That kind of effort from the starters and to not get a win hurts.
Boston heads home and needs to replicate that offensive performance — their offense has been a roller coaster all season but this time the Celtics have to find a way to do it again. And a little better. Get a few more calls at home and make it stick.
Because now they have to win 4 of 5 from the Heat. And with their athletes, you know the Heat will keep making plays.