It was a terrible shot, really. Much like James Hardens’ a night before it: A step back, tightly defended with a hand in his face. Paul Pierce didn’t care. He didn’t care that he barely got the ball over LeBron James’ hand, he didn’t care that it was an awful shot, he didn’t care that a miss could have lead to a leak out and a lost game. He just didn’t care, and so the Celtics won. He swished the three pointer, put the Celtics up by 5 with under a minute to go, and let his teammates hit some big free throws down the stretch as they closed the game.
The Miami Heat are now on the brink. Everyone will be talking about how LeBron and Miami respond, and with good reason, too. LeBron started off the game on fire. He had 18 first half points and was the sole source of offense as Wade seemed nonexistent yet again in the first half. Chris Bosh, who returned for his first game in three weeks, was a nice change of pace offensively, but ultimately wasn’t healthy enough to go late in the game– at least according to Heat Head Coach Erick Spoelstra.
James, however, hit a lull in the third quarter and had a difficult time overcoming it. He missed jumper after jumper, not a surprise to many, but then missed some contested shots in the lane as well. He pulled himself out of his slump in time for the fourth quarter, but by then, he was gassed. James has been playing an other-wordly amount of minutes this post season, and it seems as though it’s coming back to bite him as he slouched over with his hands on his knees at every opportunity. Wade was able to pick up some of the slack late as he scored 14 fourth quarter points, but the lack of bench productivity, coupled with an exhausted James and injured Bosh was too much for the Heat to overcome.
Their main problem wasn’t a tuckered-out LeBron (who still managed with 30 points and 13 rebounds) or a struggling bench, but it was defense, transition defense specifically. Wade was the main culprit here, not getting back on D and allowing easy transition buckets time and time again. The Heat weren’t able to stop Rondo from pushing the ball, and that was mainly because of a lackadaisical effort. Miami often looked unprepared and frustrated by their own faults, something that Doc Rivers made sure he took advantage of.
With Bosh playing limited minutes, Kevin Garnett continued his renaissance, scoring 26 points and pulling down 11 boards. Rajon Rondo scored only 6 points, but had 13 assists. Mickael Pietrus scored 13 points and hit 2 huge 3-pointers, one coming after an incredible Wade block, and the other after a scrounge on the floor. The latter gave Boston a 2-point lead, and they never looked back.
The Heat travel to Boston to meet the Celtics for Game 6 on Thursday night. Boston leads the series 3-2.