Above Average Thoughts From An Average Guy
Without going the full Tim McCarver on you, an upset only happens when the team that is expected to win fails to do so. With fatigue and injuries plaguing Boston—Ray Allen’s ankle injury and Avery Bradley’s shoulder surgery make them woefully unprepared to guard Dwyane Wade—the Celtics had a built-in, plausible excuse for a lackluster Game 1 outing, even if they’d never admit to it. Coming off a grueling seven-game series against the 76ers and traveling to Miami with little practice time, no one was counting on the Celtics to show up in Game 1. With that in mind, the only way this game could’ve been interesting or revealing in a major way is if the Celtics pulled the upset and exposed some vulnerability in the Heat, who ostensibly had everything going in their favor Monday night.
The result? A (slight) yawn.
The Miami Heat dominated this game like the rested, favored home team they were supposed to be, even as an onslaught from the Celtics in the second quarter sent the game into halftime tied. But that score was misleading: Miami never trailed in this game, and that one surge was the Celtics’ apex. A different stat really puts the game in perspective: Boston scored 35 points in the second quarter and 44 in the other three quarters combined.
If there’s one cause for concern in a game that was otherwise a write-off for the Celtics, it’s that they didn’t play that bad and still lost by double digits. They were disciplined throughout, finishing with just eight turnovers and only 14 three-point attempts; otherwise, their shot selection consisted of good, high-percentage looks that the Heat continuously managed to sniff out and stop. They also managed to switch off on defense so successfully that they often doubled up LeBron James and Wade, taking the chance the Heat supporting wouldn’t hit their open threes. Sure enough, besides two clutch Shane Battier buckets, it was a shooting apocalypse for the Heat from beyond the arc, as they went just five-of-25 as a team, with Mario Chalmers and Battier in particular going just two-of-15 and bricking a number of uncontested looks.
But other times, the double team failed, such as during this pick-and-roll with Joel Anthony that drew two defenders on Wade and left Anthony with an easy bucket. And the Celtics still ended up losing to the Heat in just about every metric: points in the paint, fast-break points, second-chance points, free throws, three-pointers made, and most strikingly, getting outrebounded by 15.
The Heat is savvy and experienced enough to know not to discount a veteran Celtics team that is not intimidated by them in any way. But as far as Game 1, they took care of business. Maybe they won’t be receiving a lot of plaudits for doing so, but they certainly would’ve been a lightning rod come Tuesday had they blown this one. As it stands, this game was a microcosm of how the rest of America felt after a long holiday weekend to kick off summer: Apart from the suddenly relentless James and Wade, no one seemed really ready to go back to work just yet.
Scattered thoughts and observations:
-I think everyone agreed the technical fouls, although bullshit, ultimately played no role in the outcome of the game and should serve as a footnote at best. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean overzealous officials couldn’t play a role later on, and to make his discontent on the matter known, Doc Rivers had a few things to say about the technical fouls assessed to him after the game. Per ESPN:
“I know mine wasn’t (deserved). I can tell you that much,” said Rivers, whose team got hit with three individual technicals, a delay of game and an illegal defense call. “I don’t know how long I’ve been in this league, but that has to rank as the worst I’ve ever had. I would have loved to earn it.
“We should never get them anyway. I told our guys that. But everybody has to keep their composure. Not just the players and coaches.”
1. He’s absolutely right.
2. Get your checkbook ready, Doc.
-A Miami Heat team playoff record 11 blocked shots. Just another sign Rajon Rondo can cut his way to the rim as much as he likes and they’ll still make his life a living hell.
-It’s pretty clear that Rondo is the Celtics’ best defensive weapon right now. He was a pest out there, pressuring the ball on every defensive possession in the early going and guarding Wade late.
-Play of the Game: It’s a tie, but both go to Dwyane Wade:
1. The gorgeous full-court baseball pass that’s redundant to link to since you’ve seen it 7,500 times by now.
2. The one-legged, crossover, fadeaway bank shot. That description is entirely accurate.
-Heat Fans Joke of the Day: I have no idea why the seats at American Airlines Arena are red. Couldn’t they have used white seats so it’d at least look like fans were there halfway through the fourth quarter?
-You’ve got to love the NBA just for the fact that they can correctly reverse a shot-clock violation call on Joel Anthony—changing the score during halftime from a two-point Heat lead to a tie game—and both sides are perfectly fine with it. This couldn’t work in any other sport: If baseball took away a two-run homer in between innings, George Will’s head would explode.