Celtics prevail in OT thriller and tie series
The Celtics are alternatively flawless and floundering during the Eastern Conference finals. But they were resourceful enough to even the series with the Miami Heat with a 93-91 overtime victory Sunday night at TD Garden.
After producing 61 points in the opening half, the Celtics totaled only 32 points in 29 minutes after halftime in Game 4. It was enough, though, for the Celtics to hold the home court going into Tuesday night’s Game 5 in Miami.
“We were really unorganized,’’ Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “We were unorganized the whole second half. I thought it was us at the beginning of the third quarter - I thought we came out and tried to throw knockout punches with quick ‘3s,’ transition, never ran stuff. Our execution in the first half was flawless, it was as good as maybe we’ve had. And we got completely away from it, we really did. And then I thought Miami got into us, they got into our air space and took us out of everything.’’
This has been a series of adjustments and counter-adjustments. The Celtics seemed to be a move ahead of the Heat in nearly pulling off a Game 2 upset in Miami, then were in control for the first six quarters after coming home.
But after a 101-91 Game 3 victory and 61-47 halftime advantage Sunday, the Celtics struggled offensively.
But the Celtics’ defense kicked in during overtime, as both Miami’s LeBron James and Boston captain Paul Pierce were disqualified. Rajon Rondo (15 points, 15 assists) produced their only field goal in overtime and that, plus free throws by Marquis Daniels and Rondo and key plays by Kevin Garnett and Mickael Pietrus, were enough to make the difference.
Yet the Heat were shooting for the victory on the final possession.
Pierce committed his sixth personal, an offensive foul on a collision off the ball with Shane Battier with 4:22 left in overtime. Udonis Haslem’s dunk gave Miami a 91-89 advantage, but those would turn out to be the final Heat points.
Daniels replaced Pierce and hit a free throw, but then lost a rebound out of bounds after a Mario Chalmers miss. Garnett then defended a Chalmers drive, with Rondo scoring in transition.
Garnett then rebounded a James miss. Rondo misfired on a drive, and Pietrus drew James’s sixth personal with 1:51 left. Pietrus grabbed two offensive rebounds to extend a 65-second possession, and Garnett was off target with 46 seconds left.
Battier missed a 3-point try, Daniels drawing a foul on the rebound. Rondo drew a foul with 21.4 seconds left and missed the first free throw, but the second made it 93-91, the Heat calling a timeout.
Daniels fouled Dwyane Wade with 14 seconds left, the Heat calling a 20-second timeout. Rondo and Daniels switched onto Wade, who missed an open 3-pointer just before the buzzer.
“Red [Auerbach] wasn’t going to let that go in, not in the Boston [TD] Garden,’’ Rivers said of Wade’s attempt. “I thought it looked good, honestly, when it left his hand. You know, we told them watch the pump fake, but I thought what Marquis did was, on the pump fake, he jumped out of the way, so he wouldn’t draw the foul. Wade is the best, and Paul, at doing that. So he got the first part well, but I thought avoiding the foul was as big as anything else.
“I thought the defense was really good - we denied Wade as long as we could, same thing right before overtime with LeBron, with low clock. We were ready if he drove, Kevin was down low and we wanted him to take a contested jump shot, even though it ended up being an uncontested 3.’’
Miami trailed most of the contest, taking the lead in the final quarter, with a 15-1 run over a 5:44 period spanning the quarters.
“It’s funny, the coaches got on me at halftime,’’ Rivers said. “We’re scoring like crazy but I didn’t like our shots and they looked at me like I was a moron because of the way we were shooting the ball. But there were a lot of jump shots and I like the ones where we were attacking the basket, where we got Kevin deep.
“Not until overtime did we get him on that deep look. We know we can get that for him, we need low-post scoring because it gets us to the free throw line and the more we can get to the free throw line the less they can run.
“When we’re shooting free throws, the game slows down for them. When we’re shooting jumpers they’d better go in because when we miss them, long rebounds and fast breaks, I thought that third quarter that’s exactly what happened. We were missing quick, long jump shots, it was the first pass to their fast break.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at email@example.com.