Dwyane Wade played arguably his worst four games of the 2010-2011 season against the Boston Celtics. In game one of the Eastern Conference semifinals, he more than erased those painful memories. Wade scored 38 points in the Heat's 99-90 victory. In the four previous meetings this season, Wade averaged 13 points and 5 turnovers a game on 28% shooting, by far his worst numbers against any team. This afternoon, however, he was ready. After the game Wade said, "I wanted to come out today and be a leader." Leading by example is the most effective form and as if to make that point, Wade came out onto the AAA floor a full three hours before gametime to work on his shot. (He went 14 for 21 from the field.)
The game was physical throughout with double technicals, flagrant fouls and one ejection (Paul Pierce.) Involved in two of those episodes was Miami sharp shooter, James Jones. Besides getting into it with Jermaine O'Neal and Paul Pierce, Jones went off for 25 points. He was 5 of 7 from beyond the arc and a perfect 10 for 10 from the charity stripe. Lebron James had another all-around solid effort, scoring 22 points to go along with 6 rebounds and 5 assists.
Boston was playing tough in the first quarter as both teams (besides Wade) were cold. With almost a week's lay-off, it may have been expected from the Celtics. Miami had trouble coming out strong against the Sixers in the first round, so their slow start was no surprise either. Add to that the fact that Boston and Miami are two of the league's best defensive teams and you had the recipe for a slugfest. A Mario Chalmers lay-up at the end of the first quarter (his only field goal of the game) definitely seemed to energize the crowd and the Heat carried that intensity into the second quarter.
Early in the 2nd Boston point guard, Rajon Rondo, was called for his third foul and from that point on never really got it going. Although he ended with a respectable 7 boards and 7 assists, he only mustered 8 points. Kevin Garnett was even less of a factor, scoring 6 points. Ray Allen led the Celtics with 25 and Pierce chipped in 19 before getting thrown out after a double technical was called when he and Wade collided on the Pierce screen.
Chris Bosh had a quiet night scoring with only seven points, but his twelve rebounds helped Miami stay even with Boston in that category. Mike Miller made an eight minute appearance, going scoreless, but had 3 boards and 3 assists. Not to be discounted, though, was his energy and a very good plus/minus.
Boston was without Shaq and Miami was without Udonis Haslem, but both could play in this series. Shaq will likely be back for game two Tuesday and Haslem, who hasn't played since November could also be available. How this would shake up the rotation is anyone's guess (as is just how effective he could be after such a long lay off. But we shall see.)
Miami is now 4-0 on its home floor in these playoffs while today's loss was Boston's first.
The play of the game, in my mind, was Dwyane Wade waiving off Coach Spoelstra's pleas for a time out just before half time, motioning his teammates to clear out and then banking in a tough shot over Ray Allen to give the Heat a 15 lead at the break. Although Boston played well early in the third and had a nice little run late in the fourth, it really felt like Miami had the game in hand from that moment on.
This was a good test for the Heat, who are 11 victories away from winning in all. Having now beaten their arch rivals twice in a row, Miami's confidence level has to be very high. As Wade stated after the game, that there is no quit in the Celtics, we all know how good Boston is. They are the defending Eastern Conference champions. When the Big 3 were constructed it was almost a given that for Miami to achieve its ultimate goal, Boston would be their main competition. No offense to what Coach of the Year Tommy T. has done in Chicago, the road to the NBA title most definitely goes right down the middle of Bean Town.
Game two is Tuesday night at the AAA. If Miami brings the same kind of effort it displayed in game one, Boston will head back home a very desperate (read: dangerous) team. Thankfully, with three straight losses to this team earlier in the year, the Celtics have Miami's complete attention.