The Miami Heat only allowed 11 points from the Boston Celtics in the first quarter of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but the Celtics scored 35 in the second frame to tie the game going into intermission. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, picking up right where they left off in the second round, put together a nice third quarter to come away with a 93-79 win to take a 1-0 lead in the series.
Wade scored just six points in the first half, but aggressively attacked a hobbled Ray Allen in the pick-and-roll to score a few easy buckets and get to the foul line. Shane Battier also had a nice defensive sequence in the third quarter, blocking Paul Pierce on one possession and then stealing the ball from him on another. And in the fourth, Wade and James each made a sensational bank shot over Kevin Garnett to keep Boston at bay.
The three-time MVP recorded 32 points on 13-of-22 shooting from the field and 13 rebounds on the night. Paul Pierce, by contrast, shot just 5-of-18 from the field for 12 points and three boards. In the pivotal third-quarter, Wade threw a full-court pass to James for an easy lay-in. He then blocked a Rajon Rondo attempt at the end of the shot block. Yes, he was fantastic.
James' co-star scored 10 of his 22 points in the fourth and shot 8-of-13 from the field and a perfect 6-for-6 from the foul line. Wade also had seven assists, becoming a willing passer when the Celtics sent two defenders at him. Like James, Wade dominated his match-up. The all-time leading 3-point shooter went a dismal 1-for-7 from the field and missed four free throws.
The Heat also received some quality support from the rest of the team. In addition to his good defense, Battier had 10 points and 10 rebounds, a double-double. Mario Chalmers made a few baskets and registered five rebounds and four assists. On the flip side, both missed wide-open 3s after the Celtics went to a zone defense midway through the fourth quarter. Joel Anthony grabbed six rebounds, blocked two shots and caught a bullet pass from Wade for a two-handed dunk in the second half.
In a series that doesn't have a true center on either team, the Heat went small. At one point in the first half, Garnett had to guard Mike Miller. Garnett roamed in the paint defensively, leaving Miller open for two 3-pointers. The Heat utilized the same starting lineup that Miami used in the final games against the Indiana Pacers, and Shane Battier defended Brandon Bass to start the game.
Garnett was effective against the Heat's triumvirate of defenders - Ronny Turiaf, Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem. He worked particularly well in the pick-and-roll, either getting an open jumper or a layup against a smaller opponent as Garnett's defender double-teamed the ball-handler. Garnett finished with 23 points and 10 boards, and Rondo added 16 points, nine assists and seven turnovers. But it wasn't enough with the rest of the team sputtering, as Boston looked a step slow in every quarter except the second one. Rondo even turned the ball over four times in the first half, giving the Heat easy baskets.
The Heat will try to take a commanding 2-0 lead Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.