Celtics Turn to Bench to Slow Wade
But Garnett and the bench came up huge in slowing Wade in the second half of Game 1 Saturday, helping the Celtics to a 85-76 win. Wade ended up with 26 points on 11-of-18 shooting and six assists, but also had seven turnovers and watched his teammates shoot just 33 percent from the field.
In the first half, the Heat ran a steady diet of pick-and-rolls for Wade. Miami used Kendrick Perkins' man (often Michael Beasley) almost exclusively. Boston repeatedly trapped Wade on the picks -- well, tried to trap him. But Wade was able to either blow by Ray Allen before Perkins could react, or split the double-team. Wade split the trap four times in the first half, scoring four points on 2-of-3 shooting and kicking out for an open Quentin Richardson three. When he kept the ball, Wade was often met by one or two Celtics in the paint. This had mixed results for Boston -- Wade was quick to move the ball when challenged, but also beat up to four Celtics on a few possessions for layups.
But in the second half, the Celtics settled into a modified zone in front of Wade to ensure Garnett would be the big doubling Wade. It worked out much better for Boston, as Wade took off for the rim far less frequently. Wade split only one double in the second half, as Garnett's length and (if you can believe it after the past 18 months of limping) lateral quickness forced Wade to pass off on the perimeter.
The biggest difference, though, was a switch of Allens, from Ray to Tony. The latter, an often-maligned combo guard known equally for his defensive aptitude and offensive ineptitude, did wonders guarding Wade in the second half. Ray did as well as you could reasonably expect, which is to say no one would reasonably expect Ray Allen to effectively guard Wade one-on-one at this point. Ray needed help, got it, and still needed more. But T.A. did a pretty good job when left on an island with Wade. In three of Wade's final four possessions in the fourth quarter, T.A. provided single-coverage on Wade, with Miami sending no screener. On those possessions, Wade missed three shots: a pull-up three as T.A. prevented penetration, a turnaround jumper as T.A. backpedaled and prevented a layup, and a pull-up mid-range jumper as T.A. again kept Wade in front of him. Those possessions ended up deciding the game.
T.A. played just 90 seconds fewer than Ray, who struggled on offense, shooting just 2-for-9 with three turnovers. If Ray isn't contributing on that end, it'll be tough for Doc Rivers to justify keeping T.A. off the floor after Saturday's performance. If T.A. does get another opportunity to be Boston's top Wade defender, it'll be interesting to see how Heat coach Erik Spoelstra responds. Possessions with Wade working off the ball -- few but fairly effective Saturday, with a successful rim dive following a Mario Chalmers drive in the fourth quarter sticking out -- might be the trick. While T.A. is great on the ball, he tends to let his eyes wander, something Ray was also guilty of. Boston rotates extremely well, but doesn't have the weakside shot-blocking to handle Wade around the rim.
Of course, that puts the ball in the hands of Chalmers (still erratic and a bit trigger-happy), Carlos Arroyo (not the world's best passer) or a forward like Beasley (who doesn't see the floor very well). The Heat might be stuck with Wade trying to find ways around T.A. and Garnett. Here's to hoping (for the sake of a competitive series with a bit more offense than we saw Saturday) Wade can figure it out.