Old, Creaky Celtics Not Done Yet
In addition to Ray Allen's 3-point shooting barrage -- he shot 7-for-9 from long-distance, finishing with 25 points -- the Celtics were led by a superb performance from Glen Davis, who supplanted Garnett in the starting line-up and provided the perfect blend of scoring help and rebounding efforts with 23 points and eight boards.
The C's used a deadly 21-0 run in the second quarter to turn a four-point deficit into a 17-point lead, not allowing the Heat to score for nearly nine minutes of play. Davis finished the period with nearly as many points (8) as the entire Miami roster (10), helping to put the game away early.
Rajon Rondo continues to amaze with his constant probing in the lane, using his quickness to lead the break while showing poise staying under control and finding teammates. You can almost sense Rondo's eagerness to involve sharpshooter Ray Allen, who endured a miserable 2-for-9 shooting performance in Game 1 and didn't even take a shot until 8:15 left in the second quarter Tuesday.
A perfect example of this came about midway through the third quarter on the break where Rondo could easily have slowed his dribble and initiated the offense. Instead, leading the break from the outset, he immediately noticed Allen running with him to his left -- after reaching halfcourt, he fired a beautifully thrown one-handed bounce pass that skipped perfectly into the hands of Allen, who in turn buried a corner triple, sinking any thoughts that Miami had of a comeback.
This is a Celtics team that desperately needs Allen to recapture the shooting stroke he displayed during his first two years in Boston. His confidence seemingly back, the trust and rapport he continues to develop with lead facilitator Rondo is a critical factor for Boston as they move forward in the playoffs.
For Miami to have any chance in this series, it must find a consistent second scoring option for Dwayne Wade. Michael Beasley should be that guy, but the second-year pro just doesn't seem willing to fully assert himself at the offensive end. Too often he settles for contested jump shots when he should be using his frame to attack the hoop, especially without the presence of Garnett in Game 2. Beasley's poor decisions are evident at the defensive end, as well, where he picked up his fourth foul barely two minutes into the second half and rarely rotated fast enough to help defend.
Making matters worse, the Dorell Wright test has been a complete failure for head coach Erik Spoelstra. Wright was considered a dynamic scorer coming out of high school six years ago but has never developed his niche as such in the NBA. His inability to shoot coupled with zero understanding of how to space the floor and create for others makes Wright a liability on offense, the one place where he is supposed to be best.
Ironically, Boston played far better without Garnett in the lineup. While KG brings a certain level of intensity and passion to the floor to go along with his defensive prowess and patented turnaround jumper, he is far from the dominating force of old. The youthful exuberance of "Big Baby" Davis -- although far from the undeniable impact of Garnett -- proved to be the ideal infusion of young legs in the paint that Boston needed. On the interior for Miami, Jermaine O'Neal looks every bit of a center who has played 14 seasons and logged over 900 NBA games. Through two games in this series, the former All-Star has been wildly ineffective, averaging just 5 points on a putrid 17 percent shooting.
As the series shifts to South Beach, Miami finds itself on virtual life support, having missed a golden opportunity to steal home court away. Down 2-0 without any real positives to draw from either Games 1 or 2, even mega-star Wade has struggled. Oddly, the scoring wonder has appeared frustrated and perplexed at Boston's ability to stifle him with length and multiple bodies as he attacks the paint, or with shading defenders and constant help as he roams the perimeter. Most glaringly, though, has been the stout defense of old reliable for Boston: Paul Pierce. Just as he did during the 2008 finals on Kobe Bryant, Pierce's pestering defense (this time on Wade) has proven the difference for the Celtics once again.
While much was made before the playoffs about the Heat's staggeringly hot finish -- a stretch in which they won 18 of 22 -- and the Celtics well publicized stumble, losing seven of 10, roles have certainly been reversed. Old and creaky Boston knows its window to win another title is closing (Pierce, Allen, and Garnett are all on the tail-end of the their brilliant careers, with Allen likely gone to free agency after this season).
But none of that matters right now. It's only been a couple of games, but the Celtics and their remarkable guile appear just stubborn enough to make one more run.