Miami Heat Confidence Meter: 9.8 (Rondo is not enough)
• What an epic game. The Heat started the night a step late and admiring their work from Game 1 and forgetting that there was a game to play. The Miami Heat came out slow and “soft” while digging themselves a hole early. The Celtics used early transition and smart one-screen offense to gain open shots that they capitalized on. The Heat sleep walked early and I was left to remark if it was possible to sleep walk through a Eastern Conference Finals game and try to do “just enough” like so many other Heat games. The Heat is good enough and much better than the Celtics to do just that. The game clearly got away from them. That is what happens when you try to manipulate the game as if you control it, against an opponent that is capable. The Heat escaped. Simple as that.
• Rajon Rondo was magnificent. And for a reluctant jump shooter, the Heat tried to force him into every single shot and paid for them as well. The theory behind that strategy is to force a jump shooter that hits around 38% on open 15-23 ft. shots, and then overplay every pass for turnovers. If you like numbers and tendencies, the strategy employed here is what you want. You can’t all of a sudden proclaim yourself an advanced stat believer and not like this strategy. Well, chalk one up for the “eye test” guys. At one time in the first half, Rajon Rondo hit 6 of 7 “induced shots”. That is a backfire of epic proportions. An adjustment came in the second half, with an attention paid to deny the early pass, and force Rondo to either call off sets or pass the ball out of his catch. Just brilliant stuff. If you enjoy coaching chess matches, Coach Erik Spoelstra delivered a right cross to Doc Rivers and Doc flinched with that one. Doc Rivers’ late adjustment was to run Rondo off an extra screen to receive the ball to recycle the offense in order to avoid Isolation offense. Yes. The Heat defense can dictate like this. They did on this night. They can against anybody. The Miami Heat defense is that “in tune” and organized. Rondo’s performance is as much a testament to great Heat defense than it is to historic play by Rajon Rondo.
• Rajon Rondo is being celebrated for this performance. He was spectacular. By Miami Heat design. The plan got away from Coach Spo and the Heat overall. The plan to blitz pick and rolls to the screener side to disrupt Kevin Garnett pick & pops, worked and then some. KG seemed to be confused by the strategy, although he had seen it before. The counter was for him to find the weak side shooter for three, but a lack of confidence in his spot up shooters, played games with his mind and he hesitated. Big mistake. Interesting work by the Heat coaching staff to ask Kevin Garnett to make decisions. It worked. It probably will not work again. Older “learned” players adjust, and the easy adjustment is to not hesitate to the unusual coverage and keep the ball moving. That easy adjustment could have won this game for the Boston Celtics tonight. This was a chess match between Spo and Doc. Spo came out ahead, but he had the better pieces. But he still “won” and for that he deserves credit. Nice job by Erik Spoelstra.
• The Heat “role players” once again show up and perform well. Shane Battier was great on this night, and his three to tie it with 2:19 to go in Regulation might have been the play of the game. Mario Chalmers was great all night and was in tune with the gameplan all night, on both ends. RIO had 3 Turnovers in 45 minutes while initiating offense all night. Chalmers was great on this night and I feel good about proclaiming him a top ten point guard. You can trust him. Udonis Haslem’s double double (13pts, 11 Rebs) was key to this victory. And his efficiency in crunch time is now something to count on, and further minutes have been earned. LeBron James yet again is great by everybody’s standard, but mediocre by his. His 7 made FG’s points to a poor effort, but his 24 FTA’s tell the story. His aggression was there, and the Celtics resigned themselves to fouling. On the last possession of regulation, his intelligence and basketball IQ got the better of him. He read the situation perfectly, and manipulated the best shot possible. An open jump shot over Rajon Rondo. The alternative was trying to get past Rondo (difficult) and if you achieved that, then face plenty of help in the form of Kevin Garnett. I do not subscribe to stupid theories of what makes “clutch play”, so I applaud LeBron James’ decision in this game. Dwayne Wade‘s poor start to this game settled him into reading the game. Doc River’s gimmick coverage of instant flash doubles on Wade paid early dividends, but quickly faded. In the end, it was a Dwyane Wade block on Ray Allen on a break and a Wade finish at the rim for an and-one in overtime that cinched the victory. Dwyane Wade has that knack for the big play. He displayed it on this night.
The Miami Heat is in Boston for Game 3 on Friday. Tipoff is at 8:30pm.