Miami HEAT prevail in a gritty, suspense-filled game 2 that might go down in the books as “The Thrilla at the Villa.”
The obvious reference to the famous Joe Frazier-Muhammad Ali 1975 Heavyweight Championship bout, which Wednesday night’s game more closely resembled than a game 2 Eastern Conference Final in terms of ebb-flow. The two heavyweights featuring last night were Rajon Rondo in one corner, a determined HEAT team in the other. Fans got an epic, see-saw defensive/offensive battle that went to overtime as well as the answer to a question that’s been eating the HEAT in the media for two years:
“Who should take the final shot?” More on that in a bit.
First off: Rajon Rondo-to his credit, had one of the most unbelievable scoring games by a point guard for a conference final we may ever see. 44 Points on 16-24 shooting, 2-2 from 3-point land, 8 rebounds, 10 assists and logged the entire 53 minutes. All night he did everything at the AAA outside of working the concession stand and direct traffic post-game (probably was too tired for traffic duty but a source mentioned seeing him with a beer tub in section 112). Rondo was the only thing keeping them ahead and the only one keeping them in it when they were chasing a lead. He was the one-man cold, the only one catching it, and the only one coming down with it-that type of thing. As a fan of the game, it does not get any better than watching something like that, he was a force of nature and a source of heartburn for HEAT fans all night long.
Adding to the Rondo problem for the HEAT was their dismal play on both sides of the ball. They could never really get the defensive answer to Rondo and his antics throughout the night and had similar issues against Kevin Garnett. Offensively Miami started out slowly and remained stagnant until the 3rd quarter, where they scored 35 points gaining their first substantial lead of the night. In the meantime, the Celtics remained close, mostly from Rondo’s scoring attack and equal contributions from Ray Allen/Paul Pierce. HEAT high points were from Mario Chalmers, getting a much-needed 22 points and 3-6 from 3 pointers. Wade and James provided the obligatory scoring, were competitive throughout but not dominant. Back-and-forth it went which seemed like forever, no team really breaking away and no one giving in.
Then it happened. Late in the 4th quarter, the Celtics crept back within striking-distance with 3 pointers from Ray Allen including one in the final 30+seconds to tie it at 99. Table is set, 30 seconds left. Tie game. 4th quarter. Conference Finals. Oh, the drama. As a HEAT fan, given the scenario and the history going back 2 years now, there were two things running through your mind.
#1. I hope LeBron gets the final shot and makes it and shuts everyone up
#2. I hope Wade, Chalmers, Battier, Curry, Spoelstra, Mascot, whoever PLEASE hit the shot if he doesn’t and the HEAT win so we dont’ have to hear the noise tomorrow.
It’s the last shot, the dilemma, the never-ending critique of the NBA’s most talented player and talked-about team…NOOOOOOO! Then the play- LeBron drives and misses the layup, gets the ball back and misses the 20 foot jumper to force overtime, a commercial break and a hit off the nearby Maalox bottle.
All drama aside, in overtime it was an all team effort by the HEAT, with dominant performances by Haslem, Wade and James that trumped the Celtics’ individual play to win their 10th playoff game and 5th in a row. It wasn’t pretty, they were still badly missing the injured Chris Bosh at every turn, struggled at times on offense and were a step behind on defense. Despite their struggles the team got the win, which in hindsight is the only right answer to adversity while in the quest for an NBA Championship.
So, the other question then? “Who should take the final shot?”
Just ask the Celtics, now facing the 0-2 death sentence going back to Boston. Ask Ray Allen how important it was that he hit the 3 to tie it in the closing seconds of the 4th quarter given the end result. Ask Rondo the question, following his epic solo-performance including 2 consecutive 3-pointers in the final 14 seconds of OT to come within a score and lose. Ask them both, right now in this moment how important it was to be clutch players on a losing night in the NBA postseason. I’m sure their answer is “it doesn’t matter.” Funny, I’m thinking the same thing.