Another HEATbreaker at the TD Garden.
Heartbreaker, HEAT-breaker, soul-raker, all the above. Hurt HEAT fans everywhere are scratching their heads the day after the rubble and dust cleared in Boston, watching another clawback game get to bonus minutes but ending as a 93-91 failure.
It was the exact result an old, disheveled, battered, just about broken Celtics team needed to get back in this series. Never mind their dominant home opener in game 3, this was their much needed statement game, evening up the wins at two a-piece and setting up the Eastern Conference Finals as a now best-of-3 contest.
BLEEP! HEAT fans, insert your four letter foul-mouth term of choosing here.
As much of a must-winner it was for Boston, it was that much more for the HEAT last night which makes the end result that more crushing. Evened-up, quite frankly is not where this series should be but you couldnt’ tell by watching the Celtics spirit and drive last night. The decrepit Celtics, somehow AGAIN found traction and another hot streak early scoring 34 points in the first quarter and seperating by as many as 14. Miami did manage to recover quickly enough, closing the half still down by 14 but showing great promise with a shift in momentum going in their favor. 3rd and 4th quarters were a back-forth slugfest rivaling last year’s round 2 playoff series, with overtime forced by a LeBron James 3 pointer with 37 seconds to go tying the score at 89. It looked like the HEAT had enough to get over the hump, but at the end it would be only two plays that really mattered in bonus time to seal the win for the C’s. LeBron James fouling out with just under 2 minutes left, and a critical Rajon Rondo 2 point score (one of many, at this point in the series), bringing his totals to 15 points/15 assists and getting the needed result.
So, what happened? How could the HEAT drop such a close one, a needed one and one that was absolutely theirs in the end? Couple of things:
1. HEAT’s rotation: Opting to start Joel Anthony over Rony Touriaf, the HEAT went with a 9 man rotation in an attempt to get to their core of production a more concentrated win. The plan hopelessly backfired, Joel Anthony’s rust to start the game submarined the first quarter. He ended the game with 2 points and 4 fouls, only playing 15 minutes. Wasted entry and utilization, he could not at any time get a good rhythm or flow during the game on defense, which is his specialty and at times the critical balance between winning and losing for the HEAT.
2. Mike Miller-limited production on limited play, his bruises and mileage showing now more than ever, only hit one jump shot in 11 minutes. Could be seen on his back stretching most of the game and had to come out or get carted off at some point. Not good news for the HEAT or fans, Miller’s skills as an outside sniper and primo defender are a much needed piece to their winning machine.
3. Wade/James: The all or nothing proposition is real as of late; they win together, they lose together, ride or die together, true Bad Boys for life like the movie with the same name. Game 4 it was not enough, the void left by Bosh getting more apparent and their 49 point performance too mortal to get the HEAT to a win. Bottom line, they need to live in Gotham or Krypton, not Massachusetts to win without their 3rd component. LeBron’s 3 pointer with 30+ seconds left was phenomenal, but their combined 13 attempts at the free-throw line was not the level of aggression the winning formula requires. To make things worse, James had the opportunity to win late into the 4th on a last shot, but here we go again-deferred to Haslem and ended with the tie in regulation. James fouled out with almost 2 minutes left in overtime, but to his credit it was amateur night with the refs’, who made probably the most horrible charge call in wide open court in the history of basketball. How James gets called for an offensive foul after getting hooked/tackled I’ll never know, but whatever, it sure makes for great entertainment.
For the HEAT, although it felt that way it wasn’t all bad news. Udonis Haslem had another terrific night with the a critical 12 points and 17 rebounds that should have been enough. It was enough to spark the comeback, enough to get within inches of the win but not enough to close. He has been a rising force as of late, adding the punch (no pun intended) when needed on both sides of the ball. For the collective effort however, it was too little, too late, game 4 checkmate going against the HEAT.
HEAT fans today might be feeling that sour taste from the Indiana series. Minimal efficiency with not enough at the end being the familiar theme with a missing Chris Bosh. Some good news though, there is some buzz out there that he might be ready for Game 5 in Miami, which if it holds could be the kick the HEAT needs right now. The HEAT are running out of alternatives at this point and need their star, superfriend, superhero back to give them their best chances to close out the series and contend during the finals. If not….it may be too little, too late all over again.