LeBron, Dwyane Combine for 55; Defeat Boston Celtics 93-79 in Game 1

Notorious as one of the league’s toughest and nastiest players, Kevin Garnett has based a 17-year career on scaring the living daylight’s out of anyone that has crossed his path.

He has officially met his match:

LeBron James had 32 points on 22 shots, 13 rebounds, three assists and three blocks to lead the Miami Heat to a 93-79 win in game 1 of the Eastern conference finals. Dwyane Wade chipped in 22 points on 13 shots, while Shane Battier, Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers combined for 17 points.

Boston got 23 points and 10 boards from the red-hot Kevin Garnett, but he failed to get anything going in the second half as the Heat defense picked it up after a lackluster 12 minutes to end the half.

Miami appeared to be ready for a runaway victory by the end of the first quarter; a 21-11 lead was in hand after an absolutely atrocious showing by the Celtics offense. The Heat’s defense was too quick for the Celtics slow tempo offense as they failed to find anyone who could make a jump shot outside of Garnett.

However, Boston quickly came back in the second quarter with 35 points–the most given up in a quarter by the Heat in the playoffs. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to see Boston stage a comeback at sometime, especially after noticing the reduced amount of pressure the Heat provided after a defensive masterpiece in the first.

Boston scored 35 in that second quarter; they ended up scoring 33 in the second half.

Once again, Miami won this game in the third quarter with a 26-15 margin. Boston’s hot shooting came back down to earth, the Heat’s defense pressed and shut down the middle, and Miami’s offense was working on all cylinders because they were pressing on defense and forcing Boston into contested jumpers.

Also, this happened again:

As expected, Boston looked absolutely gassed by the second half. The Heat made life extremely difficult for Rondo throughout the contest and it caused the Celtics offense to work harder. When Rondo isn’t facilitating like he normally does, Boston looks as worn, old and sluggish as they did tonight.

Boston ended up shooting less than 40 percent from the field, 29 percent from deep and an absurd 52 percent from the foul line on 21 attempts. I can’t speak for the foul shooting, but the Celtics looked incredibly outmatched at just about every facet of this game.

Miami constantly worked the ball inside via Wade and James post-ups and were surprisingly consistent at working the ball into the lane via the pick-and-roll.

I say surprisingly because you don’t expect to hear that against a team like Boston. Even though the Celtics managed to hold Miami to a mere 93 points, they still allowed the Heat to shoot 50 percent while James and Wade combined for 55 points on 21-of-33 shooting. That tends to be the effect of having a hurt player guard both, while having no defensive resistance under the rim against two of the league’s top slashers.

Pierce and Allen were absolutely horrid and it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop soon. LeBron was constantly working Pierce on post-up opportunities, beat him off the dribble throughout the game and really made that generational gap become apparent. Pierce could only muster two second half points with James and Shane Battier constantly tormenting him.

Speaking of Battier, the guy is really going to show his defensive will this series against a player just as creaky as he is. In game 1, he became the primary defender on Pierce in the second half after a first half where he spent the most part defending Brandon Bass. Battier did a swell job on him and proceeded to deliver the same lockdown defense on Pierce, who had no chance at scoring near the rim.

Pierce ended up with 12 points on a dismal 5-of-18 shooting. He had zero free throws in 40 minutes of action.

As for Ray Allen? It was depressing. 1-of-7 shooting and the majority of those misses were barely contested. He shot 1-of-4 from beyond the arc and hit only 3-of-7 from the foul line. Allen’s legs aren’t working with his upper body and it’s resulting in a lot of shots coming up short or rimming out.

As expected, Wade properly took advantage by posting up. Boston double teamed Wade throughout the first half, resulting in only five Wade points, but went away from it which allowed Dwyane to go off in the second half. Wade didn’t need to waste much energy defending Allen, Keyon Dooling or allowing Rajon Rondo about 10 feet of space, so he took that pent up energy and released it in the fourth quarter.

Miami dared Boston to shoot throughout the game and it paid off. Whenever a Celtics player attempted to attack, he was met by at least two white jerseys either getting ready to send back his shot or shield him from a pass. As a result, the Heat finished with a staggering 11 blocks and limited the Celtics points in the paint mostly to putbacks and Kevin Garnett post-ups.

The Heat will live with the Garnett scoring. They know that he won’t be able to defend the drives of Wade and James on one end, while also maintaining the energy to constantly shoot turnaround jumpers or 20-foot mid range shots. It’s a pretty good explanation as to why Garnett barely had any sort of offensive impact in the final minutes of this game.

The key to this series was how well the Heat defended Rajon Rondo and even though he finished with 16 points, nine boards and seven assists, you could barely tell he was even in the game for the most part. The seven assists he had was the first time all season that Rondo finished with less than ten assists against the Heat.

It was the second lowest amount of assists he’s had in these playoffs.

Rondo’s drives were limited because of the Heat packing the paint, they shielded him after every pick-and-roll and he wasn’t hitting his jump shot. Also, the pressure they provided clearly threw Rondo off his game. It was obvious to see that he hasn’t seen this type of pressure since–get ready for it–last year’s semifinals.

Dwyane Wade actually spent a lot of time defending Rondo. Well, I’d like to use the word ‘defending’ loosely here. If you want to call sagging off your defender and giving him 10 feet of space defense, then by all means go for it. It didn’t look like defense, but it was the right defense against Rondo who hit one jump shot all game.

He needed 20 shots to get those 16 points and he also had four of his shots sent back, including this oh-so-terrific block:

That was Rondo’s night in a nutshell. No matter what he tried or what types of tricks he pulled up his sleeve, LeBron and the Heat played the role of that annoying guy who always tells the magician’s secrets.

It was a masterful performance by the Heat, who also got two-of-two shooting beyond the arc from Mike Miller. Miller hit both shots to give the Heat an early double-digit lead, but was only seen for 12 minutes. There’s no word on him being injured, so my guess is Erik Spoelstra just loved having Shane Battier’s defense in the game.

His defense was so incredible that you almost forgot he shot 2-of-9 from beyond the arc. We’ll cancel that out with Battier recording his first ever playoff double-double. To be perfectly honest, this guy could be the MVP of game 1; his defense on Pierce, Allen and Bass was absolutely incredible and he proved just how versatile of a defender he was tonight.

Game 2 is set for Wednesday at the Heat’s house. No, Chris Bosh won’t be back.

Notables

  • The Celtics were whistled for three technical fouls as a result of arguing. They were all uncalled for, but it’s what you should expect out of an officiating crew that includes Danny Crawford and Ed Malloy.
  • Miami outrebounded Boston 48-33; James led the way with his 13.
  • It was the first time in Heat history they missed 20 three-pointers in the playoffs–5-of-25–and still won
  • Miami is 2-0 without Dexter Pittman. I’m not sure how they’ve made it.
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