It didn’t take an entire video session of watching 19 Miami Heat layups for the Boston Celtics to realize that they were pummeled mentally and physically in their 93-79 game 1 loss to the Heat.
Despite being older and having a roster composed of decrepit and injured players, the Celtics still like to talk a big game. Of course, the one Celtic who made his presence felt following the game was point guard Rajon Rondo, who made a rousing statement dealing with what his team must do to the Heat next game:
“Nothing dirty, but they have to hit the deck, too.”
Rondo would later clarify the comments by stating that the Celtics had no intention of dishing out flagrant fouls and beating up on the Heat. Instead, he purely meant that whenever a Heat player drove–LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in specific–the Celtics need to make sure that it’s much more difficult for them to come by in game 2.
Tough to blame him, the usually stingy Celtics defense was beat to hell in the paint throughout the game on both sides of the ball. Miami’s offense scored 42 of their 93 points in the paint with a large majority of those coming off the drives of Wade and James, who were able to use athleticism and a good standing of health to constantly get by their defenders.
Boston had little deterrence at the rim, too. They played Greg Stiemsma for a forgetful 12 minutes and a mere four minutes to Ryan Hollins. Brandon Bass was hardly scaring anyone with his 6’8″ frame, while Kevin Garnett did as much as he could since he also had to makeup for the defensive shortcomings of Ray Allen and Paul Pierce because of their injuries.
Garnett ended up playing in only 31 minutes due to foul trouble.
Miami yielded 34 points in the paint to Boston, but also sent back a staggering 11 shots; LeBron James led the way with three while Shane Battier, Dwyane Wade and Joel Anthony each had two. The Heat essentially shut down the paint as Rondo and Pierce’s drives were constantly getting snuffed out. In the end, those two finished the game with four of their field-goal attempts being sent back.
A majority of those occurred in the third quarter, where the Heat outscored Boston 26-15 thanks in part to an efficient offense and lockdown defense in the middle. Because of Pierce’s legs not fully cooperating with him and Rondo’s lack of a jump shot, Miami stood back and allowed those two to drive in and try the Heat shot blockers only to see their shots get sent back.
It was demoralizing for both players, but more for the team as a whole. The Celtics offense was exposed as the Heat packed the paint, which forced Boston into jump shots. The usually consistent jump shooting team failed to shoot over 40 percent, however, due to the energy the Heat exhibited on both sides of the court.
When you’re tired, the first things to go are your legs which just so happen to be the essential parts you need to consistently make jumpers over a 48 minute period. As a result of the Heat’s energy, Boston was wary and couldn’t stage any sort of legitimate comeback in the fourth.
This talk by Rondo of making the Heat “hit the deck” is exactly what it is–talk. This team can’t afford to put Heat players on the deck because it’s too much of a risk to their own health. As ailing as Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are, do you expect them to attempt to take down two of the league’s strongest and most athletic players? They’re barely going to be able to keep Wade and James in front of them, let alone knock them to the ground.
Speaking of which, who even has a chance of making LeBron or any of these Heat slashers hit the deck? I certainly wouldn’t expect Kevin Garnett, who is going to be the most essential Celtics players this series because of his good health and consistent jumper, as well as being the lone reliable post player on the roster.
If anyone’s going to make either of those two hit the deck, it’ll be Stiemsma who may just end up with more bumps and bruises than Wade or James if he ends up doing so.
The talk by Rondo to make Heat players “hit the deck” is as pure a sign of desperation as it gets. They’re not going to make life harder for the Heat inside by playing stronger defense, but rather by playing more physical than before. That’s a surprise coming from a team like Boston; wouldn’t you expect them to always be ready to play physical?
That loss in game 1 wasn’t purely about the Celtics not being physical; it was a result of them being dead tired from playing seven strenuous games with the Philadelphia 76ers. This team is old, hurt and tired, which means they’re going to say anything or do anything that might end up working in their favor.
Nothing is going to change from game 1. The Celtics are still going to be tired, they’re still going to be old and they’re still going to be hurt. I will say that Ray Allen probably won’t have as bad a game as game 1 where he missed 6-of-7 shots, but he’s also not going to suddenly find out how to defend Dwyane Wade.
However, I also don’t see Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers combining to shoot 2-of-15 on three-pointers with the majority of those misses being wide-open shots. It’s a two-way street and where there are aspects the Celtics will improve, you also must take the Heat and their improvements into consideration.
The Heat wear you out. LeBron and Dwyane are conditioned to play 48 minutes apiece and the Celtics don’t have any defender who can even begin to match the strength, stamina, endurance and quickness that those two have, which is why the Heat are going to win this in five games and possibly even less.
Plus, the Heat are ready for whatever the Celtics dish out. In response to Rondo’s statements, Wade stated:
“We’re men just like they’re men, we’re not going to let anyone just come and punk us,” he said. “That is not our mentality, to go out there and make people hit the deck.”
If you’re still not feeling reassured, take a gander at what James had to say:
“I expect to be quote, unquote ‘put on the deck’ or whatever the case may be and then you go to the free throw line. I don’t need to prepare for something I already think is going to happen every game. Physical has always been a part of an opponent’s game (plan) towards me and teams I’ve been on. It’s not surprising when I hear it or see it in the game.”
The Heat just got beat to shit by an Indiana Pacers team and still found room not only to win the series in six games without their third best player, but to also get two of their own players suspended as a result of retaliating.
The best thing about talking? Anybody can do it.