Fast Break: Heat withstand Rajon Rondo’s brilliance
|05.30.12 at 11:52 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo played all 53 minutes, scoring a career-high 44 points — the final umpteen on fumes — but the Celtics lost a heartbreaker in overtime, 115-111, and trail the Heat 2-0 in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Rondo finished 16-of-24 from the field while adding 10 assists, eight rebounds and three steals in perhaps the greatest game of a career filled with mind-boggling triple-doubles. Paul Pierce (21 points), Kevin Garnett (18 points, 8 rebounds) and Ray Allen (13 points) all exceeded 40 minutes, but the C’s ran out of gas.
In the final minute of regulation, Pierce fouled out with 47 seconds remaining, Dwyane Wade made just 1-of-2 free throws to give the Heat a 99-96 lead, Allen connected on a game-tying 3-pointer with 34 seconds left and LeBron James missed a pair of potential game-winning buckets.
But James led Miami with 34 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Wade (23 points) and Mario Chalmers (22 points) were the only other Heat players in double figures. Of course, their 47-29 advantage in free throws (24 for James) and 15 fewer personal fouls helped, too. In the final five minutes and overtime, the Celtics were whistled for 11 fouls to the Heat’s two. And Miami took 18 free throws (James 12, Wade 6) to the C’s two.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Turd quarter: The Celtics withstood a Heat run to close the second half, even maintaining a less-than-comfortable 71-66 lead 7:36 into the third quarter, but Miami went on a 12-0 run after a Wade block of Allen on the break to snare a six-point lead — just another reminder of how quickly the Heat can ignite offensively. That stretch featured Wade’s awakening and, of course, a couple more James free throws.
Mario cart: While most of the Heat couldn’t connect throughout the first half –shooting just 15-of-41 (36.6 FG%) from the field as a team — bit player Chalmers carried Miami when its superstars struggled. His 14 points and four assists in the opening two quarters help offset Rondo’s sensational first-half stretch.
Hitting the deck: Maybe Greg Stiemsma took Rondo’s “hit the deck” comments a little too literally. He picked up four personal fouls in his first three minutes of action, and while Doc Rivers nearly earned himself another technical foul, most were completely deserved. That meant Stiemsma, who had played quite well in limited Game 1 action, gave way to Ryan Hollins, who proceeded to dribble into a sea of Heat defenders and turn the ball over.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Black Headband Rondo: Quite simply, Rondo was superb from the start, missed layups be damned. On any given night, he can be the best basketball player in the world, and Wednesday was one of those nights. James and Wade had nothing on him. Maybe it was the headgear. Playing all 24 minutes in the first half, Rondo amassed 22 points, seven assists, four rebounds and just one turnover by the break. Heck, even the jump shot was falling.
Heating up: For a span of 9:54 stretching from the first quarter into the second, the Celtics did not miss a field goal, connecting on 12 consecutive buckets. During that stretch, Rondo, Pierce, Garnett, Allen, Stiemsma and Brandon Bass all hit everywhere from 0-19 feet — a sure sign of solid spacing and beautiful ball movement.
Getting his footing: After shooting just 1-of-7 and scoring six points in Game 1, Allen rejected rumors that he might need to sit for a game in the series, announcing, “Hell no. This is not the time to sit.” He started 3-for-3 from the floor, forcing Wade to respect his jumper and creating more space within the offense.