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Irish Coffee: The Celtics, Heat and the duality of team

06.06.12 at 1:26 pm ET

There’s a duality of team happening in this series. Not good vs. evil, but heart vs. spinelessness. As Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the Celtics, “They have championship DNA. They have what we’re trying to get.”

The lasting images of Game 5: 1) A blank-faced LeBron James retreating into the tunnel of AmericanAirlines Arena after another devastating postseason defeat as one young Miami fan repeated behind him, “Good job! Good effort!” And 2) A grinning Paul Pierce returning to a timeout huddle, his puffed chest being pounded by teammates after he delivered another playoff victory that forced most Heat fans to funnel for the exits.

Throughout Tuesday night, constant dueling reminders arose of why these Heat are these Heat and these Celtics are these Celtics. Let’s revisit four of them from the C’s pivotal Eastern Conference finals victory.

  • LeBron James in a halftime interview with ESPN’s Doris Burke, moments after his Heat coughed up a 13-point lead: “I’m pleased with my individual performance.”
  • Paul Pierce overheard in a timeout, shortly after burying the dagger 3 in LeBron’s face with 52 seconds remaining: “I’m cold-blooded.”

Through the first 40 minutes, James made 10-of-21 shots, netted 28 points and grabbed 12 boards. Over the final eight minutes, he finished 1-of-4 from the field, scored just two points and snatched only one rebound.

Conversely, in the first 42 minutes, Pierce tallied 14 points on 5-of-18 shooting while amassing two rebounds and two assists. In the last six minutes of the game, he recorded five points — making his lone shot attempt (the dagger) — to go along with two assists and two boards. One rose to the occasion; the other ran from it.

  • Erik Spoelstra in his postgame interview, after sitting Chris Bosh for the entire fourth quarter: “I didn’t think it would necessarily be fair to throw him in with three minutes to go.”
  • Doc Rivers in his postgame presser, after managing Kevin Garnett‘s minutes to perfection down the stretch: “I asked a lot of our guys, maybe too much honestly at times, and they came through. And that was terrific.”

In the fourth quarter, the Heat slashed the C’s six-point advantage to one, Rivers called a timeout with 9:06 remaining and Rajon Rondo promptly fed Garnett on a beautiful lob. The Celtics coach called two other timeouts in the final 15 seconds to get the ball to halfcourt and into the hands of Ray Allen and Garnett for four free throws, none of which touched the rim on their way through the cylinder.

Meanwhile, Spoelstra whistled a timeout once Mickael Pietrus slashed the Heat’s lead to 78-75 and a defensive lapse left Allen wide open for a potential game-tying triple that rimmed out, only the break gave Garnett that much extra rest and also resulted in a failed Dwyane Wade 21-footer. One coach acted; the other reacted.

  • Chris Bosh, after scoring nine first-half points before sitting idly in the fourth quarter: “I felt good. I definitely had more to give, and I’€™ll be there. I just tried to be a good teammate for the guys that were out there.”
  • Kevin Garnett, after amassing 26 points and 11 rebounds: “Nothing’€™s easy. We do it together. We don’€™t do it individually, and when we do, we look bad. But when we do it together, we look pretty darn good.’€

If Rivers ever tried to stand between a uniformed Garnett and the fourth quarter of a Game 5 in the Eastern Conference finals — abdominal injury or plus/minus statistics be damned — I’m assuming we would have seen the second face-eating fiasco in Miami over the course of a week.

Meanwhile, while Bosh knew he had more in the tank, Spoelstra felt his lone skilled big had given his all, so they threw the likes of Udonis Haslem and James Jones in the post. One guy refuses to play; the other refuses to quit.

  • Rajon Rondo, after shooting 3-of-15 and committing five turnovers in victory: “Nobody played well, except for KG and Pietrus, but other than that, we kept fighting and we found a way to get the win.”
  • Dwyane Wade on James, after the two combined for 57 points in defeat: “I’€™m sure he was a little tired. There’€™s a lot of guys out there tired. LeBron is one of the best conditioned athletes that we have in our game. He plays a lot of minutes for us, so at the end I obviously tried to be aggressive and get it going.”

The C’s made 33 field goals, and their three brightest stars (Rondo, Pierce, Garnett) assisted on 19 of them (58%). The Heat made 32 field goals, and their All-Star trio (James, Wade, Bosh) assisted on five of them (16%).

Listen to Celtics postgame interviews, and you’ll hear Rondo calling his individual play “irrelevant” or Garnett reminding, “Together, we play hard as [stuff].” Listen to the Heat, and you’ll hear a whole lot of I’s.

One locker room is pieced together with 14 me’s (and a Shane Battier); the other is constructed from one we.

(Have a question, concern or conception for the next Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Chris Bosh, Doc Rivers
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