Rajon Rondo scored 44 points, dished out 10 assists, and grabbed eight rebounds, but it wasn't enough as the Boston Celtics lost to the Miami Heat in overtime 115-111 Wednesday night at American Airlines Arena. Rondo is the first player in NBA postseason history to have at least 44 points, 10 assists, and eight rebounds. Multiple players have made it to 40-10-8, but no one in the history of the NBA has ever managed 44 while also grabbing eight rebounds and dropping 10 dimes. Unfortunately it was all for naught. Lebron James scored 34 for Miami and Dwyane Wade chipped in 23, but Rondo's big night was really spoiled by big shots from Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers, and Shane Battier, and bad officiating. The Celtics and their star point guard gave everything they had, taking a 15 point second quarter lead, and then rallying from four point deficit with under a minute remaining in regulation to force overtime, but it wasn't enough. The depleted Celtics now head back to Boston in an 0-2 after an excruciating loss and will look to rally Friday night at the TD Garden.
Turning Point I
This really was a game of turning points. After the Celtics jumped out to a 15 point lead in the 2nd quarter they failed to close it out well, allowing Miami to pull within seven at the break. However it was still a five point Celtic lead with just over four minutes remaining in the third quarter when Ray Allen came up with a steal on Mario Chalmers. Ray tracked down the ball in the open court and raced in for a layup that would have restored Boston's seven point lead, but Wade met him at the rim for the block. It was an excellent play by Wade, but more than that it was a silly play by Ray. Wade has always been an excellent shot blocker throughout his career, and the decision to take it right at him instead of dishing to Rondo who was right behind him was the low point in an otherwise strong night for Ray. The block from Wade ignited a 12-0 Miami run, allowing them to take an 81-75 lead into the fourth quarter, but the Celtics weren't done yet.
Turning Point II
Mickael Pietrus nailed a three to bring the Celtics back to within one with 8:24 remaining in regulation. The Celtics would eventually use dynamite defense and clutch shooting from Paul Pierce and Rondo to take a 94-89 lead. However, after Pierce came up with a block on Chalmers, Ray missed a wide open transition three that would have put the Celtics up eight with just over three minutes to go. Instead Miami grabbed the rebound, came back the other way, and Pierce picked up his fifth foul on James, who converted both free throws make it one possession game again. Battier then buried a three to tie the game, and Miami would eventually go up by four with just over a minute remaining, but the Celtics weren't done yet.
Turning Point III
After a Haslem jumper put the Heat up four Kevin Garnett finished a lob from Rondo and, after Wade converted one of two from the free throw line, Ray buried a three off a brilliant feed from Keyon Dooling to tie the game. Miami called a timeout with 34 second remaining, meaning that while the Heat had a chance to take a lead, if the Celtics could get a stop they would have a chance to win it in regulation. They got the stop they needed when James missed a difficult layup but, in a recurring theme from the first two games, they failed to secure the rebound. James missed again at the buzzer sending the game to overtime where the Celtics would eventually lose on turning point IV, but they could have avoided getting to OT if they had just boxed out.
Turning Point IV
It is sad to say that the biggest story of such an incredible basketball game was two terrible calls, but that was the case in Game Two. After scoring the Celtics first six points of overtime Rondo drove to the hoop with the game tied at 105 and just under two minutes remaining. He drove around Wade, but the Miami guard smacked him right in the face as he went lay it in. Rondo fell to the floor holding his face expecting a whistle but none was forth coming, and Haslem got a transition dunk on the other end to put Miami up 107-105. Moments later with the Heat still up two Wade drove to hoop, extended his leg to clear out KG, and kicked him right in the hip. Rather than call the offensive foul the officials opted to score the basket and give Wade the And-One. It's terrible when such an incredible game is overshadowed by bad officiating, but James Capers, Ken Mauer, and Tom Washington stole the spotlight tonight.
Rondo Shows What He's Made Of
There has been a great deal of speculation throughout the NBA about what the Boston Celtics will look like when they become Rajon Rondo's team after Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett go their separate ways. If Game Two is any indication, the Rondo led C's will be just fine when the Big Three finally do step aside. Rondo gave the Celtics everything they could possibly ask for tonight. He buried jumper after jumper. He converted at the rim over and over again. He got his teammates involved, he rebounded, he gave them everything. Magic Johnson called it one of the best performances that he has ever seen, particularly by a guard, and the fact that it came in a loss just does not seem fair. He really deserved better. Much had been made going into Game Two that, while Rondo was pretty good in Game One, pretty good was not going to cut it against Miami. Already without Avery Bradley, and with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen both fighting through injuries, if the Celtics were going to have any shot against the Heat Rondo was going to have to dominate. He did just that. They lost, but Rondo showed what he's made of. The Celtics may not get banner 18 this year, but tonight Rondo showed that he will bring it home eventually.
Are NBA Referees Really This Bad?
All one has to do is look at the stats and they will see how one sided the officiating was on Wednesday. Boston was whistled for 33 personal fouls to just 18 for Miami. Boston attempted 29 free throws, the Heat were given 47. Wade and James combined to shoot 35, six more than the entire Celtic's team. James almost matched them all by himself, taking 24. For God's sake Lebron scored 34 points in a game in which he made only seven shots. How on Earth can you let a player score 34 points and when he shoots 7-20 from the floor. Sure some of these were legitimate fouls, and some were just foolish fouls by Celtics, but half of them were touch fouls that occurred twenty feet from the basket. Lebron fouled three Celtics out of the game all by himself. Yet after calling these ticky tack fouls on one end, Rondo can't get to line and getting clubbed in the face? That's just not fair. The Celtics were whistled for the first seven fouls of the game. Yet they fought through all the garbage only to watch it get even worse during crunch time.
Wade drove to the hoop late in the fourth quarter, turned his back, and jumped straight in to Paul Pierce. He made absolutely no attempt to actually convert the shot. All he was trying to do was draw the foul. Pierce jumped straight up with his hands straight up in the air – foul number six on Pierce. On the other end Wade clubs Rondo in the head, a play ESPN's Stuart Scott described as "on the street that's assault" - no call. Back the other way an offensive foul on Wade is ruled a shooting foul on Garnett. It's just inexplicable. "I don't know how you miss that call," said a perplexed Tim Legler of the Rondo play. "There's a baseline official, it's not like he didn't see it." There are two possibilities – either NBA officials are actually this bad, or the game really is being manipulated. Either it way it's a problem for the league, a problem that they are still refusing to admit they have. Kenny Mauer was looking right at the play. Is he really that bad an official or did he miss the call on purpose. ESPN's Scott Van Pelt was actually asking what was going on, suggesting that the game really was rigged. That's how bad it was. The fact that people are actually trying to decide if the game was fixed or if it was just another terrible call should tell anyone all they need to know. It is mystifying how a high profile professional league be so comfortable with getting so many calls wrong.
No Show From KG
There are two Celtic starters who have obvious mismatches in this series – Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett. Rondo took full advantage of his mismatch tonight, but it overshadowed a terrible game from Garnett. KG started these playoffs on a war path, but he may finally be running out of gas, and last night he was downright dreadful. He shot just 6-18 for 18 points while grabbing eight rebounds and added a dreadful turnover late in overtime that eventually iced the game. He spent the entire first three quarters on the perimeter, repeatedly missing jump shots instead of going to the post. He was more assertive in the fourth, when he went down to the block and repeatedly got fouled, but he missed multiple point blank looks during crunch time before forcing a terrible pass late in overtime that killed the Celtics chances. However worse than that was his effort, or lack there of, on the boards. Celtics101 is not going to dump all over KG because he was clearly exhausted. He played more minutes than he ever has in a Celtics uniform and he ran out of steam late. There are legitimate reasons for KG's struggles, and it's not like he wasn't trying his best, but the fact of the matter is he was not good enough.
Second Chance Points Killing Boston
For the second straight night Boston gave up 13 offensive rebounds, leading to 18 second chance points for Miami. However it wasn't just the number of rebounds, it was when they happened. The Celtics got a stop on James late in regulation, and would have had a chance to win at the buzzer if they had just secured the rebound, but no one boxed out. Up 105-103 in overtime Rondo tied up James for a jump ball and the Celtics forced a Wade miss, but they allowed James to grabbed an offensive rebound and tip it back in. The Celtics lost the 2010 NBA Finals largely due to a pathetic rebounding effort in Game Seven, yet they still don't seem to understand the importance of rebounding. By far the worst offender was Garnett, who was invisible on the boards all night. He managed just six defensive rebounds in 45 minutes. Brandon Bass grabbed seven in only 29 minutes. The Heat missed 46 shots. That's 46 possible defensive rebounds, and Garnett managed to grab six of them. That is just not good enough. Rondo grabbed eight, Pierce managed six, and Ray added five, but Garnett is supposed to be the Celtics' best rebounder, and he was anything but in Game Two. Multiple times he just swatted at the ball instead of securing it with two hands. Second chance points have killed the Celtics in the first two games of the series and Garnett is the primary reason why. The Heat are not a good rebounding team. They should not be dominating the boards like this, but Boston just keeps wasting good defensive possessions by not bothering to track down rebounds. It's surprising that they can still walk given how many toes they have shot off in the first two games.
What It Means
This one really hurts. Grantland's BIll Simmons said just after the All-Star Break that if the 2012 Celtics were left alone they would go down swinging. That may be what just happened. The Celtics played an excellent game. They shot well, they defended well, they got an unbelievable performance from Rondo, and they still lost. Yes they got jobbed by the refs, but they also played stupid. They committed way too many pointless fouls, gave Miami way too many second chance opportunities, and missed way too many opportunities themselves. They played their hearts out. If they had just played smart they'd be going back to Boston tied 1-1 in spite of the officiating. Instead, after an emotionally draining game in which all their starters played huge minutes, they are going home in an 0-2 hole. It really doesn't seem fair. They really deserved better, but it is what it is. They gave it their best, and their best was not good enough. It is not over yet, but teams that fall into 0-2 holes lose 94.3 percent of the time. We are about to find out if the Celtics, who have been counted out so many times over the past four years, can climb up off the mat one more time. Say what you want about this team they are not quitters. As long as they are alive they will keep fighting.
The Celtics will try to rally Friday, May 1st, at the TD Garden at 8:30.
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