The Boston Celtics followed the same path in the Eastern Conference Finals that the Oklahoma City Thunder blazed through in the West, and it’s to announce “Game On” to sports fans, as the Celtics won their second consecutive home game. The 93-91 overtime thriller evened up the series 2-2.
Boston dominated the first period and Miami owned the third quarter, while the Celtics had a narrow edge in the second quarter, and the Heat did the same in the fourth. For the simple storyline its how Miami fell behind by 18, had it a game by the start of the final period and ultimately pushed it into overtime. Neither team shot well from three-point range, but the Celtics 9-of-27 gave them a critical edge over the Heat’s 6-of-19. It wasn’t huge, but in a game like this it’s all that was needed, which means that even though Ray Allen’s 16 points didn’t mark him one the game’s top scorers, his re-emergence as a threat from downtown has changed this series.
It’s also important to note the Celtics basically held even on the boards, with Miami only leading this category 40-39. Nor was this the result of Rajon Rondo chasing down long rebounds, as the little point guard had only five. When Boston holds even in an area that’s a huge weakness, it’s going to spell trouble for the Heat and even with Chris Bosh out, there’s no reason Miami’s underachieving tandem of Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony can’t get the job done in this matchup.
Finally, we come to the stars. Paul Pierce and LeBron James were both efficient, scoring 23 and 29 respectively and each just narrowly under 50 percent from the floor. James bagged a wide-open three-pointer to tie the game at the end of regulation. This is the second straight season he’s nailed a monumental trey in Game 4 of the Boston series with the Celtics trying to pull even. Last year James’ team won and this year his team lost, but can we please include these shots in the evaluation of whether King James is a clutch player? But both Pierce and LeBron fouled out down the stretch, the latter on a dubious call down low. As a Celtics fan, let’s just say it was the officiating break I’d been counting on getting at some point during the middle games in the Garden.
The last shot was taken by Dwayne Wade, a three-pointer that bounced off the rim and backboard before missing. Wade had 20 points, but at 7-of-22 shooting did not play well, and he was not effective in either game in Boston. Whether its defensive adjustments or being on the road, he’ll clearly have to step it up in Game 5.
Both East & West have their Games 5s the next two nights and in each case the winner here likely wins the series. Oklahoma City goes to San Antonio tonight. I had initially predicted this series to be won by the Spurs, but for things to be tied 2-2 (although I didn’t think home teams would be perfect). Therefore I’m not going to change my pick in spite of OkC’s recent form. But let’s say this—when Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins are playing well, rebounding the ball and chipping in even a little offense, the Thunder are the best team in the NBA. As much as San Antonio needs Tony Parker—who went into a Wade-like funk on the road—to get back on his game, the Spurs need their depth on the frontcourt to neutralize Ibaka and Perkins. If they do that, they can survive the scoring from the Durant/Westbrook/Harden trio, particularly given Westbrook’s poor play in the conference finals for the second straight year.