The Boston Celtics did a lot of what they needed to do on Saturday night in Miami for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. They shot the ball well, at 47 percent from the floor. They had balanced scoring from all five starters, and a triple-double from Rajon Rondo at 22 points/10 rebounds/14 assists. They had Miami in a jump-shooting contest for extended periods as the more athletic Heat inexplicably launched 26 treys (and they only made nine lest you think this was a team afire). And they had a one-point lead with eight minutes to go. When all that happens, and you still lose, there’s not much to do but acknowledge the best team in the Eastern Conference advanced, and that’s ultimately what happened as Miami pulled away with a 101-88 win.
Miami didn’t get a historic night from LeBron James like in Game 6, instead settling for merely a very good one, with 31 points/12 rebounds. In reality though, the Heat were better on Saturday than on Thursday, because Dwayne Wade found his offensive game down the stretch and ended with 23 points, most of them backbreakers as the Celtics were trying to stay in the game. And surely nothing was more stunning than Chris Bosh. That the power forward would hang a 19/8 would have been considered heartening for Heat fans given his injury, while not surprise. But he stepped out and hit 3 of 4 three-point shots from behind the arc—ironically the one Miami player who hit consistently from downtown.
While Boston shot well, Miami was even better, hitting 51 percent against a defense that’s normally much better. A big part of this is that the Heat also went through extended stretches where they really committed to driving the ball to the basket, the area where the Celtics had no chance to stop them, and where LeBron did the bulk of his damage. Watching the Miami offense was like watching two different games—you had the Heat that were lazy and in streetball mode and jacked up a three. And you had the Heat that operated like a professional basketball team playing a huge game that stayed focus on its strengths and worked on attacking. Once the latter began to surface starting late in the third quarter, there was no going back. For the Celtics, maybe the die was cast early in the day at the Belmont Stakes. Veteran jockey Mike Smith had the lead coming down the stretch, but the old vet was caught and passed in the end. It wasn’t a day for the old guys on Saturday.
The NBA Finals are set to start Tuesday night when Miami goes to Oklahoma City. TheSportsNotebook will have a historical piece on some of the great recent Finals set for tomorrow and then on Tuesday morning we’ll have the official Finals preview on the board.