Miami Heat 115, Boston Celtics 111 (OT) (Heat lead series, 2-0)
You can't reference the Boston Celtics' output in Game 2 as "a perfect game," can you? Not with the loss, right? Not with that bench having to combine for 40 minutes of relatively awful play. Not with Paul Pierce fouling out. Not with Ray Allen missing two of three key jumpers that could have helped put the Heat away deep into the fourth quarter. Not with Kevin Garnett missing 12 of 18 shots. Not with the calls seemingly going Miami's way, right?
Perfect games end with a win. Perfect games, in baseball parlance, mean no errors or walks to go along with the no-hitter — two outside influences from teammates (errors) or umpires (walks) that tend to shift the eventual designation of the ultimate individual honor. Then, by whatever stretch, Boston could not have come through with the perfect game on Wednesday night, because after all, we have the documented proof that says otherwise.
Find a more perfect output for this team, though. Ask yourself, whether you're catching up a day later or if your nose was an inch away from the tube while watching it twice as our significant schnoz was, will Boston play any better? Scratch that, and even toss in this year's Charlotte Bobcats into where the Heat once stood as a replacement opponent — can the Boston Celtics play any better? Considering that the wasted 53-minutes of Rajon Rondo's game for the ages more than made up for any of his teammates' mitigating factors, was this it? Did the C's just find a way to hamstring perfect? Did the Heat just find a way to overcome it?
This is what is going to have to sit, like a half-digested brick of processed cheddar, at the bottom of Boston's stomach from now until Friday night's Game 3 tipoff. The idea that no matter how many changes they make, no matter how many Heat adjustments they prepare for, or any improvement on finishing open shots or finishing games, that it might not be enough. Because they just watched as a performance that would leave Michael Jordan shaking his head fail to shake the "0" that follows Boston's tagline in this series.
This also doesn't mean things are over for Boston, or that the team's season wraps up on Sunday with a tidy sweep at the hands of those merciless Heat. Far from it.
For all of Miami's recent and impressive play, the squad still doesn't do well with expectation. After an entire half of working its way back against Boston's double-digit second half lead on Wednesday night, when it came time to close the C's out in the final minutes, the team resorted to an isolation brand of basketball that hasn't helped them or any other team (read that: ANY OTHER NBA TEAM) in that part of the game since Michael Jordan was daring the referees to swallow their whistles against MJ's Bulls. Charged with taking the shovel to the dying animal, instead of working together the Heat went alone. Wade took a crack, but couldn't follow through. James missed free throws, nearly clinched it with a close lay-up attempt, and missed the potential game-winner with an isolation jumper at the buzzer.
No, the Heat do well when coming from behind. When working as the martyr but actually doing something productive about it instead of moping and relying on one-on-one gimmickry. This should give Boston hope, as it heads home, that the Heat fritters away a chance at knocking Boston off with all those expectations on hand to witness.
Yes, Miami handled New York with ease at Madison Square Garden in Game 3 of the first round, but this isn't the first round. The Knicks defended well and struggled to score as the Celtics did, but they're not in Boston's league. And Rondo is playing with a confidence that no Knick or Bull in 2011 or even Celtic in 2011 has been able to boast.
Because though athletes will tell you that they don't think about statistics or efficiency or certainly not regression to the mean as they continually check that hot hand, Rondo took a step back as the Heat made its comeback in the third quarter on Wednesday. He still hit two of this three shot attempts from the floor, but hitting 66.7 percent of your shots doesn't really mean much when it still means you end up with two makes.
LeBron James' defense on Rondo was fantastic, to be sure, but James played off of Rajon. Which means he was still able to pounce on those somewhat contested 19-foot jump shots, as James hovered with one foot below the free throw line, ready for that screen. The same shot as was available for Rajon in the first half, endlessly, against Mario Chalmers.
That doesn't mean Rondo was scared, or that he shirks from the spotlight, or that he doesn't believe in his shot. It just means that he, like the rest of us, knows he isn't superhuman. And that attempting the same series of jumpers in the third, as he did in the first half, might not be the smartest thing to do. With the bigger LeBron or Joel Anthony switching over to him, it might be time to drive and find others.
The only problem with this rather intelligent line of thinking is that, on Wednesday night, Rajon Rondo was superhuman. Forty-four points, eight rebounds, 10 assists, three steals, and only three turnovers despite playing the entire game. A game that went into overtime, lest you forgot.
We're not underestimating the Celtics' talent and guile when telling you that they can only hope to approximate this performance moving forward. Their best hope, as it has been since the Heat began their fitful run all the way back in October of 2010, is that Miami eases off the throttle a bit.
That is not to denigrate either side, in this instance. All we can go on is what we've seen, in the past, from either team and make informed decisions moving forward.
And we'd like to inform both the Celtics and the Heat that we'd like to see another Game 2, all over again.