The Boston Celtics lost a heart-breaking overtime contest to the Heat in Game 2 Wednesday night. The win gives the Heat a commanding 2-0 series lead as the conference finals setting shifts to Boston. The 115-111 loss was particularly painful for Celtics fans because of the herculean effort by Rajon Rondo; who played all 53 minutes of the contest and poured in 44 points to go along with his 10 assists and eight rebounds. His willingness to look for scoring chances and his ability to hit from the perimeter helped pace the Celtics to an early 15 point lead. Even tough Miami put forth an all-out defensive effort to not only reduce Boston's lead but take one of their own; the Celtics were able to continue to battle back, resulting in a playoff classic that fans will remember for years to come.
While Boston trails 2-0 to Miami, hope is not lost. The Celtics return home and have the opportunity to win the next two games to even the series at two apiece. The effort that was expended in Game 2 may be difficult to replicate after just one day of rest, but the home-favored officiating could easily be transferred north to Boston as the scene now shifts to the TD Garden. The 33-18 foul differential in favor of Miami, in particular a 12 to 6 differential in the pivotal fourth quarter and overtime period hurt the Celtics through the fouling out of Paul Pierce, Mickael Pietrus, and Keyon Dooling at critical points in the game. Had it not been for the poor free throw shooting of Miami, the disparity of fouls called would have more drastically impacted the outcome instead of creating a tight contest.
A main reason why I believe that the series is far from over is because the Celtics competed like true champions on Wednesday and have proven that there is still fight left within them. While unlikely that Rondo can come close to repeating his output, what his Game 2 performance did accomplish is force the Heat to pay closer attention to him in the subsequent games of the series. More attention placed on Rondo will mean less double-teaming of Garnett on the interior and cheating defense on Pierce and Ray Allen when either has the ball in his possession. Pierce did play much better in Game 2 than in the opening game of the conference finals, but there is still potential for improvement. One aspect that Boston hopes to exploit is better production of Garnett from his Game 2 performance, which did not live up to the standard set by him earlier playoff contests.
If Garnett and/or Pierce can improve in Game 3, they will put additional pressure on Miami to play man-on-man defense; and free up Ray Allen for cleaner looks from the perimeter. In Game 2 Allen found his rhythm in the first half of the contest, connecting on three of his first four shots; but had fewer shot opportunities in the second half and overtime led to diminshed output. The Celtics will be better served if they can make amore concerted effort to get Allen more consistent looks throughout Game 3.
Heading into the condensed 2011-12 season, I believed that the Celtics had the potential to make a deep run in the playoffs; mainly as a result of a shorter season, championship experience, and potential good health. Despite the optimism, I also realized that certain events would have to occur to open the door for Boston to make at least a conference final appearance, if not a trip to the NBA Finals. Such opportunity has presented itself with the early dismissal of the Chicago Bulls in the first round. if one were to listen to head coach Doc Rivers, he is consistent in his assertion that, until the Celtics lose on their home floor against the Miami Heat, they still have a fighter's chance to extend and win this series.
With the team a mere two losses away from being eliminated, the Celtics may fall short in their quest for the franchise's 18th NBA title. But if the team puts forth efforts like the one witnessed on Wednesday, win or lose the 2012 Boston Celtics will be remembered as a team that played like a champion.
Scott Duhaime is a passionate fan of the Boston Celtics and avid follower of the NBA for over 30 years; witnessing five of Boston's 17 championships. His professional career includes a solid foundation of analytics that contributes to a better appreciation of player and team contributions.
Follow Scott on Twitter: @scott_duhaime
Related Article: Boston Celtics Wilt in Game 1 under the Miami Heat: Fan's Take
Yahoo! Sports Box Score: Boston Celtics 79 @ Miami Heat 93
Yahoo! Sports Box Score: Boston Celtics 111 @ Miami Heat 115
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