With their backs against the wall, the Boston Celtics can be expected to throw everything they have at the Miami Heat when the two resume the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday night in Boston. Down the games to none, the Celtics badly need a win to avoid falling into what is usually an insurmountable 3-0 hole.
Only 14 teams in NBA history have rallied from an 0-2 hole to win a best-of-seven series, but the Heat, as you might expect, are playing down their series lead. "All we did was win two at home," Dwyane Wade said Thursday. "That's a very good team over there that we know is going to give us everything - their all - come the next four days when they get two at home in Boston."
The Heat consider themselves lucky to have won Game 2 despite missing 16 of 47 free throws and giving up 44 points to Boston PG Rajon Rondo.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Thursday he's not sure Rondo can actually be stopped. "Let's be objective about it," Spoelstra said. "He was sensational." Rondo's stat line (44 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals and only three turnovers) has never been duplicated in the playoffs.
When asked if he would assign Wade or LeBron James to defend Rondo exclusively, Spoelstra demurred. "You can't," he said. "He deserves the respect of multiple things." So expect a combination of James, Wade and Mario Chalmers on Rondo.
Placing James or Wade on Rondo full-time would be tempting, but that would likely free up Paul Pierce or Ray Allen (or both). The two have shot 35% and 33%, respectively, in the first two games, thanks in large part to the Miami Big Two's defense against them.
On the offensive side, Miami's "problems" are the usual (they seem less real when Miami isn't winning five straight games). When the Heat stop pressuring the paint and start passing around the backcourt before chucking up long contested jumpers, they are a much worse team.
Miami is shooting 29% from three-point range this series, worse than any other area on the floor. Adjust for three pointers (counting each make, since they are worth 50% more than other baskets), and that jumps to 44%, still worse than every other spot on the floor.
Midrange jumpers are no better, hitting the bottom of the net just 44% of the time in this series. Wade scored just 2 points in the first half of Game 2 because he could not solve Boston's double team and was unable to get to the rim. When the Heat made their run in the third quarter, six attempts came right at the rim (they made five).
In the fourth quarter, when Boston took a lead briefly, Miami attempted just two shots at the rim. Boston has been slowing down Miami's offense using man defense with some double-teams thrown in; it is not a complicated system.
The Heat have to utilize their pace and athleticism, while an older Boston team plays its fourth game in the past seven days. If nothing else, Miami should be able to tire the Celtics at the very least.
Game 3 tips off in Boston at 8:30.