Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo turned in one of the greatest playoff performances in NBA history, but it wasn’t enough as the Miami Heat won, 115-111, in overtime last night at Miami’s American Airlines Arena. The Heat are now up two games to one in their Eastern Conference Finals series, which moves to Boston for Game 3 on Friday.
Rondo, playing all 53 minutes, had 44 points, ten assists and eight rebounds – an NBA first. However, the Heat countered with 34 points and 10 rebounds from LeBron James and 23 points from Dwyane Wade (including seven in overtime) to close out the game in the extra session.
Also instrumental was the second-half play of Miami’s Udonis Haslem, who achieved his first double-double since 2009 (13 points and 10 rebounds). His dunk in overtime was the exclamation point to the Heat’s comeback. The fifteen point deficit Miami overcame in their playoff victory was the largest in the team’s history.
Rondo scored all of the Celtics’ overtime points. The extra-frame largely resembled a game of ping-pong, with Rondo scoring, the Heat answering, and Rondo repeating. The first Rondo miss of overtime was critical – he was hit along side the head by Wade under the basket in an apparent foul – and the Celtics never regained momentum after that.
The Celtics, whose “big three” of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen contributed a combined 52 points, held a seven point lead at halftime. In fact, Rondo sparkled in the first two periods, scoring 36 of Boston’s 53 points.
But Miami charged back, outscoring Boston 35-22 in the third period, and even though Boston brought it back to 99-99 at the end of regulation, the momentum swing was palpable. And while the Heat were making their move, the Celtics were busy committing fouls – the most critical of those being Paul Pierce’s sixth and final one with 1:05 left in regulation.
All told, Miami got to the foul line 18 more times than Boston – though the Celtics completed 90% of their free throws, as opposed to the Heat’s 66%. One reason for this is Miami’s aggressiveness in the post; they outscored Boston 40-30 in the paint. As the third quarter sped into the fourth, aside from Rondo and Pierce, the Celtics increasingly relied on perimeter shooting to carry them through – though they hit only 5 of 16 three-pointers on the night.
Following the game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers remarked about Rondo, “He was absolutely phenomenal. Put the whole team at times on his shoulders … It’s tough to have him play that way and not win the game.”
But even Rondo’s Atlas-like performance couldn’t deter the Heat’s Wade, who tends to excel in big game situations. Having scored only two points in the first half, he took off in the third period, taking advantage both of the absence of guard Avery Bradley, and of his less mobile defenders Ray Allen and Mickael Pietrus. With all his acrobatic athleticism around the hoop, Wade evaded the Celtics defense like dollar bills blowing around in a phone booth. His effort was key in securing Miami’s sixth overtime playoff win against no defeats.