*By newest StS staff member Nate Dillon.
After a horrible display of late game execution Tuesday night, Miami entered Game 6 on the brink of elimination, about to play on the road against the East’s most experienced team. LeBron James didn’t seem to mind any of this. It appeared that the only things in his sights were the court, his team, and the basket. He scored at will, commanded the offense, and dominated the defensive glass. A legendary performance, with 19-26 shooting, 45 points, 15 rebounds, and a team high 5 assists. If that wasn’t enough, all he had to do for his team to score was touch the ball. As long as the rock was in his possession at some point, his teammates would score. Even three passes after touching LeBron’s hands. Nobody on either team had a decent game outside of James, so it’s safe to say he was the difference in the game. Now let’s look at the details that explain everything else:
- Boston had lots of trouble with the ball during half-court offense during the first half. The main reason for that was the ability of Miami’s defenders to stick to Boston’s players like glue, even off-ball. It was that kind of sticky defense that’s just so annoyingly good, because it covers all areas and is just physical enough to annoy opponents. Miami managed to cut off the baseline and clog the middle, while preventing open shots from the outside. For the most part, they did a great job of going under screens and cutting off both backdoor and driving lanes.
- Dwyane Wade, whose first name I always have trouble spelling correctly, has pretty much made a career out of making spectacular contact layups and a lot of off-balance, contested jump shots. In the first 12 minutes, he only did the latter. Wade took four off-balance, heavily-contested shots in the 1st quarter. He tried to take a 5th, but Marquis Daniels was guarding him 45 feet from the basket and was fouling too hard to let Wade by. In the 2nd quarter, Wade somehow realized that since he wasn’t making difficult fadeaway jumpers, he should drive to the basket. Amazingly enough, he did that twice to begin the quarter. He scored once and went to the line for the other. Sometimes for this future Hall-of-Famer, it’s just a matter of sticking to what works best. When being guarded by 6’8” forwards, maybe it’s best to use the quickness advantage to drive past them. Still, Wade shot 6-17 for the entire game. Not that it mattered in this one, because LeBron more than made up for it.
- I tried to look at the shot chart on ESPN.com during the game so I could pick apart the shot selection during the first half, but the site was clogged by intelligent conversation among the 89,000 different users in the comment section. With tonight’s game, it’s probably better to generalize. It went as this: LeBron James made shots from everywhere on the court for Miami. For the Celtics, Rajon Rondo made a bunch of layups and a couple jumpers. Everyone else made a basket or two.
- Despite shooting 50% from the field, the Celtics’ shot attempts were minimized by their 9 turnovers. Again, Miami’s great pressure should be credited for the turnovers. In the 2nd half, Boston was taking care of the ball better. Had they shot near as well as the first half, the game could have turned out much differently.
- Another factor that limited Boston’s shot attempts was the presence of Chris Bosh. With Bosh in the game, Miami was successful at boxing out Garnett and Bass, which prevented the Celtics from getting offensive rebounds. When Bosh sat, we saw Kevin Garnett make the few good plays that he had all game, plus Bass had a monster put-back dunk to begin the 2nd half. Even when Bosh doesn’t put up huge numbers, just having him in the game makes a huge difference. Boston has to continue to take advantage of the opportunities when Bosh isn’t in the game, in addition to shooting well.
- The officiating in this series continues to be quite interesting. We saw a few stretches during the game where fouls weren’t called despite heavy contact, but the officials were quick to call technical fouls when players’ tempers flare. The referees didn’t affect the outcome of the game, but it’s clear they are trying to keep the game purely about physical playoff basketball.
- While he didn’t have a significant impact on this game, Mickael Pietrus is one guy the Heat should pay more attention to in Game 7. He’s clearly flopped a few times during the series, but he’s also taken many tough charges. His smart, energetic defense can go a long way. Offensively, he’s not productive unless the game is close and he’s the fifth option as a scorer. It’s an odd case, but he’s shown at times that he can be equally as dangerous as anyone else on his team when in the right situation.
- Miami hasn’t appeared to be well-coached at times this postseason. And it’s been obvious. Tonight, though, Erik Spoelstra did exactly what he needed to do, without any problems. He kept the defense together and let his best player do his thing. It worked.
Take out LeBron James’ video game-like performance, and you get a physical, lackluster game where the Heat are confused and the Celtics’ Big 3 all play like they were tranquilized. It could have been a game where both teams fail to break 80 points. It could have been another one of those games that just make your eyes hurt. Instead, this one was over early, as LeBron James gave fans a treat to watch. With this blowout, Miami (LeBron James) gave Boston something to think about before Game 7. Coach Rivers is going to collect his team and use this loss as motivation. I would expect the score of the next game to be a little closer than 98-79.