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NBA Playoffs: Miami Heat make the leap with overtime win

May 9, 2011, 11:31 PM EDT

Miami Heat forward LeBron James hugs teammate Dwyane Wade after defeating the Boston Celtics in Boston

Early in the year, it didn’t look like they would ever get here.

Miami struggled in close games. They struggled against good teams. Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh played next to each other, not with each other. They took a mountain of criticism.

They weathered it. They matured as a team. They started to figure things out.

Monday night they announced their official arrival.

It’s not just that they won a 98-90 overtime playoff game in the Boston Garden, but how they did it. Playing off each other, interacting and using their athleticism to play good team defense.

The Heat are here. They are contenders. They very likely will come out of the East and may win it all.

“We all know, we struggled earlier in the year trying to find our identity,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after the game. “Trying to find execution, what we can run, what works for us, where guys are comfortable and we can use their strengths. I think if we didn’t go through all those struggles at the end of games against good teams we probably wouldn’t feel as confident as we do.”

One play in the overtime, the Heat’s second possession, seemed to sum up how far they have come.

Early in the season, it was always LeBron with the ball in his hands late, but one of the lessons learned is how it works better with Wade handling the ball. They ran the Wade/LeBron pick-and-roll, with LeBron setting the pick, Wade came off it but LeBron had virtually slipped it early and was rolling toward the basket. Wade hit LeBron with a bounce pass in the paint and that forced Kevin Garnett to rotate over — then James hit Bosh, who was cutting on the baseline to the basket, with the pass for a easy lay in.

All of the big three touched the ball in quick succession. It’s indefensible. It’s what everyone else in the league feared, that they would start playing off each other well.

Spoelstra seems to keep the Wade/LeBron pick-and-roll in his back pocket, using it sparingly on big occasions. As if he used it too much teams might figure out how to defend it. He broke it out in overtime Monday night and it worked brilliantly.

First overtime possession, Wade came off the pick and slid the ball to LeBron, who isolated on Pierce on the left side and hit a ridiculous fade away over him. (That was not so much the pick-and-roll and mostly just LeBron.) Then came the quick-passing play described above.

The next time Wade went too quickly but still the threat of the play let him get deep into the lane, where he missed an eight-foot floater he normally drains. Wade made up for that a little bit later with a ridiculous three-point shot with West in his face.

But it’s more than that.

On the key basket of the overtime, the Heat ran LeBron off a Bosh pick and the Celtics switched it, happy to have Garnett locked in on LeBron. KG did his job and forced LeBron into a long, contested two that came up short — but the switch meant Ray Allen and Paul Pierce were left to box out Bosh, they couldn’t. He got the dagger tip in. (Sure, you can have a dagger tip in, why not?) The Heat are exploiting the mismatches they create now.

On the other end of the floor, the Heat had a pressure defense that was forcing Celtics turnovers in overtime. Miami’s defense forced the Celtics to shoot 1-for-6 in the extra period. They forced three turnovers. They shut down the Celtics. Granted the Celtics were without Rondo, but the Heat had a part of that too playing physical with him all night.

The Heat are up 3-1 in this series, and they are going to win it. Because they are the better team, the team that creates mismatches and executes under pressure.

They are what everyone hoped or feared they would become — maybe the best team in the NBA.

  1. scorp16 - May 9, 2011 at 11:16 PM

    Alright Beantown homers!!

    JO tries to clothesline LeBron. Little Bi*tch Baby Davis dives right for Wade’s knees……

    Stay classy Boston…..THE BOSTON CELTICS HAVE BEEN THE DIRTIEST TEAM IN THE NBA FOR THE PAST 4 YEARS…..

    Payback is a b*tch ain’t it…

    C’mon Paula….We want you to bring your talents back to South Beach…..You freakin Tranny………..

  2. edweird0 - May 9, 2011 at 11:39 PM

    O man, I can’t wait to see what excuses boston comes up with now.

  3. passerby23 - May 9, 2011 at 11:51 PM

    The Heat defense has been suffocating. The real difference between the two teams is that Miami can iso with two great players whereas the Celtics really have to play much more as a unit to get their offense. When the Celtics really needed a bucket down low, they just didn’t have the option. You wonder how much KG will have in the tank after hauling 41 minutes. I do not want Miami to win, but you’ve got to be impressed with their defense.

    It’s been a good run, Boston. Hats off to Miami. They will close it out in 5.

  4. jm9ulose - May 9, 2011 at 11:58 PM

    Miami showed heart of their own tonight. Bosh redeemed himself by outplaying Garnett and getting the nail in the coffin bucket. Tony Brothers is the worst and most biased ref in the NBA. But Miami won in spite of him. Here’s hoping the Heat end the Celtics run on Wednesday.

  5. packersareandwillalwaysbebetterthanthebears - May 10, 2011 at 12:27 AM

    This is trash. The same trash we all read when they went on winning streaks that quickly fell apart once they met real competition. This Celtic team is different then how it used to be. They don’t have Perkins, almost everyone is hurt and they are old. This Heat team might have turned its half court offense around but it still has one huge problem. 12 of them really.

    Every player other than the Big 3.

    Their roster, like the Knicks is filled with players that wouldn’t stand a chance playing anywhere else. They will lose in a long series against a good team when they need a good bench. The heat are still and will always be overrated.

  6. thestudiokida - May 10, 2011 at 12:33 AM

    Slow ya roll there, Kurt. Miami is playing well but they still haven’t reached the level that everybody feared. Key statistic: 10 assists in an overtime win. Not good. When they are playing truly great they have 20+ assists.

  7. negrodamus28 - May 10, 2011 at 12:39 AM

    Negrodamus enjoys seeing Miami play well. Negrodamus predicts Miami in 5!

    • andyhr17 - May 10, 2011 at 5:56 AM

      Well, that’s kind of an easy prediction when you’re making it with you’re team up 3-1 and going back to Miami.

  8. flash316 - May 10, 2011 at 6:10 AM

    I think that you look past the Celtics at your peril! They are more than capable of coming our like a tornado and taking another couple of games! On a side note, it is nice to start gazing over at the Bulls… We owe them plenty from the regular season, I am so sick and tired of hearing from my buddies that the Bulls will walk all over the Heat!

  9. fanoredsox - May 10, 2011 at 6:35 AM

    Being a Celtics fan I can honestly sat that our run is done, but the Heat would not be where they are without Wade! He is a complete player. I only hope the Bulls kill them and that is only because that “PANSY” LE BRON went to their team to hang off of Wades coattails!

    • southbeachtalent - May 10, 2011 at 9:22 AM

      must not have watched yesterday’s game??

      I can agree with you on one thing.. the Celtics are done! They look like the AARP national team, old and tired. And Shaq has really been great huh? SUCKERS!

      as far as the bulls go they got their hands full with Atlanta…

      How bout them Red Sox!!! Oh yeah they suck too.

      • andyhr17 - May 10, 2011 at 9:38 AM

        Celtics looked like an AARP team? Dude, the Heat needed the Celtics to completely botch their last play, and then overtime to beat them. The Heat won the game….don’t get carried away and act like they won by 30.

      • dolphinphan - May 10, 2011 at 10:44 AM

        how that perkins trade working our for you Celtic fans? Watching his scary ugly mug makes me so happy that Danny Ainge had such great foresight. Yea, Green is athletic enough to hang with LeBron and Wade. ha!

        “Lebron may be the best player in the league, but he’s not even the best player on his own team”

        Heat overcome the refs and the Cs to go up 3-1.

        The scariest thing for the rest of the league. The HEAT will be even better next year.

        Not 5, not 6, not 7……

    • andyhr17 - May 10, 2011 at 11:39 AM

      Perkins wouldn’t have been a huge factor in that game. Celtics were going small to counter the Heat’s small lineup.

  10. ginnitti - May 10, 2011 at 7:13 AM

    The second half of this season, postseason including, has separated LeBron from the rest of the superstars in this league. He’s morphed his game into a complimentary piece of the puzzle, moving without the ball, putting defense first, and vocally leading, cheerleading, and disciplining his teammates toward yet another series victory. He took a considerable paycut to join this Heat team, and for all intents and purposes, it’s time for Miami to respect the gift they were given, restructure LeBron to be the highest paid player in this league – and in true NHL form, give the man the captain’s C.

    Lebron Salary info: http://www.spotrac.com/nba/miami-heat/lebron-james/

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