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NBA Playoffs: James, Wade defeat Celtics, their demons

May 11, 2011, 11:24 PM EDT

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat - Game Five Getty Images

In the summer of 2007, a former league MVP and a perennial All-Star joined a franchise player to form a group that, when healthy, dominated the NBA’s Eastern Conference and kept its two best players from reaching an NBA Finals. They took out LeBron James‘ Cavaliers in 2008 in an amazing seven-game series that culminated in a duel for the ages between James and Paul Pierce. In 2010, they sent Dwyane Wade home, despite Wade doing everything humanly possible to keep his hopelessly over-matched team alive. In those same playoffs, they humilated and eliminated LeBron James, setting in motion a chain of events that led to LeBron leaving Cleveland.

Three years later, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, along with Chris Bosh teamed up, hoping to do to the Celtics what the Celtics had been able to do to them. On Wednesday night, they achieved that goal, beating the Celtics 97-87 and advancing to the Conference Finals.

Game 5 wasn’t simply a matchup of two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference — it was the culmination of what had become a personal mission for James and Wade. The game played out accordingly.

The best version of the Heat did not show up in Game 5. They failed to move the ball, Joel Anthony‘s foul trouble kept them from putting the kind of defensive pressure on Boston that they wanted to, and they failed to create looks for their spot up-shooters outside or big men inside.

However, the best versions of Wade and James did show up, and the Heat are now moving on to the Conference Finals. Wade was masterful throughout the game, especially in the first half. He slithered through traps, attacked the rim with abandon, hit his mid-range jumpers, and kept the Boston defense completely befuddled throughout the game. Just like they did in Game 4, the Heat spent most of the game down by two or three possessions, but Wade kept them in the game through his sheer brilliance.

For his part, James started the game slowly. His drives to the rim failed to yield positive results, and his usually-crisp passing was off the mark all night long. But he more than made up for it with his outside shooting, especially late in the game. James got himself going with some long jumpers in the third quarter, and that set up one of the best clutch performances of his career late in the fourth quarter.

With Boston up five and just under four minutes left to play, Kevin Garnett missed a mid-range jumper that probably would have put the game away for Boston. It caromed harmlessly off the rim, and LeBron found James Jones for an open three in transition that cut the Boston lead to two. After a Chris Bosh dunk and a missed Paul Pierce layup, the score was tied with just over two minutes to play, the ball found itself in LeBron’s hands with time winding down off the shot clock. James then calmly drained a clutch three directly in Paul Pierce’s face. Just over a minute later, he dribbled down the clock and hit another one to put the Heat up by six, then stole the ensuing Celtic inbound pass and dunked it to seal the game and the series for the Heat.

It was the perfect way for the Heat to end the conference semifinals. They beat the Celtics by hanging tough all game, wearing them down, and out-executing them in crunch time, which was supposed to be Boston’s MO. The player who supposedly couldn’t make a clutch shot all season long tore out Boston’s heart down the stretch for the second time in as many games — the two biggest games of the Heat’s season.

Tonight will be Miami’s night. They beat the team they were built to beat, and they did it by overcoming their one Achilles’ heel throughout the regular season — their ability to close out tight games against good teams. For tonight, the Heat have answered all the questions that were asked of them all season long. The last two defending champions, the ones who were supposed to punish the Heat for their audacity during the off-season, are out of the picture. And the Heat remain, on top of the league. For tonight.

Tomorrow, reality will set in. Unless Atlanta can win two games in a row against Chicago (I mean, never say never, but…), the Heat have a date with the team with the best regular-season record in the league, a defense even better than Boston’s, and a player better and more explosive than anybody on the Celtic roster. And if they want to get to the finals, they’ll have to win at least one game in Chicago, thanks to the fact they let all three of their games against the Bulls slip through their fingers in the regular season.

The Heat accomplished a huge feat on Wednesday night, and James and Wade now have the Boston monkey off their backs. But they’re still only halfway to their ultimate goal, the one goal they need to achieve to justify their hype, and they’ll have to pass tests that could well be tougher than the ones they’ve faced to achieve it. The Heat should savor this night. Because rest assured, if the Heat come up short against Chicago or fail to win the Finals, it won’t be remembered for long.

  1. hnirobert3 - May 11, 2011 at 11:31 PM

    As a Miami native, born and raised, I LOVE what this team represents. It’s Miami vs. The World, like the 80’s Canes and the ’97 Marlins. We may not be the greatest fans in the world, I’ll give you that, but other cities have teams (ie Chi Cubs, BoSox, NY Yankees, etc.) that have been around longer than ALL the Miami teams combined. I read a statistic that South Florida residents are is 80% from somewhere else, whether it be from the Midwest, Northeast or another country all together. So, as a true Floridian, I can’t help but laugh at the hate my city and our teams generate.

    • ahemahem - May 11, 2011 at 11:39 PM

      Two words: Rajon Rondo.

      • hnirobert3 - May 12, 2011 at 7:44 AM

        Here’s another two: jump shot.

      • southbeachtalent - May 12, 2011 at 9:12 AM

        I’d rather have Rondo play than West, he can shoot.

  2. Scott - May 11, 2011 at 11:51 PM

    Uh…look back boston fans (and Heat haters). After the Heat “squeaked” out a 4-1 series win against a far out classed Sixers team….I said the Celtics series would end the same. I was called many names that night by you celtics fans and Heat haters…

    Where you at? This series was closer than I thought it would be. I can’t wait to hear the “Wade intentionally injured Rondo” crowd show up. Bottom line, the Celtics were outmatched at every position.

    I expect the Heat to make it past the East to the Finals. I give the Mavs credit, I have some fear of them, but talent usually will win in a 7 game series. NO ONE HAS MORE TALENT THAN THE MIAMI HEAT.

  3. nelson8403 - May 12, 2011 at 12:15 AM

    I watched this game and it was some terrible terrible officiating.. and it really swung the game.. just like game 4 in the bulls/hawks series, one call can swing momentum in the last few minutes.. this league is really proving that superstars rule the league and will get their calls no matter what.. a clean block is a foul on lebron.. but paul pierce getting hit driving to the lane is a clean block.. the heat shot 38 free throws.. the officials kept the heat in the game.

    If this keeps up nobody can beat them.. not because they’re the better team, but they just go into the lane and get a foul call no matter what

    • daduts - May 12, 2011 at 12:36 AM

      Why so bitter?

    • jstrizzle - May 12, 2011 at 12:39 AM

      Kinda reminds me of the Heat/Boston series from last year. You need to lay off the Celtic whiner Kool-Aid. It was a 4-1 series win. In reality it was never that close.

  4. trbowman - May 12, 2011 at 12:21 AM

    Miami is going to win the NBA finals – I take no pleasure in that possibility

    • southbeachtalent - May 12, 2011 at 9:10 AM

      You and everyone else..

      I will take a week off of work to celebrate when this team wins it all!

  5. jstrizzle - May 12, 2011 at 12:44 AM

    At least we got to see what Celtics were classy and which were classless. Gained a ton of admiration for Ray Allen that even after a loss he went and congratulated each player and coach. The classless (Pierce, Garnett, a few others) were off the floor just about as the buzzer went off.

  6. dirtybird2020 - May 12, 2011 at 1:14 AM

    Not a noston fan, but garbage calls cost the game, foot on the line when bosh got a assist on a 3 point play, pierce didnt travel before he kmocked down his shot, big baby got called for a travel on a and1, wade at the end disnt get fouled by a non moving cristic qith hands straight up, thats nime points alone with xhanges of possession wouldbe been a nlowout of close to 16 points with points and changes of posessions! Good luck playing a more atheletic chicago, who has a pg who hasnt had a bad series in his playoff career, who will actually get fouls, and has a good bench and depth in center position, and a superior defense! Name a player on boston that needed to be double teamed, none, rose knows how to make plays, korver will actually be fine on defense guarding bums like jones, house, and miller cause they dont create shots like a 3 guard atl, korver will feed on this series unlike the atl series where the guards are creative! Plus bulls have court advantage, noah will also be afective on the glass against this heat team, will jave to worry about wade and james, bosh and boozer will cancel each other out with non productive games, rose is gonna eat this team apart period with bibby guarding him, should start chalmers but the coaxh dont have a starting lineup figured out YET!

  7. dirtybird2020 - May 12, 2011 at 1:39 AM

    Trbowman is a idiot for that comment, with what bench, chicago will feed on this team even on bad nights proven all season long, lets say they came up with a miracle they havent beaten dallas yet, dallas exposes their below average front court, and huge advantage at pg position as seen all year long! Heat are screwed for five years, they dont have a benxh like the big 3 in 08, wheres posey at, he might be next to join this team of bums! Bosh is over rated thier like 10 power fowards who average more or the same for 30-40 million less, a list for ya, paul gasol, boozer, randolph,aldridge, dirk( worth the money), kevin love, blake griffen, amare( worth the money if he played d), david lee, kg, smith, and lets not get into defensive pf’s bosh sucks on defense, all these powerfowards get simular stats for less minus the few who are far superior(amare, pau gasol even with this bad series, and dirk)wheres the back bone behind your comment, you mustve went to their concert where they celebrated winning 6 rings, far better coach for chicago and dallas as well! Prove something then talk after your premadonnas get a ring!

  8. edweird0 - May 12, 2011 at 4:04 AM

    @hnirobert3
    As a fellow Miamian, I couldn’t have said it better myself. We’re eating up all the hate, all it does is fuel our passion even more.

  9. edweird0 - May 12, 2011 at 4:09 AM

    @ahemahem

    One word: Excuses.

    Rondo didn’t play well in the first couple games and he sure as he’ll wasn’t gunna play any better in the last couple, elbow or no elbow. The better team clearly won.

  10. wakiash - May 12, 2011 at 9:36 AM

    Loved the way lebron posed for the camera after his last three pointer and posed again in his overdone fake kneeling homage to God. Maybe he should go into acting. What a joke the officiating was.

  11. chicago240 - May 12, 2011 at 9:56 AM

    As a Bulls fan, I’ve grown tired of the dismissive attitude towards the Bulls accomplishments. We STILL have to listen to the fact that the Celtics and the Heat were the best 2 teams. I for one am proud of my team who took one game at a time, played hard nose defense, played as a TEAM like no other, and are led by the the most humble superstar on the planet. Admittedly they’re young and are inconsistent at times but don’t discount their home record, their ability to win the close games (e.g. see Miami) and their 4th quarter intensity. There’s a reason they won 62 games.

  12. Waxxx4321 - May 12, 2011 at 10:02 AM

    The Heat Will win in 5 games this series will not go the length…..

  13. edweird0 - May 12, 2011 at 4:30 PM

    @chicago240 no ones being dismissive, we’re just being real. You guys have a great team and I’m sure we’ll be trading titles back and forth for the next couple years but as of RIGHT NOW you guys wont be able to compete. Please stop using the regular season argument cause that’s just getting old. It’s CLEARLY evident that regular season sweeps mean nothing in the playoffs (see Heat/Celtics & Mavs/Lakers if you really wanna be that stubborn). You guys are struggling way to much against lesser opponents and you think you’ll give us a run for our money? Please, this will be another 5 game series & we’ll be onnn to the next one!

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