The NBA’s MVP played like one in the first half. The NBA’s most veteran team stole away the second. Where does this leave the rest of the Eastern Conference Finals? Look, after how quickly the Thunder came back against the Spurs in the West, and now with Boston still winning in the East, you can’t blame us for being a little hesitant to answer the last question. But here’s what we have to say about last night, a game that was LeBron James’ (30 points, 13 boards) and Paul Pierce‘s (19 points) late. And we’re not saying “Good job! Good effort!” like that pre-pubescent Miami fan. Some teams can dig themselves out of holes, whether it’s a game or a whole series, like the Celtics have to take a 3-2 lead after a 94-90 win. Some players can get out of slumps better than others, too, and last night it was Pierce. He was just 5-of-18 from the floor when he pulled the trigger on a perfect three to put the Celts up by four under a minute to play. That was ballgame on a matchup built on the weird night of Rajon Rondo (doing everything with 13 assists despite five TOs and 3-of-15 shooting) and solid play of Kevin Garnett , who snarled his way to 26 and 11. … We think the term gut-check would apply to this performance but that seems only to be the case when it’s the first time a team earns its credentials. Boston’ gut-check was in 2008. Now, it’s just fascinating to watch a group of assured players tackle a game where they’re not the most athletic. Sometimes, they’re barely as cohesive a group as Miami, but they almost always work through the kinks. … LeBron is arguably the best big player since Magic Johnson at facilitating. His oop to Dwyane Wade (27 points, six dimes) was another sign of that early in Game 5. The criticism’s that he’s too deferential since he arrived in Miami. That changed sharply on Tuesday, with him getting 18 points, nine boards and a chasedown block all in the first half. He was hungry, and ran after anything that came his way and chased the things that didn’t. Then it faded, not just for him but for the team in a crucial stretch. It was a bad way to close the third quarter for Miami by going 1-for-10 from the field. The only positive was that hey, they were still within two possessions of taking the lead. This was the case in Game 1, where Boston folded after being tight at half. This time Miami started taking the ball far from the hoop and taking perimeter shots, while the Celtics were throwing over the top to KG. The Heat felt the tide was going out on the game in the fourth and we saw the energy switch. But like a South Beach crowd, being a late arrival to the second-half party won’t get you a good seat. Wade’s ridiculous double-pump clutch layup and a three by ‘Bron had them to within one point before Pierce became The Truth again. He was not going to be taken off the floor this time by his own hand. Instead, he’d wipe out Miami. … There was a stretch early in the second where Mike Miller took a charge, then got leveled for a foul by Ray Allen (13 points). It just wasn’t easy to watch him get up from that one. We weren’t sure but we thought we saw a priest in the tunnel in case he needed to be read last rites. We’re not surprised he only played 11 minutes and scored three points. … Hit the jump to read about how effective Chris Bosh was.
Rondo got two fouls in the first seven minutes, coinciding with the return of Chris Bosh. Bosh (nine points, seven boards in 14 minutes) had a bizarre day after a masseuse died at his house earlier in the afternoon. No foul play is suspected. A different kind of foul play is what got the Heat in this situation to begin with and surprisingly, Bosh helped ease that a little. He drained his first shot, a fading 10-footer on Greg Stiemsma. After a tip-in where he flew from the three-point line, he had a classic Bosh Face. Mouth was splayed wide open, and you could tell he’d been preparing for that one. When we looked up, this crossed our path on Twitter: Chris Bosh’s 6 offensive boards at one point were half as many as he had in the previous six playoff games he played this season. … There have been times in the last two games where the Heat have the fastest break since Hank Gathers repped Loyola Marymount. Miami’s second bucket was a 40-foot outlet from Mario Chalmers (nine points, four boards) turned into a layup by Wade at the other end. A few in Game 4 were the same, with the Heat going end-to-end in only a couple seconds. Now, it will be noted that furious approach went a little too fast a couple times, too, and led to bad turnovers because of bad outlets. Clearly, Spoelstra wanted to put pressure on the defense for a little fatigue. So what happened all game vice versa, when the Celtics broke out to run? Nothing. The Heat literally jogged back on D countless times and let people like Mickael Pietrus (13 points) become an X-factor he wouldn’t otherwise be. In Game 4 Pietrus was getting boards and keeping plays alive. This time he was finishing when Miami couldn’t keep track of him. … Please tell us you saw what Amar’e Stoudemire was wearing at the game. One word: Denim. … We’re out like the Venus transit.
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