LeBron James vs. Celtics rivalry revived in Miami
The Miami Heat took a 1-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals Monday night when it beat the Boston Celtics 93-79. League MVP, LeBron James, ran into the Celtics three times in the last four postseasons. The Celtics eliminated James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in their first two encounters. In 2011, however, it was James’ Heat eliminating the Celtics in five games.
The Celtics went to two Conference Semifinals and two NBA Finals in the four years their “big three” – Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen – played together. Boston’s 94-85 victory over LeBron James in the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals would be his last as a Cavalier and send the Celtics on a run to the NBA Finals. Over the offseason, Miami assembled their own version of the “big three,” featuring James alongside Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Their first game was an 88-80 loss to Boston.
While contract expirations threaten to end the “big three” in Boston, it was Rajon Rondo‘s 15.3 points, 12.3 assists, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.7 steals per playoff game, an increase in all categories from his regular season averages, that led the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals. LeBron James needed 29 points, 5.9 assists, 8.7 rebounds, and 2.4 steals per playoff game to arrive with the Heat. More indicative of their respective team’s performance, however, are Paul Pierce and Dwayne Wade. Pierce averaged 21 points per playoff win, contrasted by his 16.6 average in playoff losses. More startling yet are Wade’s 26.4 and 17 point averages in playoff wins and losses, respectively.
Monday night, Wade scored 22 to Pierce’s 12. Boston rallied with 35 points in the second quarter to tie the game up at halftime. However, they would go on to score just 33 the rest of the way. The Celtics dropped to 1-2 this postseason when Rondo, 7 assists, fails to tally at least 10 in the category. James scored 32 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, and blocked three shots in the home win.
“In the third quarter, the game just got away from us,” Celtics’ coach, Doc Rivers, assessed. ”I thought we rushed. I thought our offense was rushed. I thought never got into our rhythm as far as getting on one side of the floor to the other, second and third options.”