As Dwyane Wade shook himself free in overtime, he went up with the shot and the best measure of hope for the Heat. Boston fans stood and held their breath. LeBron James watched from the bench, fouled out.
Sometimes for all the talk and sweat and controversy it just comes down to this: A shot going up and running in or flying out. Wade let the would-be winning basketball fly from the 3-point line at the end of Game 4′s overtime Sunday night.
He had good form. He watched it intently. It hit a couple of inches long, bouncing off the rim high into the air and taking the Heat’s chances for a commanding lead in this Eastern Conference Finals.
Final score: Boston 93, Heat 91. And, thus, they fly home knowing they’re in the fight for their season against Boston the next three games.
You could ask a lot of questions today. You could wonder why Heat have trouble showing up in the first half. You could wonder what happened in the final-seconds play of regulation when Udonis Haslem was left taking an off-balance jump shot with little hope.
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For a while Friday, the most productive question came in one of those typically vanilla halftime interviews. ESPN’s Doris Burke asked Rajon Rondo as he headed off the court what Boston was doing to score so effectively against the Heat.
“They’re complaining and crying to referees in transition,” Rondo said.
Even after the game, asked to explain himself, Rondo said, “What I said was true.”
So besides needling passes in a stellar 15 assists, Rondo needled the Heat with his words. And just because Rondo was having his fun doesn’t it mean his words don’t have a measure of truth.
Complaining to the refs? Neglecting to hustle and play hard? That wasn’t how this was supposed to play out. If there was one thing everyone agreed heading into Game 4, it was that this would not be a replay of Game 3.
“We’ve got to come with greater resolve, greater energy,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said before the game.
Here’s how that plan went: The Celtics took an 18-point lead in the second quarter. They scored 61 in Sunday’s first half, which was both a playoff high for them and by an opponent against the Heat.
So Spoelstra’s defensive energy and resolve wouldn’t appear until the third quarter. Joel Anthony blocked a shot. LeBron blocked another. Suddenly, the Heat defense materialized again. And, just as suddenly, Boston looked like a different team.
Boston recored 34 and 27 points in the first two quarters. It scored 12 in the third. And when rookie Norris Cole drove down the lane untouched for a lay-up for part of some vital help, the Heat suddenly had what it didn’t all night. A lead: 76-74.
As the game went back and forth, some calls did, too. LeBron was called for a charge on a play where Paul Pierce’s heel was on a line to negate that. LeBron was then flung to the floor by Garnett – and both players were awarded fouls.
That was LeBron’s fifth foul. The Heat has got some officiating breaks this series. Boston had five technicals in Game 1? Rondo was raked across the head to no whistle in a crucial play of Game 2?
But now LeBron went to the bench with five fouls in Game 4. And from there on it was all tight shots, big points and dramatic plays. LeBron, who had 26 points, made the biggest shot of the night to that point with a 3-point shot with 37.5 seconds left to tie it up.
Doesn’t that count for something in the question of his clutch moments?
He got the ball again for the final shot. But he couldn’t find space. And then came the play that ended his night. He got tangled up with Boston’s Michael Pietrus under the basket and the call went against him.
Did Pietrus grab him? Yes. Was James pushing? Yes. Did ESPN commentator Jeff Van Gundy say he would’ve called Pietrus for the foul. Yes.the clal shoulliy JefsDid
For the first time since coming to the Heat two years ago, LeBron fouled out. And his last three fouls were debatable. But things change by the minute in the NBA playoffs. Sunday again showed that.
To Game 5 we go.