Fourth quarter, 1:58, Heat 98-86: Wade drew a switch onto Bass, bulled into the lane, drew a defensive foul and then hoisted a short jumper that bounced off the rim and then softly through the net.
The Heat were firmly in control, and the Celtics were likely out of enough time.
Fourth quarter, 3:23, Heat 95-84: Some people — people who don't know what they are talking about — tried to argue during Bosh's absence that the Heat were better off without him. This game showed why that assessment was amazingly wrong.
Bosh's three 3-pointers notwithstanding, his ability to spread the floor and pull Garnett out of the post on defense was invaluable in opening up the lane for James and Wade. With 3:40 left in the game, Bosh showed the impact his length has on his own defensive end as well, tipping away an oop attempt by Rondo to Garnett.
Bosh then hit a baby hook shot and Wade dropped in a floater to extend Miami's lead to nine points.
Fourth quarter, 4:14, Heat 91-86: Pay no attention to James' 30 points when assessing Bass' defense. Bass has done an admirable job on James defensively, but James just hit some incredible shots — like a 28-foot 3-pointer.
The Celtics were on the ropes.
Fourth quarter, 9:07, Heat 80-79: Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley better get comfortable. Pacquiao, a huge Celtics fan, reportedly is refusing to leave his locker room until the end of this game, and at this rate it could be a while before the game is over. There could be an overtime or four in the near future.
James and Wade both delivered highlight-reel baskets, but the Celtics were able to hang tight. Allen, who did not seem to move very well in this game but still was shooting 3-for-6 entering the fourth, hit another big three.
James had yet to take a seat, but he had also yet to record an assist.
End of third quarter, game tied 73-73: Twelve more minutes. The game was tied, but it took an immense third quarter by Rondo to make it that way.
Rondo scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds to pull within two boards of another postseason triple-double. (He had 16 points, 12 assists and eight boards through three quarters.) The Celtics needed every ounce of Rondo's effort, as Battier added two more threes in the quarter, Chalmers came alive with three big buckets and Wade nailed two cold-blooded shots.
James also added six more points and five more rebounds to bring his totals for the game to 20 and nine, but after his Game 6 that was barely worth mentioning, right?
Third quarter, 3:50, Celtics 66-65: Nobody ever said the Celtics would have it easy. This is the Celtics, after all.
Four turnovers were deadly for the Celtics early in the third quarter. The Heat did as they typically do and turned those turnovers into points. When the Celtics protected the ball, though, they were able to generate quality shots and looked like the better team.
Third quarter, 7:12, game tied 59-59: The Celtics were the more physical team for the entire first half and the early moments of the third quarter, but the Heat adjusted. After Pierce, who by all rights should have had at least two extra fouls already, picked up a handcheck foul in the open court on James, the Heat seemed to get an extra bounce in their step.
Wade, who has only made a impact in spurts all series, hit a step-back jumper to complete a 13-6 run by the Heat to open the second half and knot up the score. Battier's fourth 3-pointer of the game lit up the crowd during the run, which included two costly Boston turnovers.
Halftime, Celtics 53-46: Hanging from the rim after a thunderous dunk that cut Boston's lead to five points, James tried to karate kick Rondo, or something. Somehow that did not draw a technical, which was odd. Scott Foster was so quick with the whistle on Wade and Rondo just a few minutes earlier.
The bigger matter was the Celtics' 14 points off 10 Heat turnovers and their 16-13 rebounding advantage, made possible by Boston's 10-4 dominance in that category in the second quarter. The surprising part was, most of that damage came with Garnett on the bench.
The Good: Bass was a force in the first half, bodying up with James on defense and scoring a game-high 14 points. He also pulled off three steals. … Pierce was off to one of his best shooting starts of the series, knocking down five of his 10 shots for 13 points. Not having to defend James extensively may have freed up Pierce to conserve his energy for offense. … Bosh was not quite at Bass' level, but he did shoot 4-for-6 with a big 3-pointer.
The Bad: Garnett was limited by foul trouble, but that was not his only problem. The Big Ticket also committed three turnovers and registered only two rebounds in the first half.
The So-so: James shot 3-for-5 and scored 14 points, but the majority of his damage came at the free throw line. He was 8-for-10 from the stripe and played the entire 24 minutes. He clearly had trouble with the Bass-Pietrus combo checking him, though. … Wade came out firing as though this was the game he wanted to break out in, but the results were mixed. he was only 3-for-8 from the field but had five assists.
Second quarter, 3:06, Celtics 49-38: Bass gave the Celtics an offensive boost in the first half of Game 5, Game 6 and he was back to his old tricks in Game 7. Bass picked off a pass at the top of the key and rumbled the length of the court for a two-handed dunk to give him 14 points with plenty of time left in the first half.
Second quarter, 5:25, Celtics 41-35: The rest of this game was set to be very interesting. Garnett picked up his third foul for sticking his posterior into Wade as the Heat guard ran by to defend a cutting Rondo. The Celtics could be in trouble if they are forced to rely on Hollins, Bass and Greg Stiemsma the rest of the way.
Garnett's subtle butt-bump, as well as his two-handed screen that drew a foul earlier, is something he has been doing and getting away with all season. It hardly seemed fair to start moving the target on him now, in the most pivotal game of the season. Still, they were fouls.
Second quarter, 8:47, Celtics 35-30: Chris Bosh was on fire, and it did not help that Ryan Hollins got lost repeatedly trying to stay close to Bosh. The Heat forward scored seven points in the opening minutes of the second quarter, helping Miami push back into a momentary tie.
Hollins go a putback dunk and Pierce cruised outside a Hollins pick to drain a three, though, and the Celtics were back in control.
The longer Hollins was out there, the Celtics hoped he got into the flow, because they may need him. Garnett picked up his second foul setting an illegal screen and was still on the floor. Doc Rivers apparently decided that, for now, the Celtics could not afford to play without him.
End of first quarter, Celtics 27-23: Aside from Rondo taking a tumble after he was the victim of one of James' patented chase-down blocks — start the yelling by Boston fans that James deliberately shoved Rondo because he's a meanie — the first quarter went fairly well for the Celtics.
They shot 10-for-21 from the field, which was almost red-hot by their standards, and nobody got into serious foul trouble. They committed only two turnovers, and although they would rather not have given up three offensive rebounds and five second-chance points the Celtics bested the Heat in that area with six second-chance points. The Celtics threw several different defenders at James. Bass drew the duty for most of the first 10 minutes, followed by Pietrus. Rondo picked him up on a switch on one possession.
First quarter, 2:44, Celtics 23-17: We knew these teams would not keep up their torrid shooting pace. James got on the board with an off-ball cut for a layup (which Paul Pierce failed to help on), but Bass' defense on James may have been the story of the first quarter. Bass' own offense did not suffer, either, as he knocked down a 17-footer and hit two free throws, improving his free throw accuracy in the playoffs to 57 for 62.
Dwyane Wade's aggressiveness was ramped up as well. Wade took five early shots and had two rebounds and two assists in the early going.
First quarter, 5:52, Celtics 15-12: The season ends after this game for one of these teams, and both sides played the opening minutes like they did not want that to happen.
The Celtics and Heat shot a combined 10-for-18 from the field in the opening six minutes and committed only one turnover each. Shane Battier was the early star with two 3-pointers. Ray Allen also had two triples, but everyone is pretty much used to that stuff from him by now. Battier has battled himself shooting all season before a renaissance of sorts midway through this series.
And what was with Brandon Bass covering LeBron James? Whatever it was, it was effective in forcing James to miss his first two shots and to commit a turnover.
7:36 p.m.: Not to put too fine a point on it, but there is really nothing left to be said this point except this:
Win or go home.
Tip-off is less than an hour away. The probable starting lineups are below.
11:30 a.m. ET: This is it. The Celtics' season will either continue on to the NBA Finals, or end abruptly just five wins short of the organization's 18th championship.
In what could be their final time on the court together as teammates, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen will lead the Celtics into the American Airlines Arena for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat. LeBron James, the regular season MVP, has carried that level of play into the playoffs, but Dwyane Wade has yet to bust out in this series. The Celtics hope it does not happen Saturday.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 8:30 p.m.
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