Paul Pierce did it again, ladies and gentleman. In a series full of young superstars, Pierce -- as he has throughout his entire career in Boston -- provided yet another dagger in the biggest of playoff games. The 2008 Finals MVP connected on a near impossible three-pointer over the outstretched arms of LeBron James to give the Celtics a 90-86 lead with under 60 seconds remaining, ultimately propelling a 94-90 victory over Miami in Game 5.
In what was supposed to be Miami's turn to regain control of this series in South Beach, it was Pierce and fellow veteran Kevin Garnett who led the charge. KG, all of 36 years old, finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds. Rajon Rondo meanwhile, Boston's engine who played flawlessly through the first four games of this series, struggled to connect on his darting drives to the hoop. And once again, it wasn't Rondo's field goal percentage that mattered so much as his remarkable ability to control tempo and create secondary offense for a Celtics team that has struggled to score in the half-court all season long.
Akin to Game 4, Boston's best offense in Game 5 often came in the form of Rondo prodding his way into the paint when classic transition opportunities didn't present itself. Pierce and Garnett benefitted greatly, essentially able to establish rhythm and balance without Miami's normally stellar defense able to establish itself in the paint. Further, Rondo's timely tip-out to Mickael Pietrus in the right corner for a three-pointer off a Wade block with six minutes left helped keep the Celtics in the game when it seemed Miami may have turned a corner.
"I thought that play was absolutely sensational," head coach Doc Rivers said after the game. "I thought that was maybe the biggest play of the game."
As for the Heat, Tuesday's loss forces it to win two straight games, including a Game 6 in Boston. One thing is for sure: the electric offense the Heat displayed in Games 1 and 2 has completely evaporated and head coach Erik Spoelstra will surely be searching for answers. Perhaps he can rely more on Chris Bosh, who played just 12 minutes in his return from a knee injury. Or perhaps he can get 40 from Dwyane Wade or James, but he will likely have to do so with better ball movement. Rivers employed both zone and man defenses along with switching men to confuse a Heat team that -- even when clicking on all cylinders -- has always focused more on individual talent and isolation. The result was a 39 percent shooting effort from the floor and 27 percent performance from distance.
Either way we look at it though, this is now the Big 3's second consecutive season where it faces elimination against a far more experienced and far more intelligent team in a Game 6. This time however, it's not in the Finals and its not even at home.
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