The Heat was expecting it at least once or twice this series. It happened on Wednesday on Miami’s home court. Rajon Rondo was more than brilliant. He was a “maestro,” as Heat coach Erik Spoelstra likes to call him.
The Heat still won. Rondo played every second of a 53-minute overtime game and scored 44 points but the Heat still won.
After thoroughly dominating Game 1 of these Eastern Conference finals, the Heat outlasted and outgunned the Celtics when they were at their best in Game 2. In the end, the Heat’s 115-111 overtime victory might have been more demoralizing to Boston than the initial punch in the face to begin the series.
LeBron James led the Heat with 34 points. He was 7 of 20 from the field but made 18 of 24 from the free-throw line to offset his struggles from the field. The Heat was 31 of 47 from the line (66 percent) while Boston was 26 of 29.
“The performance [Rondo] put on tonight will go down in the record books,” James said. “It was exciting to be a part of it and to win.”
Dwyane Wade had 23 points, scoring 21 after the first half, and Mario Chalmers had another postseason breakout game, going 8 of 16 from the field for 22 points.
“It was exhausting,” Wade said. “We never should have dug ourselves that big a hole, but give [Boston] credit.”
It was a steal by Chalmers, perhaps the Heat’s craftiest defender, that set up Wade’s three-point play with 59.7 seconds left in overtime. The acrobatic bucket and continuation free throw put the Heat ahead by five points. From there, James and Wade made just enough at the free-throw line — a combined 4 of 5 — to hold off the Celtics.
Rondo, who was 16 of 24 from the field and 10 of 12 from the free-throw line to go along with 10 assists and eight rebounds, made a three-pointer with 2.9 seconds left to cut the Heat’s lead to 114-111. Wade, who was 7 of 11 from the line on the game, then made 1 of 2 to ice the victory in the final seconds.
“It was tough to have [Rondo] play that way and not win the game, honestly, because he did everything right,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “We had a lot of opportunities to win the game.”
Rondo’s combination of 44 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds was a first in the history of postseason basketball in the NBA.
“It’s kind of irrelevant,” Rondo said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Heat reserve Udonis Haslem finished with 13 points, including four clutch baskets in overtime, to go along with 11 rebounds.
“He seems to thrive—one way or another in these games he rises to the occasion,” Spoelstra said.
Picture-perfect ball movement gave the Heat a 107-105 lead with 1:27 left in overtime when a pair of passes zipped from Wade to James to Haslem like a laser reflecting off mirrors. Haslem finished the play with a dunk. Chalmers’ steal and Wade’s three-point play followed.
The Heat had two chances at the end of regulation but James missed them both. Ray Allen tied the game at 99 with 34 seconds left in regulation. Allen finished with 13 points. Paul Pierce had 21 points and fouled out late in overtime.
A baseline jumper, gave the Heat a four-point lead with 1:08 left in regulation. Following a Celtics timeout, Kevin Garnett finished an alley-oop to cut Miami’s lead to two points.
Wade had a chance to make it two-possession game with 47.7 seconds left, but made just 1 of 2 free throws. The Celtics tied the game on their next possession with Allen’s wide-open three-pointer. At the beginning of the side-out-of-bounds play, Wade went for an ill-conceived steal that ultimately left Allen wide open.
A three-pointer by Mike Miller gave the Heat an 84-77 lead less than a minute into the fourth quarter but the Celtics fought their way back. A pair of free throws by Kevin Garnett put Boston ahead by three points with 5:43 to play and a skillful bucket by Rondo gave the Celtics a 92-87 lead.
All those times Spoelstra has talked about the potential of Chalmers--he was apparently talking about Wednesday night. With Wade struggling in the first half, Chalmers kept the Heat in the game with three three-pointers and 14 points.
“It’s my job to provide that spark of energy,” Chalmers said. “I just needed to pick up the slack until D-Wade got going.”
The Heat outscored the Celtics 35-22 in the third quarter. After an abysmal first half, Wade led the comeback with 12 points. He was 1 of 6 in the first half but made 5 of 7 shots in the first 12 minutes of the second half.
“I’ve been trying to be patient,” Wade said. “Right now I think I’m making the right adjustments for my team to win, and I think that’s important.”
The third-quarter resurgence was part of a larger trend for the Heat. In the past five games, the Heat has outscored its opponents by double-digits in third quarters. Miami’s 35 points was the second highest scoring total for the Heat in the third quarter in the postseason.
James and Wade combined for 14 points, four rebounds and two assists in the first half. Meanwhile, Rondo had 22 points, four rebounds and seven assists all by himself.