Insider: Miami Heat ECF Game 1 Notebook
Rondo’s Rough Game 1 Key to Heat Success
Entering the Eastern Conference Finals, many thought the Boston Celtics’ success would hinge on Rajon Rondo. Without him being the best or second best player on the court, the consensus was that it would be a very tough road to series victory against the Miami Heat.
After Game 1, that theory started to become reality. A collaborative defensive effort from LeBron James and Mario Chalmers kept Rondo at bay. While he finished with 16 points, he was only 8-20 from the field and did not go to the foul line all game.
“He’s got to be on the attack,” said Celtics head coach Doc Rivers on Rondo’s struggles. “I thought he was reading a lot instead of playing on his instincts. I think sometimes his IQ hurts him. You can’t read and play at speed at the same time. Listen, guys have to hit shots (too). We have to give him more room.”
That limited space forced Rondo away from drawing contact in the lane and into shooting jumpers. Also, Boston’s struggles at the beginning of each half can be directly paralleled to their point guard’s biggest droughts.
Rondo made just one field goal in the first and third quarters combined. Despite the off night, Miami knows that before all is said and done, they can expect much more from the player Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra referred to pregame as a “basketball maestro.”
“We have to be in tune with Rondo,” said James. “He’s probably the number one unpredictable guy we have in our league as far as how he forces his action. We try to make it tough for him and wear him (out) throughout the game.”
Unexpected Adeptness on the Glass for Undersized Heat
Rebounding was an essential element of the Heat’s most recent series victory over the Indiana Pacers. Despite having a significant size disadvantage, Miami was better on the boards in two of three consecutive wins that closed out the Pacers.
Due to their success, it was a surprise that not many mentioned the battle on the boards heading into play with a Boston team that is much more of a palatable matchup in the post. The Heat were plus 15 on the glass and center Joel Anthony says they were able to build on their experience with Indiana.
“I just think there was great focus on it today,” said Anthony. “Obviously, they are also a tough, physical team. After the series we just finished with Indiana, obviously rebounding was a key component of trying to win those games. I think there was some carryover with that.”
Rivers gave a lot of credit for Miami’s rebounding acumen to the balls that Anthony kept alive and tipped to his teammates. Two of the men that benefited were James and Shane Battier, who finished with 13 and 10 boards respectively.
Both have been tasked with taking on more power forward-like responsibilities in the absence of Chris Bosh. Battier says he is getting more comfortable as a four and made light at this being his first double-digit rebound game in over a year.
“I take a lot of pride in (our recent rebounding),” said Battier. “I haven’t had ten rebounds in about three years. When we rebound and hold a sizeable advantage on the boards, it allows us to do so much on the offensive end. That’s the first key to us winning games.”