Fast Breaks: Celtics-Heat, Game 3
Dwyane Wade's left leg injury bears watching before Sunday's Game 4
It's bad enough for the Heat that no team has rallied from an 0-3 hole
Miami's strategy must be questioned: why let Paul Pierce have that shot?
With Miami's Dwyane Wade watching from the bench, Boston's Paul Pierce effectively ended their first-round series with an 18-foot dagger at the buzzer that gave the Celtics a 100-98 victory and a commanding 3-0 series lead. No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series, leaving the outcome in little doubt, but questions raised everywhere else.
How serious is Wade's injury? On Miami's final shot, Wade took a 3-pointer, then landed on the foot of Ray Allen. Wade immediately fell to the ground clutching his left leg, had to be carried off the court by teammates and was unable to participate in the final play. For his part, Wade said he didn't think he landed on Allen's foot, insisting a cramp was his only problem. He took intravenous fluids after the game, but said he will play Sunday.
What does this mean for Wade's future? If Wade cannot go in Game 4, this conceivably could have been his final game in a Heat uniform. He heads into free agency as one of the top talents on the market, and there is some doubt about whether he will return to a team that has given him very little help offensively. He has been openly critical of teammate Michael Beasley, who did not show up on Friday night until the fourth quarter. Center Jermaine O'Neal was 1-for-7 in the game and is 5-for-31 in the series. And Udonis Haslem missed a wide-open 10-footer with the score knotted at 98 that would have given Miami the lead. Wade obviously was deeply fatigued as he battled to keep his team in the game against Boston. Heat president Pat Riley has promised to get Wade some help for his future, but it remains to be seen how that plays out.
Why was Pierce not fouled before his game-winner? The Heat had a foul to give when the Celtics inbounded the ball with 11.7 seconds left. Pierce got the ball early in the clock. Dorell Wright, guarding Pierce, could easily have lunged out at Pierce, fouled him and forced the Celtics to start over with only a few seconds left. Instead, Wright guarded Pierce straight up. Worse, Pierce waited until less than three seconds remained to make his move. If he had his eye on the clock, Wright knew Pierce would have to take a jumper. And yet Wright still backed off Pierce and allowed him to get a clean look. "That's a shot I hit a number of times in playoffs and regular season," Pierce said. "I told the coaches, 'Give me the ball on the right side.' I got to my sweet spot, made sure there wasn't any time left and drained it."
Are the Celtics playing possum? Before the playoffs began, the Celtics looked old, worn-out and ready to be broken up. They displayed little of the passion that earned them a world championship two years ago, and their defense was not nearly as stout as it had been. Fast forward a week-and-a-half, and the Celtics join Orlando and Atlanta as the only teams in the first-round not to have dropped a game -- and Boston has played three games where the others have played only two. There certainly are times when the Celtics look weathered; but as Pierce proved on Friday, they are able to do what is necessary to get the win -- one definition of a veteran team.
Why is NBA commissioner David Stern so upset about criticizing the officials? Stern laid down the law during a news conference in Oklahoma City on Thursday night, saying more stringent punishments will be assessed coaches and players who continue to criticize the referees. However, it would not be an issue if the officials did not open themselves up to it. Veteran ref Bennett Salvatore made a ridiculous offensive foul call on Boston point guard Rajon Rondo in the open court on a play in which Wade obviously initiated contact and even more obviously flopped, wiping out a fast-break basket by Allen. A minute later, Boston's Kendrick Perkins got manhandled in the paint and Salvatore looked the other way. Granted, the coaches oftentimes are attempting to gain an edge in the court of public opinion. But if there some semblance of consistency, the topic would not even be an issue.
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