BOSTON -- The Celtics showed a killer instinct that had been lacking for much of this season by beating Miami 96-86 in Game 5 Tuesday, enabling them to begin preparing for a second-round series with Cleveland.
This was an excellent matchup for the Celtics against a team they've now beaten seven of eight games this season, but Boston was most concerned with improving its team defense while working the ball inside. Over these five games, Miami was held to 43.5 percent shooting while Pierce returned to driving the ball to the basket. This wasn't a championship performance, but it was the kind of postseason start this team needed in hope of continuing to grow sharper in the round(s) ahead.
"The first two games I thought it was the old Celtics defensively, it was absolutely wonderful to see," said Boston coach
"Once we went up 19 we got real casual and then Chalmers hit two threes, Wade hit two threes and now they're back on the ballgame," said
The absence of a backup point guard was emphasized by Rivers's decision to play Rondo 44 minutes in spite of the flu. "He's sick. He said before the game he felt awful," said Rivers, who lapsed into a joke. "So whenever he does that I just play him the whole game. I figure, punish him.
"But he was terrific. We needed him on the floor. You know, when they made their run and they tried to go zone [in the third quarter], we put shooters on the floor but then we didn't have a facilitator. So that's when we went back to Rondo and he got guys the ball in the right spot."
The Heat could seek an offseason trade for Beasley -- who admitted to playing "terribly this series" -- in order to clear space for two max contracts in addition to Wade's. "I was going to put him back in in the third," said Spoelstra. "Every time I was about to put him in we started to creep back in. That's not really an indictment on how he was playing or an indication of how I felt about him."
Though Wade is expected to return to Miami, he was in no mood to make promises after averaging 33.2 points over a five-game loss. "I can't predict the future," he said. "I'm a good sportsman, but I don't take losing well. So it's going to take a while to get over this, and then start pondering my future ... This will be my last first-round exit for a while, I can tell you that."