The NBA’s MVP played like one in the first half. The NBA’s most veteran team stole away the second. Where does this leave the rest of the Eastern Conference Finals? Look, after how quickly the Thunder came back against the Spurs in the West, and now with Boston still winning in the East, you can’t blame us for being a little hesitant to answer the last question. But here’s what we have to say about last night, a game that was LeBron James’ (30 points, 13 boards) and Paul Pierce‘s (19 points) late. And we’re not saying “Good job! Good effort!” like that pre-pubescent Miami fan. Some teams can dig themselves out of holes, whether it’s a game or a whole series, like the Celtics have to take a 3-2 lead after a 94-90 win. Some players can get out of slumps better than others, too, and last night it was Pierce. He was just 5-of-18 from the floor when he pulled the trigger on a perfect three to put the Celts up by four under a minute to play. That was ballgame on a matchup built on the weird night of Rajon Rondo (doing everything with 13 assists despite five TOs and 3-of-15 shooting) and solid play of Kevin Garnett , who snarled his way to 26 and 11. … We think the term gut-check would apply to this performance but that seems only to be the case when it’s the first time a team earns its credentials. Boston’ gut-check was in 2008. Now, it’s just fascinating to watch a group of assured players tackle a game where they’re not the most athletic. Sometimes, they’re barely as cohesive a group as Miami, but they almost always work through the kinks. … LeBron is arguably the best big player since Magic Johnson at facilitating. His oop to Dwyane Wade (27 points, six dimes) was another sign of that early in Game 5. The criticism’s that he’s too deferential since he arrived in Miami. That changed sharply on Tuesday, with him getting 18 points, nine boards and a chasedown block all in the first half. He was hungry, and ran after anything that came his way and chased the things that didn’t. Then it faded, not just for him but for the team in a crucial stretch. It was a bad way to close the third quarter for Miami by going 1-for-10 from the field. The only positive was that hey, they were still within two possessions of taking the lead. This was the case in Game 1, where Boston folded after being tight at half. This time Miami started taking the ball far from the hoop and taking perimeter shots, while the Celtics were throwing over the top to KG. The Heat felt the tide was going out on the game in the fourth and we saw the energy switch. But like a South Beach crowd, being a late arrival to the second-half party won’t get you a good seat. Wade’s ridiculous double-pump clutch layup and a three by ‘Bron had them to within one point before Pierce became The Truth again. He was not going to be taken off the floor this time by his own hand. Instead, he’d wipe out Miami. … There was a stretch early in the second where Mike Miller took a charge, then got leveled for a foul by Ray Allen (13 points). It just wasn’t easy to watch him get up from that one. We weren’t sure but we thought we saw a priest in the tunnel in case he needed to be read last rites. We’re not surprised he only played 11 minutes and scored three points. … Hit the jump to read about how effective Chris Bosh was.
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