Commentary

A defense to make KG proud

Game plan to stop Wade's supporting cast is working wonders for Celtics

Updated: April 21, 2010, 10:42 AM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- A simple statistical comparison tells the story of the Celtics-Heat series through two games: Dwyane Wade is 22-of-36 shooting (61 percent) for 55 points. His supporting cast is 38-of-118 shooting (32.2 percent) for 98 points.

The Celtics never tried to hide their game plan entering this Eastern Conference first-round series. The strategy all along was to let Wade get his (while doing their best to limit him) and challenge his 11 teammates to beat them.

It hasn't happened. It hasn't even been close.

The Celtics played Game 2 without their emotional leader, Kevin Garnett (one-game suspension), but cranked their defensive intensity to a KG-like level Tuesday night en route to a 106-77 triumph at the TD Garden.

Dwayne Wade
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaThe Celtics focused on stopping Dwyane Wade from doing too much damage, while shutting down his teammates.

"We're trying our best to stop Wade, it just hasn't been working out very well," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "But we absolutely have had a focus on everyone else. Our theory always is that the great players are going to be great. We try to make them shoot a poor percentage -- we've been unsuccessful in that part, but we can't let everybody else beat us as well.

"So we haven't had an adjustment as far as our game plan, but we have focused on everyone else. We've had a lot of focus on Wade, too, but what we don't want to do is be mesmerized by him, and letting everybody else get off."

You can't argue with the results. Miami scored 47 points over the final three quarters of an 85-76 loss to Boston in Game 1, then totaled a mere 37 points midway through the third quarter of Game 2.

Go ahead, dust off those comparisons to the 1985 Bears that were being tossed around like footballs at the beginning of the 2009-10 season. Heck, Boston's defense wasn't even this good at that point.

"I think we were all on the same page [Tuesday]," said Kendrick Perkins. "Guys were helping out and we did a great job on Dwyane Wade for a little bit. He still had [29] points, but we took care of the others."

Not even Wade was safe from Boston's defensive wrath as Miami settled for a measly 10 points in the second quarter. The Heat connected on 4 of 20 attempts (20 percent) and not a single player made more than one field goal in the quarter.

That second quarter also featured an eight-minute scoreless drought by Miami as Boston embarked on a 21-0 run to erase a four-point deficit. It was more of the same in the third quarter as the Celtics posted a 16-0 run in which Miami was held scoreless for nearly five more minutes.

Over a 16-minute span between the middle quarters, the Celtics outscored the Heat 41-8. It was Boston's best defense of the season, and you could just picture Garnett, who said Monday he'd watch the game at the home of Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, jumping out of his recliner each time Boston came up with a stop.

"We love to play defense," said Glen Davis, who drew the start in place of Garnett and shined. "We're playing defense at the great moments."

Wade erupted for 16 of his game-high 29 points in the third quarter, but it was largely irrelevant. One, because his teammates still couldn't hit anything (the supporting cast was 3-of-11 in that third for 10 points), and two, because Boston boasted a 30-point lead when he finally got hot.

"Our focus is always going to be on Wade," said captain Paul Pierce. "But at the same time, we can't let the other guys have big games and that has to be our focus, too. We understand that Wade is such a great player and has been in the big playoff games. He is going to have the ball in his hand 90 percent of the time and he is going to get his looks. It's going to be almost impossible to stop him from getting 20 shots, 30 points, so the key is to limit these other guys.

"We said at the beginning of the game that [they] were probably going to try to get Jermaine O'Neal going early, and Michael Beasley. Those are two guys who are capable of having big games. We really wanted to focus in and slow them down, shut them down."

O'Neal finished with two points on gruesome 1-of-10 shooting, while Beasley chipped in 13 points on 6-of-14 shooting. But considering Boston played without Garnett patrolling around the basket, those numbers were all that much more lackluster.

Udonis Haslem, who could be seen ripping into his teammates midway through the third quarter with Boston out front by 32 points, didn't have many answers for Miami's struggles.

"They played good defense, that's what they're known for," Haslem said of the Celtics. "The bottom line is, even if we don't make shots, we still gotta get stops. Just because we're not making shots, we can't let them come down and do whatever they want offensively."

It seems like a refrain the Celtics were singing just weeks ago as opponents routinely topped 100 points against them.

But here we are on the big stage and Boston is showcasing the defense that made it championship material in 2008, and the type of inspired defense that gave everyone championship aspirations for 2010 at the start of the season.

Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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