There are a lot of reasons the Miami Heat lost to the Boston Celtics Tuesday night in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, putting the team down 3-2 heading back to Boston for a potential series clincher. Dwyane Wade got going too late, our role players can’t live up to their roles, Chris Bosh’s torn tummy, Paul Pierce’s unlikely tre in Lebron James’ face, Eric Spoelstra’s questionable coaching, the Heat weren’t getting back on defense late in the game (even after scoring!), and my leading candidate: the Heat’s lack of identity, a debilitating weakness when the going gets playoff tough and a problem that the Celtics clearly don’t have.
But with a lot of blame to go around, let’s not forget the role that luck — bad luck — played in Game 5. I’m thinking particularly of Mickael Pietrus’ two late-game threes, both of which he shot while wide open, not because of bad defense on the Heat’s part but because of great defense on the Heat’s part. The first one (see video above) came after Wade’s incredible block on the much bigger Brandon Bass. Not to take anything away from Rajon Rondo, who tipped the loose ball out to Pietrus, or from Pietrus, who still had to hit the shot, but the best play in that series was Wade’s block on a guy four inches taller and 30 pounds heavier who was squared up for a ferocious dunk. The Heat were up six points, on a nine-point run, and looked to be running away with the game. Pietrus’ three, the windfall of a pinball-machine moment, breathed life back into the Celtics and, apparently, took something out of the Heat.
Pietrus’ second wide-open three (see video above) came with just over two minutes left in the game and the Heat up by one point. This time a loose ball — again the result of scrappy Heat defense — bounced out to Pierce, who swung it to Pietrus for the uncontested shot. Again, the Celtics deserve credit for fighting for the ball and making the most of the opportunity, but the play could have easily gone our way, could have even resulted in a fast-break for the Heat. But it didn’t. The ball bounced in the Celtics’ favor and we lost the lead and, ultimately, the game.
The Heat had chances to win Game 5 after Pietrus’ second three — don’t get me wrong, the Celtics earned their victory. But the vicissitudes of the game, the dark magic of the Basketball Gods, worked against the Heat Tuesday night, and that has to be factored in to any full assessment of the heartbreaking loss.