Heat Vs. Celtics, Game 1: Dwyane Wade Warms Up, And Boston Melts Down

Dwyane Wade went 14-21 from the field and finished with 38 points to lead the Miami Heat, and almost single-handedly beat the Boston Celtics in Game 1. Boston didn't help itself, either, and when the dust settled, a nine-point loss was actually a little bit generous.

That was the story in Game 1. For Miami, it was Wade's breakout performance that sealed the win. Every time Boston thought about making a run, Dwyane Wade stepped in to nail a clutch jumper and send the Celtics crashing back to earth. LeBron James had 22 points, six rebounds, and five assists of his own, and it helped the set the stage for Wade. With Boston focused so much on stopping LeBron, Wade could explode on his own.

Wasn't that always the plan for them? That on any given night, either Wade or LeBron would hit that extra gear, and other teams would just have to pick their poison? The conventional wisdom went something like, "You can't stop either of them, you can only hope to contain one of them."

And on Sunday, in the biggest game of the Heat's season to date, that's exactly how it worked. LeBron played the quiet distributor while Wade played assassin, and the Celtics had no answer.

Of course, that was as much a testament to Boston's dysfunction as it was to Miami's suddenly well-oiled machine. Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett were pretty much invisible for the Celtics, and with Paul Pierce spending most of the game tangling with LeBron James, that left the Celtics to rely solely on Ray Allen for scoring. Boston has no chance in that scenario.

Which brings us to the silver lining for Boston... The Celtics couldn't have played worse in Game 1, and yet, even with Wade hitting on all cylinders and James Jones chipping in 25 points for the Heat, the Celtics still kept it relatively close. So, look at this way: if you assume Rondo and Garnett will bounce back by Game 2, and you also assume James Jones and Wade will cool off for the Heat, then it's not unreasonable to think things could be a lot closer next time.

All of which sets the stage for Game 2. The Heat now know they can beat the Celtics, and have more confidence than ever. Meanwhile, even as Miami dominated and Boston's superstars played a nightmare of a Game 1, and the Celtics still only lost by 9 points. Not exactly humiliating.

So both teams have reason to be confident after Game 1. And going into a crucial Game 2 that could be a turning point in the biggest playoff series in the NBA right now? For the fans, that's a major victory.

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