Celtics-Heat Game 6 review: LeBron and co. prevail

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Celtics-Heat Game 6 review: LeBron and co. prevail

BOSTON So much for Chris Bosh being an X-factor in Game 6.

Bosh, like most of the Miami Heat players, was more of a decoy as LeBron James carried the day in leading Miami to a 98-79 victory to force a winner-moves-on Game 7 matchup in Miami on Saturday.

Even with James dominating the game in every facet - he had 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists - he understood that by no means was Miami's series-tying victory solely about his off-the-charts performance.

"As an individual you can't do it by yourself," he said. "No matter what my numbers was tonight, nowhere we would have won this game if the other 14 guys weren't in tune and wasn't focused about us trying to win this game."

Among those was Bosh, who is still working his way back into shape after missing nine straight games with an abdominal strain injury.

Game 6 was his second game back.

"Everything is good," Bosh said. "To me, it's all in the mind so i just try to make sure I just keep my mind where it's supposed to be. No matter how I feel, I go out there and give my minutes, play has hard as I can and just worry about everything after the game."

Bosh didn't have as big an impact as expected, but there were a number of other factors not named LeBron Raymone James that played a role in Boston's loss. Here's how some of those keys identified earlier, actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Keeping Dwyane Wade in check in the first half has been a huge factor in Boston being in control of this series. He's averaging 22 points per game in the Conference finals, but only 5.8 of those points has come in the first half. More significant, he's connecting on just 27.5 percent of his shots in the first half, shooting 40 percent or less in every game thus far.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston continued to keep Wade bottled up in the first half of games, limiting him to just six points on 1-of-6 shooting. But Wade continued to be at his best in the second half, scoring eight of his 17 points in the fourth quarter.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs. Chris Bosh: For the first time in the postseason, Kevin Garnett will not have a decisive advantage at the center position. In many ways, Garnett will have to deal with a mirror-image of himself in Bosh only younger. Both will score points, but the edge will go to which player does a better rebounding the ball.
WHAT WE SAW: For whatever reason, Garnett - like the rest of the Celtics - simply didn't have it going on in Game 6. He scored just 12 points - his lowest scoring game in this series. As for Bosh, he came off the Heat bench and scored seven points to go with six rebounds in just over 28 minutes.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Three-time league MVP LeBron James is a must-see every game, but he's especially eye-grabbing in elimination games for all the wrong reasons. Between his years in Cleveland and Miami, James has been in eight elimination games and has emerged victorious just two times. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, James has averaged just 24.3 points in his last three elimination games. Not only are those numbers down from what he usually does scoring-wise in the playoffs, but those last three games? They all ended with James' team losing.

WHAT WE SAW: LeBron James was on a level that reduced the Boston Celtics to nothing but witnesses to his greatness. He had a blistering 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in what will be remembered for years to come as one of the all-time great individual playoff performances. "He was absolutely fearless tonight," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "And it was contagious."

STAT TO TRACK: Bench play tends to pick up at home, which bodes well for a Celtics' second unit that is coming off its first game in this series in which they outscored their Heat backup brethren, 19-16. Between Mickael Pietrus and Keyon Dooling, the C's defensive duo has stepped up their game offensively by averaging 13 points off the bench in the Celtics last two games.

WHAT WE SAW: It was a low-energy night for the Celtics, bench players included. While they outscored their Heat brethren 15-13, most of those points came when the game was out of reach. "They outplayed us in every category," said Celtics guard Keyon Dooling. "Bottom line."

Al Horford makes his mark on Celtics win with defense

Al Horford makes his mark on Celtics win with defense

BOSTON – Al Horford had the kind of game that stands out because of the way he scored from so many different spots on the floor. 

But the true measure of his value to this team usually lies in what he brings to the floor defensively. 

Horford had one of his better games defensively in Boston’s 97-92 win over Sacramento on Friday, a game in which he had a season-high six blocked shots. 

For the season, the four-time All-Star is averaging a career-high 2.9 blocks per game.

He’ll be looking to do more of the same tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers. 

While Philly doesn’t have a player as dominant and difficult to contain as DeMarcus Cousins, their top post player Joel Embiid has been impressive even with a minutes restriction after having missed the last two seasons with injuries and recovery. 

Against Sacramento, he had a season-high six blocked shots which was one short of tying his career high which came against the Kings during the 2010-2011 season. 

Although Horford has ranked among the NBA’s top big men when it comes to blocking shots, the Celtics knew when they signed him to a four-year, $113 million contract they were adding a player who could help with rim protection. 

The biggest play in the Celtics’ win over Sacramento came in the closing seconds when Horford was credited with blocking DeMarcus Cousins’ shot. Horford was fouled and went to the line and made his free throws to secure the victory. 

“Playing at the power forward position it really frees me up defensively,” Horford said. “I feel like I can run around a little more and have more impact. When you are a center a lot of the times you get caught up with the bigs and it’s a little harder to get out to shooters and stuff. I’m just trying to be active, as active as I can.”

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas who was among the Green Teamers to recruit Horford to sign with Boston, seeing him protect the rim the way he did on Friday was no surprise.

“We’ve always known when we recruited him we knew that was what he was good at,” Thomas said. “Even if he doesn’t block shots, he alters shots and changes them. He’s a hell of a player on both ends of the floor and he played a hell of a game (on Friday).”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens likes what he sees out of Horford defensively, especially now that he plays for Boston and not Atlanta which eliminated the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs last season. 

“He was terrific in our series,” Stevens said. “Terrific. And so, playing him 10 times last year, and so, I mean, I think I’m an idiot but after 10 times I had at least an idea. You know, he’s all over the place and he covers a lot of ground, he calls out calls, and I think he’s a competitive guy. And that proof is in his winning track record.”