James never got into the flow of the game, so he dug a canal. He pounded the boards, worked hard as a screener for Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers, and fought his way to the line when the shots wouldn't go. He had a crucial defensive error at the end of regulation, but he had a big tip-in to tie it, then fed Udonis Haslem in transition to give the Heat the lead for good.
Did you see what the C's had in store for Wade? They sent a second body at him early, luring Wade into all kinds of ill-advised shots. Those same shots went down at the start of the second half, as Wade gradually unlocked the vise, attacked and began to play off James & Co. His drive off of James' pick in overtime for the and-1 was the climax of Game 2.
When Chalmers drains open shots and penetrates when there are opportunities, the Heat are tough to beat. Chalmers did all those things in the first half, and kept things close with two big 3-pointers before the break. He's still not the world's most reliable decision-maker, but his aggressiveness helped the Heat while Wade was struggling.
Initially, the Heat followed their usual strategy of yielding swaths of space to Rondo. The result was "abomination," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. Rondo scored 22 before intermission, including five jumpers. After the half, the Heat varied their coverages, threw James at him and switched out on pick-and-rolls. Rondo still went off for a career high of 44, but the worst was over.
When all is written about Rajon Rondo, there will be a full chapter of Game 2 of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals and his 44-8-10 performance. With Rondo pressuring the Heat's defense, the Celtics generated a steady stream of good shots from their most reliable stuff. This was the game for the Celtics to steal, and it doesn't bode well that they didn't.