BOSTON — It may not have appeared on the stat sheet. But it was clear to the eye and clear on the face of Miami superstar Dwyane Wade.
When it mattered most, the Celtics did what most thought they could not, and what had to be done to take the series. They slowed down D-Wade.
"Our defensive presence was just there," said Celtics forward Glen "Big Baby" Davis. "In Game 4 we kind of backed off a little and D-Wade had a big game. One of the main reasons we closed this out is because of the defense, and maintaining people around D-Wade. D-Wade is a great player."
The Celtics may not have shut down the Heat guard — he posted a game-high 31 points. But, after he erupted for a stunning 46 in Miami's win on Sunday, the C's were not going to allow Wade to beat them single-handedly again.
"I felt like we were getting better defensively as a team in the final 10 games of the season," said Celtics forward Kevin Garnett. "We are finally getting back to what we know. And, regardless of D-Wade's numbers, I thought we were very solid in what we wanted to do against him."
Primarily guarded by veteran guard Ray Allen, Wade struggled to find a comfort level with his shot. Entering the game with a .605 field goal percentage (52 for 86) in the series, Wade shot just 10 for 24 last night (.417), including 3 for 8 on 3-pointers.
Frequently drawing a second defender to help Allen, Wade's frustration seemed to grow in the second half. He shot 6 of 13 after the break. By comparison, Allen was 7 of 9 in the last two quarters including 5 of 6 from behind the arc.
Wade, who committed four turnovers in the game's final 13 minutes, even struggled on his trademark drives to the basket. On one drive he was rejected by Celtics center Kendrick Perkins, and on another Davis stepped in front of him to take a charge.
"We said at halftime we'd like to see someone take a charge on Wade in this series," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "And Baby did that, and he kind off stood up and pointed to the bench."
Again without a teammate able to lighten the load, Wade was forced into difficult looks, and the frustration was clear both as the game ended and in the postgame press conference.
"In the first four games, Wade kind of did what he wanted," said Celtics captain Paul Pierce. ... Great players aren't going to give up, they're going to try to take over a game. But we came out and played on defense."
Tempers already famously flared in Game 1 of the series between Kevin Garnett and the Heat's Quentin Richardson, resulting in a suspension for KG.
And the Celtics big man felt like the Miami forward was working to instigate more trouble last night.
"A little bit, a little bit," said Garnett. "I've been around a lot of dirty or cheap-shot guys so I understand the game. I've seen a little bit of everything. I've been around for 15 years, so he isn't anything to kill on the block. (Rajon) Rondo got into an altercation and all, but for the most part we kept our heads in the game and kept it moving.''
Time to get ill
Rondo struggled to shake more than just defenders in the first round playoff series. He spent the entire series battling illness.
"He was sick," said Rivers. "He felt awful. So I just played him the whole game. He was terrific. When the Heat made their run, we had great shooters on the court, but not a facilitator. So we want back to Rondo and he played very well."
Rondo didn't look sick last night, tallying 16 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds in 44:10. Only Pierce and Wade were on the court longer.
Finishing the job
It's no secret the Celtics have struggled to close out playoff series in the new Big 3 era. Boston went to a Game 7 in both of its playoff series last year, and in their title run of two years ago, the Celtics twice went to a Game 7 and needed six games each in the other two series.
"I don't know what this feels like," joked Rivers. "I'm not used to only needing five games. It's nice to take care of business and that was great. And we get a day off."
Pierce was equally as thrilled to avoid a lengthy series and move on to face Cleveland.
"It feels good to finally be able to close out a team early. We wish we could have done it in four (games). I thought we really saw the sense of urgency throughout the whole series and I am happy with the win."
Standing his ground
Big Baby Davis drew raves for the charge he took on Wade last night. But it is a growing talent for the big man.
"Baby's great at taking charges," said Ray Allen. "It should be a stat because that can be such a big boost."
More than ever in this series, Davis has shown an impressive ability to draw offensive fouls under the basket.
"That's his job," said Rivers. "He can't block shots, because you may have noticed Glen isn't a leaper. If you can't block shots, then you have to block the basket with your body. Glen has done that well. It's not flopping because you get the flops when you're away from the basket. There isn't a lot of flopping when a guy's flying through the air and running into your body."
While it has become a forte for Davis, don't expect to see Allen taking many charges anytime soon.
"I'm a little jaded," he joked. "In my first year in the league, (former NBA tough guy) Otis Thorpe came down the lane at 100 miles per hour and put his knee in my chest. Taking charges is a talent."