Final, Heat 115-107: The Celtics played like the inexperienced team in the final two minutes, while a rookie guard out of Cleveland State played like a guy who's been there a million times before.
Norris Cole scored 20 points — 13 in the fourth quarter — to enable the Heat to hold off a late Celtics charge in a 115-107 Boston loss.
The defeat marks the Celtics' second loss in two games this season, both coming after wiping out double-digit second-half deficits. Keyon Dooling was a major player in Boston's comeback, scoring seven straight Celtics points in one stretch and shooting 4 of 6 from 3-point range. Dooling finished with 18 points.
Ray Allen led the Celtics with 28 points, helped by his 6-for-8 mark from long range. Rajon Rondo had another strong game with 22 points and 12 assists.
For 36 minutes, the Celtics simply had no answer for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, who combined for 50 points, 13 assists, four steals and five blocks (with five of those coming from Wade).
For the final 12 minutes, the Celtics had no answer for Cole.
Fourth quarter, :59.6, Heat 112-107: It's Norris Cole's world. Bass buried a jumper to briefly pull the Celtics back within three, but Cole answered, of course, with a jumper to make the Heat's lead two possessions again.
Fourth quarter, 1:31, Heat 110-105: Dumb, dumb, dumb pass by Rondo. The Celtics made a defensive stop and had a chance to tie, but Rondo threw a terrible full-court pass that was easily intercepted by Wade.
The ball went to James, who found the Heat's hero: Cole. Predictably, he put home the jumper for his 16th point and Rivers takes his last full timeout.
Fourth quarter, 2:02, Heat 108-105: Keyon Dooling refuses to let the Celtics lose.
Dooling, who now has 18 points, has scored seven straight Boston points to make it a one-possession game. His 3 from the corner snapped the net and elicited a timeout from Miami's bench.
A creative call created a positive situation for the Celtics. Dooling drove the lane, ran over Haslem and passed to Garnett for a dunk, but James was called for a foul, supposedly for pushing Dooling from behind.
Dooling hit both free throws, so that helped, and then drew a foul on a loose ball and hit two more.
Fourth quarter, 3:01, Heat 108-98: Huge call of a player control foul on Bass gives the ball back to the Heat. Norris Cole, the rookie guard who drew that offensive foul — although on the replays it looks like Cole was moving when he collided with bass — delivers what could be the dagger on the other end by drilling a jump shot.
As I predicted, this game would come down to a big shot by Norris Cole. Go ahead and scroll down. It's there somewhere. You just have to look hard. Real hard.
Fourth quarter, 3:24, Heat 106-98: For a moment there, things got mighty interesting.
A baby hook by Garnett and a floater of the glass by Rondo pulled Boston within seven, but Bass double-clutched on a jump shot and James came back with a layup to push the Heat's lead back to nine.
Bass grabbed an offensive rebound on an Allen miss, but only converted one of the two foul shots.
Fourth quarter, 6:00, Heat 102-93: Wade is an outstanding shot-blocker, but when you look at the boxscore on Wednesday, don't think the Celtics didn't have a lot to do with his blocks total. The Celtics have been late in delivering passes into the post, particularly from their bigs in the high post, and that has helped Wade recover in time to swat the shots.
That was the case on Dooling's layup, which was piked off the glass by Wade.
Allen nestled home another 3 — his sixth of the game in eight attempts — and Bass finally has worked his way into the flow of the offense with 10 points, but it may be too late.
Fourth quarter, 9:38, 98-85: As soon as the Celtics seem to get James and Wade under control, Norris Cole and Shane Battier step up.
Cole knocked down a pair of jump shots and Battier funneled in a corner 3, putting the Heat back up by a healthy margin.
Dooling finally missed a 3-point attempt, and now the deficit doesn't look so manageable anymore.
End third, Heat 91-83: On the scoreboard, the Celtics appear to still be in this game, but it looked like the Heat were coasting through the final minutes of the third quarter.
Bass went up aggressively for a dunk on a no-look pass from Dooling and drew a foul on James, with Udonis Haslem poking the ball away. Haslem and Bass started yapping a bit, and Dooling stepped in to continue the conversation with Haslem. Dooling has hit all three of his 3-point attempts, and he's helped spark the C's with Allen on the bench.
Bass dropped one of two free throws, and if the Celtics can string together a few defensive stops (and that's a big if), they may be able to make this interesting in the final quarter.
Third quarter, :27.7, Heat 90-82: Daniels committed foul No. 5 and had to be subbed out. He hasn't played a bad game, scoring nine points on 4-for-8 shooting with two steals, but those five fouls have prevented him from contributing anything of consequence.
Bass, who broke out with 20 points in the season opener, has been invisible. He has four points and was blocked badly by James on a dunk attempt, then short-armed a short fall-away in the post.
This is only an eight-point game, but it seems like double that. Plus, that late flight to New Orleans probably looks less and less inviting.
Third quarter, 4:23, Heat 89-74: Allen knocked down another 3, giving him five makes for the game, but the Heat just can't miss.
They are now shooting 70 percent from the field, hitting 32 of 46 attempts. As mentioned, the Celtics are shooting 11-of-15 (73 percent) from the foul line. Boston has not attempted a free throw since halftime.
It should be fun to watch this stat and see if the Heat's field goal percentage surpasses the Celtics' free throw percentage at any point in this game because, honestly, that's about all that remains fun in this game.
Third quarter, 7:02, Heat 81-65: Rivers was reluctant to call a timeout when the Heat were streaking early, but he wasn't shy about taking one after a reverse layup by Wade and a jump shot by James pushed the Heat's lead to 16 points.
This is getting away from the Celtics fast, and no matter how many 3's Allen might hit, a comeback won't happen if Boston can't keep the Heat from scoring at will.
Fun fact: The Heat are shooting almost as well from the field (68 percent) as the Celtics are shooting from the foul line (73 percent).
Third quarter, 7:30, Heat 77-65: Allen is still the Celtics' best offensive player in this game, but even he can't do much to slow down Wade.
Wade quickly scored another basket and dealt another assist, and although a 3 by Rondo pulled the Celtics back within a dozen, Wade's play has the Heat clearly in control of the game.
Halftime, Heat 69-54: Wade and James have been electrifying, Allen has had a hot hand, but the story of the first half is the free throw disparity.
The Heat have 24 free throw attempts to the Celtics' 15. Miami is 18-of-24 and Boston is 11-of-15, and those seven points are the difference between a manageable deficit and a blowout so far.
This isn't a complaint about the officiating. There really hasn't been a single questionable call. The Heat are simply faster and more aggressive close to the rim, as illustrated by their 66 percent shooting on field goals. They're getting quality shots and either scoring of forcing the Celtics to foul.
Now, the good, the bad and the so-so.
The Good: Ray Allen, who is 4-for-5 from downtown and 4-for-4 from the foul line. He leads the Celtics with 18 points in 18:26. … LeBron James, who is tied for the Heat lead with 15 points in 17:38. He's missed just two of his seven shots and is 5-of-6 from the line. … Chris Bosh gets a lot of criticism, but he is one of the most solid big men in the game. The Georgia Tech product has a valuable stat line of 10 points, six rebounds and a strong finish off a pick-and-roll with James. … Wade is unstoppable. He shares the team-high of 15 points with James, but also has three assists, three blocked shots and a steal.
The Bad: Not to beat a dead horse, but Sasha Pavlovic keeps struggling. He's played 8:13 and scored three points, but he has three fouls and two turnovers, and put up an unsightly airball while being defended by Wade. … Marquis Daniels has four fouls in 12:35 and has three of his shots blocked.
The So-so: Rajon Rondo has 12 points, but they have come on 3-for-6 shooting and 6-of-10 from the foul line.
Second quarter, 1:00, Heat 66-51: James and Wade are too much.
Try to follow this: After a turnover by Dooling, James tries to throw an oop to Wade, who can't hit the layup. But James swoops in to put in the miss. Then, following a bad shot by Garnett, Wade draws the defense on the break and dishes to James for a flying layup.
Miami is quickly back up 15 and Boston does not look to have the speed to keep up with the Heat.
Second quarter, 2:25, Heat 59-49: This might all be futile, but Ray Allen's not letting up yet.
Ray-Ray knocked down a pair of 3's sandwiched around finding Dooling in the corner for another 3, and the Celtics got back within 10 points just like that. The Heat called timeout to mull it over, a contrast to how Rivers handled the Heat's previous runs, which was to force his players to play and figure it out.
Allen is now 4-for-5 on 3-point attempts.
Second quarter, 3:39, Heat 57-40: The Heat are showing why so many prognosticators predict they will run away with the title this season.
Just after Allen hit his second 3-pointer and looked to be heating up a bit, James Jones responds with a 3-ball, Daniels airballs and baby hook shot and Allen fumbles the ball out of bounds.
Another Jones trey stretches the Heat's lead to 17 and the C's are in trouble.
Second quarter, 5:53, Heat 51-36: When people talk about what sets Wade apart from most high-scoring combo guards, the facet that should come up is his shot-blocking. Wade has blocked three shots — including a two-handed dunk attempt by Allen — and bothered at least three others. The Heat big men might not be prototypical shot-blockers, but when they have a 6-foot-4 guy who can protect the rim, it covers up a lot of shortcomings.
Second quarter, 9:00, Heat 38-29: Twice Daniels got blocked by Wade, first on a jump shot and then on a backdoor layup. Somebody tell 'Quis to pump fake.
Every Celtic other than Rondo continues to look slow against opposing guards. Cole played the role of Toney Douglas/Iman Shumpert, zipping right past Allen for a layup. Wade then spun past Garnett to finger-roll a layup, but we can't hold that against him. It is D-Wade, after all.
Pavlovic catches the ball in the corner and travels. When it rains, it pours.
End first, Heat 30-27: The second unit of Bass, Daniels, Wilcox, Dooling and Bradley brings a lot of energy, but the continuity just isn't there when they're on the court.
On a series of possessions, they gave up a wide-open dunk by Juwan Howard on an assist from James, left Norris Cole open for a 3 and were beaten to the hoop twice — one was saved by Bass blocking a shot, another with bass committing a foul.
Still, they are able to amp it up enough against James and Miami's bench mob to keep the game close after one quarter.
First quarter, 3:05, Heat 26-22: Daniels and Rondo contributed a couple of nice defensive plays to snuff out Heat chances.
First Daniels came up with the ball in a scrum that was forced by trapping James on the baseline, then Rondo drew a charge on Chalmers to nullify a fastbreak dunk by James.
Daniels drops an elbow jumper to get the Celtics a smidgen closer.
First quarter, 4:20, Heat 26-20: Nobody in Boston is going to blame Marquis Daniels for his ill-timed foul on Carmelo Anthony in New York (I've yet to see a replay that doesn't look like it was all ball), but he is developing a tendency to commit some bad fouls at bad times.
Daniels checked in for Pavlovic and matched up with James, who draws two fouls on Daniels in a seven-second span.
OK, so it's hard to cover James, but Daniels can't help the Celtics if he's constantly in foul trouble.
Rondo the scorer is back in the building, attacking the basket on successive possessions and converting both layup attempts. He then takes a turnover all the way for a layup to cut the Heat's lead to a half-dozen. He drew a technical foul on the second basket, however, for complaining to the official for a foul.
First quarter, 6:49, Heat 18-11: Pavlovic is having a rough couple of games so far.
He swished a 3-pointer, so that was positive, but then attempted an ill-advised cross-court pass that James picked off with one hand and finished with an easy dunk. Then Pavlovic let James beat him down the floor and had to foul James to keep him from catching an outlet pass for another dunk.
The Celtics are having another tentative start, and for the second straight game it appears that trouble integrating the new players is partly to blame.
First quarter, 8:30, 9-6 Heat: The Celtics immediately showed a wrinkle they haven't used much lately by curling Allen off a screen in the post for a layup attempt. Allen was fouled on the shot and only got one free throw to go down, but that does break of the predictability of Allen constantly cutting off screens on the wing.
Speaking of predictable, the Heat continue to run one of the most monotonous offenses in the league. It seems like two-thirds of their plays are just pick-and-rolls involving James and Wade — but it doesn't matter if you know it's coming if you still can't stop it. They got an easy layup for Anthony on a screen-and-roll for their second basket.
8:03 p.m.: The benches will bear watching in this game. In their two-point loss to the Knicks on Sunday, the Celtics' bench outscored the Knicks' bench, 32-15. That was helped in large part by reserve forward Brandon Bass, who scored 20 points and tied Ray Allen as Boston's second-highest scorer in that game.
The benches barely came into play in the Heat's 105-94 victory over the Mavericks on Sunday, but thanks to Jason Terry's 23 points off the bench, the Mavs reserves outscored Miami's, 47-29.
All the Celtics need to do, then, is keep James and Wade from scoring 37 and 26 points, respectively. Simple.
7:33 p.m.: Those Sasha Pavlovic jerseys will be relevant for at least one more game.
The Montenegrin swingman is expected to start again for Paul Pierce, who is doubtful with a bone bruise in his right heel.
The probable starting lineup is unchanged from Sunday, when Pavlovic started and recorded no points and committed four personal fouls in 15 minutes of action.
Here are the probable starters:
8 a.m.: The Celtics post their second marquee matchup in as many games when they travel to Miami on Tuesday to face LeBron James and the Heat.
The Heat cruised to a 105-94 win Sunday over the Mavericks in an NBA Finals rematch, and after falling short of their championship aspirations last season, James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are again the favorites to win it all. The Celtics would like to think they still stand in Miami's way, but with Paul Pierce still unlikely to play with a sore right heel, it will be difficult for either team to judge just how they'll match up.
Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. from American Airlines Arena. Check back here for updates throughout the game.