Final, Celtics 100-98: With the news that Rajon Rondo will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL, the Celtics survived a double-overtime thriller against LeBron James and the defending champion Heat. The win snaps a six-game losing streak, which means one thing: This victory is meaningless if it is not followed by a win over Sacramento on Wednesday.
Kevin Garnett had 24 points, while Paul Pierce had 13 rebounds and 10 assists. But the stats did not do justice to a total team victory for a team that has been tantalizingly close to this sort of performance all year.
Double overtime, :05.1, Celtics 100-98: The Celtics must love to toy with people’s emotions. After a stirring defensive stand, Pierce went to the line to assure the Heat cannot win it — and promptly missed the second of two free throws. This is still a game. The Heat will inbound at half court.
Double overtime, :30.4, Celtics 99-98: Where have these Celtics been all year?
Terry faked a three and dribbled to the hoop for a layup to cut it to one point, then Wade missed a gimme at the Heat’s end. As Pierce brought the ball up court, he realized the Heat were not set, so he nailed a jumper over a reeling James for the go-ahead basket.
The Celtics are one strong defensive stand and some free throws away from a huge W.
Double overtime, 1:02, Heat 98-95: James has the Celtics in hot water again. Can Garnett (or somebody else) come through once again?
After a couple of defensive stands and missed shots by Boston, James barrelled to the hoop and drew an and-one layup. He hit the freebie for the extra point, leaving the Celtics to see what they can pull out of their hats.
Double overtime, 2:05, game tied 95-95: Terry is torturing the Boston faithful. He did hit two free throws to open the scoring in the second overtime, but he had a clean look at a huge three that caromed off the back iron. Every shot looks like it might be “the one” that gets him going, but so far, nothing doing.
End of first overtime, game tied 93-93: The Heat might want to get the heck out of here, but Garnett wants to hang around a while. The Big Ticket scored the last two baskets of the first overtime — the last coming with 1:14 to go — to knot the score and once again give the Celtics life.
What a swing of emotions for the Celtics. From losing their point guard minutes before tip-off to losing him for the season, and now to have the defending champs in a double-OT grudge match. Stick around, folks.
Overtime, 1:59, Heat 93-89: The Celtics may have missed a golden opportunity to score a big win in regulation, because James is determined to remind everybody in the extra session that he is the reigning league MVP. After Garnett scored on a runner to tie the game at 89, LeBron drove for a layup and then cleaned up the offensive glass for a putback to put the Celtics in a tough position.
End of regulation, game tied 87-87: The Heat tried to give Allen the walkoff on his old court, but he could not come through. Instead, James stepped around a screen and hit an absurd, off-balance three to knot up the score.
Out of timeouts, the Celtics pushed the ball down the floor and Pierce appeared to get fouled with two seconds left. But the referees only gave the Celtics possession out of bounds and no foul shots. Terry had to take a three under duress and missed. To overtime we go.
Fourth quarter, :21.2, Celtics 87-84: Terry might not have hit many big shots this season, but he came through with two of them when he calmly swished a pair of free throws. At least a 3-pointer cannot win it for Miami.
Fourth quarter, :25.1, Celtics 85-84: Some guy named Ray hit a big shot at the Garden. That is nothing new. But the fact that he did it against the Celtics, not for them, had to leave a bitter taste in his former fans’ mouths.
The Celtics still lead, but it is a tenuous hold. Rivers will try to draw up a play to clinch this thing.
Fourth quarter, :59.9, Celtics 85-81: Although they lost possession on the review, the Celtics intend to win the battle that matters. Garnett, who has quietly scored a team-high 18 points, drilled a 20-footer to extend the Celtics’ lead to two possessions with less than a minute left.
Fourth quarter, 1:49, Celtics 83-81: Inspired defense has turned this game around for the Celtics. Pierce and Terry converged on Wade near the scorer’s table and Wade appeared to lose the ball out of bounds. The ball was awarded to the Celtics, but was immediately reviewed and given back to Miami.
Defensive efforts like that — especially by Pierce and Terry, who have been inconsistent defensively — are good signs for Boston regardless of the outcome.
Fourth quarter, 3:00, Heat 80-79: Rivers apparently has decided to go with what is working. He has not made a substitution in the fourth quarter, opting to stay with Terry and Barbosa over Bradley and Lee, the starters. By controlling Garnett’s minutes earlier in the game, Rivers should be able to go the rest of the way with Garnett. He is asking his guys to dig deep.
Fourth quarter, 5:28, Celtics 77-75: Barbosa giveth and Barbosa taketh away. The Brazilian Blur has been on the floor for many of the Celtics’ biggest runs in this game, but he halted their momentum with a series of bad possessions early in the fourth. Barbosa missed two floaters, then failed to recognize a wide-open Terry on the wing, then committed an offensive foul with a 3-on-2 advantage.
Still, the Celtics are playing inspired ball. This is one of those efforts everyone has suspected they have in them.
Fourth quarter, 8:24, Celtics 73-72: The Heat must reeeeally hate to play the Celtics in Boston. Even without one of their top players, in one of the roughest stretches since the franchise’s fortunes were altered six years ago, the Celtics are giving the Heat all they can handle in the fourth quarter.
Terry, Green and Barbosa have all chipped in during the 9-4 run to begin the fourth, with Garnett anchoring the defense as usual. The loss of Rondo might have left the Celtics injured, but they are far from dead.
End of third quarter, Heat 68-64: This day has to potential to be a pretty bad one for the Celtics. Not only have they lost their All-NBA point guard for the remainder of the year, they are also in danger of falling to a despised conference rival that employs their former All-Star guard. And it would be their seventh straight loss. All around, not a great day for the green.
The way the Celtics look offensively without Rondo is predictable. They fared well for about two and a half quarters, but once the news on Rondo’s ACL was confirmed, all their energy seemed to get sucked out. Something will have to change energy-wise for them to win this game, and a lot will have to change scheme-wise for them to survive long-term without Rondo.
Third quarter, 2:26, Celtics 62-61: Even though their team is currently leading the defending champs late in the third quarter, Celtics fans seem strangely quiet here. That may be because they are all checking their smartphones for the news about their All-Star point guard.
Rondo has a torn ACL in his right knee and will miss the rest of the season, the team has confirmed. This is a crushing blow to the Celtics’ hopes of “turning it around” by the playoffs and contending in the postseason. It is tough to see that happening now without a major deal.
Third quarter, 5:58, Celtics 60-57: The ball always moves in the Celtics’ offense, but when Rondo is leading the show, it moves because he is dribbling it. With Rondo out, the ball is moving because the rest of the Celtics are passing it.
Bradley has benefited from that ball movement with a fastbreak layup and a corner three to help give the Celtics their largest lead since early in the first quarter. The key for the Celtics may be defending consistently. They defend well in spurts but then have moments of complacency, such as when Lee let Wade get behind him for an oop bucket from James.
Third quarter, 8:43, Heat 51-50: As if Rondo’s injury worries were not enough, Pierce just walked off the court tilting to the right in apparent pain after drawing a shooting foul. He stayed in the game to take the foul shots, but any grimace is sure to be watched closely by the Celtics now.
The Celtics’ offense looks stilted, but blaming Rondo’s absence is a bit of a stretch. It’s not like they have looked like a well-oiled machine on offense with Rondo, either.
Halftime, game tied 45-45: The good news for the Celtics is, they have worked their way back from an eight-point deficit to tie the game at the half. The awful, terrible, no-good, very bad news for the Celtics is that Rondo, who jetted over the New England Baptist before the game for an MRI on his right knee, could have a torn ACL, according to some reports.
This is incredibly premature, of course, but if accurate this would be bad news for a team that does not have another true point guard on the roster.
Without Rondo, the Celtics have gone to a defense-begets-offense style that has them leading the Heat in fastbreak points 12-3. Bosh played an outstanding first half with 12 points and six rebounds, leading all players in both categories. The Heat are winning the rebounding battle 22-17 and have owned the offensive glass with nine offensive boards.
Second quarter, 2:46, Heat 40-38: Sullinger dunked, and for some reason Rashard Lewis decided to congratulate him by putting both his arms around his head. Sullinger must not like head-hugs, because he shoved Lewis away angrily.
All sarcasm aside, it was sort of ridiculous that Sullinger got a technical there. What should he do, let Lewis get friendly with his cranium?
Second quarter, 6:58, Heat 33-29: Barbosa can shoot the Celtics out of a lot of games, but to beat the Heat here they may need to role the dice and hope he can shoot them back into this game.
Barbosa contributed a wild scoop shot (which missed) and some uneven defense in his first four minutes of action, but in the last minute he has been Boston’s entire offense. He got to the cup for a layup and then hit a jumper from the wing to pull the Celtics within four points.
Second quarter, 8:52, Heat 31-25: Allen might say coming back to the place he called home for five years does not affect him, but his first free throw said otherwise. The career 89 percent foul shooter bricked the shot badly. He drained his second attempt, but it was obvious he was pressing or felt some jitters or something on that first attempt.
End of first quarter, Heat 26-22: The matchup between Allen and Terry will understandably be in focus, since Terry essentially replaced Allen in many fans’ minds. (This is not the case at all, but the facts seldom get in the way of raw emotion.) Anyway, the early results were inconclusive. Allen hit a baseline floater but then missed a step-back jumper over Leandro Barbosa. Terry is 1-for-3 after hitting his first 3-point attempt.
First quarter, 3:06, Heat 20-15: Allen’s highly anticipated return went better than expected. When a video tribute was shown at the TD Garden, there were a few boos that were eventually drowned out by cheers. But when Allen checked in a few minutes later, the crowd overwhelmingly booed him. As James noted the other day, in this building, if you are not wearing green and white, nobody likes you.
If you are still among those who think Chris Bosh is the Heat’s weak link, welcome to the year 2011. Bosh has been excellent this season and he was pretty damn good last season, too. His midrange jumper is up there with Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki’s as the most automatic in the league by a big man. He has shown it off three times already to help build his game-high 10 points.
First quarter, 5:33, Heat 14-11: As expected, the pace in this game has been playoff-caliber. That is, sloooooooow. Neither of these teams play especially fast-paced ball, so it is unsurprising that the first seven-plus minutes have featured just 23 field goal attempts combined.
With Rondo out, the Celtics assuredly will focus on getting a strong defensive effort from their backcourt. Lee and Bradley are opportunistic scorers, but neither possesses Rondo’s offensive gifts, obviously. That puts a lot more of the scoring load on Pierce and Garnett — and possibly Jason Terry, although Celtics fans are tentative about counting on Terry too much at this point.
12:52 p.m.: Already behind the eight ball, the Celtics’ hopes of beating the Heat just got a lot tougher. Rajon Rondo apparently will miss this game with a hyperextended right knee. He reportedly suffered the injury in Friday’s loss to the Hawks, and did not feel right after going through warm-ups. He is due to get an MRI to make sure there is no structural damage.
Courtney Lee will start in Rondo’s place.
12:26 p.m.: Doc Rivers was raving mad when asked for the billionth time how he feels about Ray Allen signing with the Heat instead of the Celtics last offseason.
Not really. The Celtics coach said, for the umpteenth time, that he was disappointed but realistic about Allen’s choice.
“I thought he should have stayed,” Rivers said. “But I understood. I mean, 80 degrees? As Phil Mickelson would say, no state tax?”
Allen will come off the bench in this game, as he has for all 39 games this season as well as the last four regular-season games and first eight playoff games last year. He is averaging 11.4 points and shooting 44 percent from beyond the arc for the sixth-lowest scoring bench unit in the NBA, at 27.3 points per game.
As for the Celtics, Jared Sullinger will start for the fourth time this season. Rivers has tried to avoid any situation where he does not have either Kevin Garnett or Sullinger on the floor, but Sullinger’s play has warranted having him on the floor with the first unit more often. Brandon Bass, who has scored a total of 12 points in his last four games and is averaging 5.8 points and 3.7 rebounds in January, will come off the bench.
8 a.m. ET: Welcome back, Ray Allen. Or not.
The former Celtics guard should not expect a warm welcome when he makes his first appearance in Boston as a member of the Miami Heat. Celtics fans are still miffed over the way Allen ditched their team for the Heat last summer, and they have been waiting for this opportunity to let him know exactly how they feel.
Judging by how this season has played out so far, though, Allen appears to have made the right decision. The Heat (28-12) have won four straight and are in control of the top spot in the Eastern Conference, while the Celtics (20-23) have lost six in a row. The Celts may have hit bottom on Friday, when they squandered a 27-point lead in a double-overtime loss to the Hawks. Even a win over the Heat should only receive a shrug and a polite clap from the Boston crowd, because one win does not mean much for the Celtics right now — even if it is against the reigning champs.
Join us for updates and analysis from the TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 1 p.m. ET.