Final, Heat 105-103: The streak was on life support there for a while, but the Heat will walk out of TD Garden with their 23rd consecutive victory. They faced a stiff challenge by the Celtics, who led from late in the first quarter until late in the fourth before being outscored 22-7 in the final eight minutes.
Jeff Green’s 43 points went wasted as the Celtics fell to 1-2 against the Heat this season. LeBron James had 37 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds, with 13 of his points coming in the fourth quarter alone.
Fourth quarter, :07.0, Heat 105-103: OK, after a loooooong review, the officials decided they were right the first time and gave the ball back to Boston. Glad we got that cleared up. Here we go.
Fourth quarter, :07.0, Heat 105-103: The play out of the timeout was an iso for Green against Battier at the top of the key. Green beat Battier, but the Duke alum got a hand on the ball and wrestled it out of bounds. At least, we think he did.
Fourth quarter, :10.5, Heat 105-103: Just LeBron being ‘Bron.
After Bass missed a lefty bunny out of the Celtics’ time out, James isolated against Green on the left elbow and rattled home a jumper. Celtics ball.
Fourth quarter, :43.5, game tied 103-103: Another overtime might be in the cards for these teams. James shook off physical defense by Green, and probably an uncalled foul, to tip home his own miss and tie the game. After a miss on their end, the Celtics forced a 24-second violation and have a chance to take the lead.
Fourth quarter, 1:26, Celtics 103-101: The Celtics live. Pierce was double-teamed and found Bradley for a corner three, then Green made an impressive defensive stand against James, forcing the reigning league MVP to miss a layup. The ball bounced out of bounds, appearing to go off James’ leg, but was overturned on review.
Fourth quarter, 2:40, Heat 101-100: The Celtics were not going to keep shooting more than 60 percent all game, and the Heat just needed to wait it out. Now LeBron is being LeBron, Chalmers is hitting open threes in that Steve Kerr/Kenny Smith way that he does, and the Heat are back in the lead.
Fourth quarter, 5:14, Celtics 99-92: Rivers waited a very long time to bring Bradley and Green back in the game, and the Jordan Crawford experiment almost jumped the shark in that time. Right when the Heat narrowed their deficit to four points by way of a Crawford turnover and an ugly end-of-shot-clock possession, Lee drilled a three from the right corner to give Boston some breathing room.
Green and Bradley presumably are headed back in to help the Celtics match up down the stretch.
Fourth quarter, 9:06, Celtics 93-83: One of the easiest signs that Terry feels comfortable is when his pull-up jump shot is falling. When he is in rhythm, it might be the most automatic shot in the game. He has two of them in this fourth quarter out of ball screens, and the Celtics are up by double digits again.
End of third quarter, Celtics 82-78: Chris Andersen made his comeback just in a nick of time for the Celtics. “The Birdman,” who signed on with the Heat on a 10-day contract before becoming permanent, picked up three crucial out-of-control fouls to help Boston protect its lead. Two of them — and over-the-back against and a charge — came against Pierce and his tricky positioning.
By the way, Green now has 38 points, which is as much as James and Wade have combined. If he gets one more bucket before Miami scores, he will have half as many points as the Heat’s entire team. So, yeah.
Third quarter, 2:55, Celtics 75-72: Erik Spoelstra needs to make some sort of adjustment on defense. Throwing Haslem and Andersen to the wolves (i.e. Green) is not working. Green beat Haslem easily for his fourth and-one of the game — tying Miami’s amount of buckets, plus the foul, in this game. (The rest of the Celtics have none.)
The Garden crowd reacted while Green was at the line with a “Jeff-GREEN” chant that could become a new part of the lexicon.
Third quarter, 5:56, Celtics 66-65: Flying around the court on defense has its benefits and risks. The Celtics are forcing the Heat to extend their offense and even forcing the occasional turnover, such as Lee’s poke-away and layup conversion. But it also can come with undue foul trouble, which the Celtics are facing now.
Bass picked up a foul that was probably questionable as he tried to defend Chalmers dribbling around a pick. That gave Bass three personals, making him the third Celtics player with three fouls. Bradley and Terry also have that dangerous trifecta.
Third quarter, 10:18, game tied 59-59: And like that, it’s tied.
The Celtics came out of halftime with none of the vigor they had to start the game, getting a bad shot for Bass and two turnovers on their first three possessions. Meanwhile, Bosh scored on a long jumper, Wade hit a pull-up jumper and then slipped into the lane for a dunk to know it up.
Halftime, Celtics 59-53: The lead is nowhere near as large as it once was, but it is still a lead for the Celtics. That is probably more than a lot of people expected out of them.
Despite giving up 34 points in the second quarter, the Celtics lead the defending champs and owners of a 22-game win streak. The Heat surged back with a huge second frame by James and Wade, who combined for 19 points. James was a perfect 4-for-4 from the field in the quarter as the Heat shot 63 percent as a team.
Still, Green and Pierce are keeping the Heat on their heels. Green has 26 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots. He is 9-of-12 from the field, impressive considering about half of that time he has also had to defend James at the defensive end. Pierce has bounced back from a quiet start to join Green in double figures with 11 points.
The biggest thing to watch for the Celtics might be their foul situation. Everyone except Jordan Crawford has at least two personal fouls, which could be huge if one or two picks up a ticky-tack foul early in the second half. The Celtics are already thin, and losing Garnett puts their backs up against the wall in terms of depth.
Second quarter, 2:50, Celtics 55-42: Rivers loves to say Terry is a competitor on par with Garnett. He must be, because only an ultimate competitor would try to step in and take on James driving unmolested toward the hoop.
Terry was the Brandon Knight-like victim of a ferocious James slam that will make the highlight rounds this week. James stood over Terry, who was part of the Dallas team that downed Miami in the 2011 NBA Finals, to savor the moment. James got a technical foul for the act.
Second quarter, 5:56, Celtics 46-34: If any Celtics fans out there started celebrating early, they might want to un-pop the cork. The Heat are (probably) not going down this easily, and they have already started their climb back.
Wade, who is playing healthy for the first time in two years, helped get things started with back-to-back buckets. Miami has closed the gap to 11 points a couple of times with Green off the court, but the Celtics have managed to answer both times by taking it to the hoop at the other end. Both teams recognize that neither one has a rim-protector, so they are getting into the paint and taking as many shots as possible around the restricted area.
Second quarter, 9:09, Celtics 41-24: The Heat really, really need to talk things over. At this rate, Green might just start dunking from the 3-point line, just for the heck of it.
Green has 22 points on 8-for-10 shooting with more than nine minutes remaining in the first half. He is simply getting a head of steam and barreling toward the cup with abandon when the Heat fail to stop ball, which they are failing to do a lot. When the Heat step back, he is canning jumpers with ease. He is 3-for-4 from beyond the arc, with all three of his makes from the corners. His lone miss is from the right wing.
End of first quarter, Celtics 31-19: Wow. Talk about making a statement. No Rondo, no Sullinger, no Barbosa and now no Garnett was no issue for the Celtics in the first quarter. With Green leading the charge, the Celtics blitzed the Heat right from the jump.
Green finishes the opening quarter with 14 points, just five less than Miami has as a team. The Heat just plain missed shots. The Celtics overcompensated to help whoever was defending against James, and the Heat could not capitalize. They shot 8-for-22 from the field, with Allen missing both of his 3-point attempts badly.
The Pierce-Green combo is giving Miami all sorts of trouble. James can only guard one at a time, and Battier is not athletic enough to keep up with either.
First quarter, 2:17, Celtics 25-19: Going by the logic these Celtics have demonstrated this season, being a man down against the Heat should give the Celtics an unfair advantage.
They are doing it again. With a key player sidelined, the Celtics are off and running against an elite opponent. Green has been gigantic, going for 12 points as he attacks the basket at shoots as calmly as though he were in an empty gym. The Celtics took a 22-19 lead without Pierce ever scoring.
Pierce changed that, though. He fired off a 3-pointer from the corner right over Allen’s outstretched arm to get himself on the scoreboard and give the Celtics their largest lead since they led 6-0 in the opening minutes.
First quarter, 5:55, Heat 16-11: Miami bodies are flying everywhere, even though the Heat are ahead. Bradley shed Bosh on a step-back crossover and Lee juked Chalmers to the ground. Both ankle-breaking moves were completed with made jump shots, which is always the important part.
The Celtics disadvantages and advantages without Garnett are obvious early. Green and Bass bring a much quicker, athletic personality on offense, but both have been caught making rotational gaffes on defense. Green even forgot to pick up James — seriously, that happened — until James had a head of steam and was a step from the hoop for a layup.
7:23 p.m.: Doc Rivers was not optimistic about Kevin Garnett playing when the Big Ticket failed to show for shootaround Monday morning. When Garnett arrived to the arena about 2 1/2 hours before game time, Rivers’ slim hopes evaporated completely.
Garnett looked “terrible,” Rivers said, with an illness that the coach described as a “flu or whatever.” If the big man’s groin were the only thing bothering him, Rivers said he would play. But both the coach and head athletic trainer Ed Lacerte put the kibosh on that early.
With that, Jeff Green moves back into the starting lineup. The Celtics like to “play small,” but they will now be even smaller. If there is any saving grace for them, it is that the Heat like to play small as well. Rivers singled out Chris Bosh, who has been stellar for Miami during their 22-game win streak, for is ability to spread the floor as the de facto center.
The projected starters appear below.
12:00 p.m.: Kevin Garnett did not participate in the team’s shootaround this morning, according to multiple reports. He’s being called a “game-time decision.”
10:00 a.m.: Doc Rivers is calling Garnett “50/50 at best” for tonight’s game, which happens to land on the same date that the Celtics stopped the Rockets’ 22-game streak five years ago.
8 a.m. ET: Kevin Garnett would not miss this one, would he?
Garnett, who sat out Saturday’s game against the Bobcats with a strained muscle in his left thigh, has not said whether he will play Monday. The Celtics (36-29) sure would like him to, since their opponent is none other than LeBron James and the streaking Heat (51-14).
The Heat come into Boston with something to prove, regardless of a 22-game win streak. Remember, the Heat were the first team to fall victim to the Rajon Rondo-less Celtics. Some observers are wondering if the Celtics do not still have a mental edge over James despite last year’s Eastern Conference Finals win.
Join us for updates and analysis from TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 8 p.m. ET.
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