Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett rested, but it looked for a while that Green and the Celtics would make things interesting. Then Green went down with an injured left elbow after dunking over Chris Andersen in the fourth quarter, and the concern with this one game turned to the status of Green’s arm.
Green led all scorers with 25 points and added eight rebounds, while Lee came through with 18 points thanks to a 13-point fourth quarter. Crawford checked in with an even 20, coming one point shy of his Boston high set back in March in Memphis.
LeBron James finished up with 20 points, nine assists and six rebounds as the Heat beat the Celtics for the third time in four meetings this season.
Fourth quarter, 3:30, Heat 99-90: The Celtics are trying to make a late run, but a technical foul on Terry will not help. Terry disputed a foul he was whistled for while defending Allen, and Rivers came close to getting one of his own by coming onto the court to argue the call as well.
Fourth quarter, 6:00, Heat 97-81: The official word is that Green has a bruised left elbow. He was sliding on a black compression sleeve on the bench and “may” return, but that does not seem likely or necessary. His presence will not make much difference in this one.
Allen drilled another shot — although he did finally miss one before that — to give Miami a 16-point edge. The sellout crowd at American Airlines Arena probably can safely make their way to the exits and out to the strip.
Fourth quarter, 8:28, Heat 93-79: The Celtics are showing their scrappiness by making the Heat sweat a bit, but there is some bad news for Boston. Green appeared to hurt his left hand when he was undercut by Andersen on a Statue of Liberty dunk, and he went up and down the floor three times cradling his hand or arm.
Curiously, Rivers never called timeout to get Green’s arm looked at. He waited until Terry was called for a traveling violation for Green to get medical attention.
End of third quarter, Heat 87-75: Green has flourished this season when Pierce and/or Garnett has not played, and he is at the top of his game again. With 23 points and eight rebounds, Green is helping the Celtics keep just close enough to be a threat.
Bass is also posting a strong game with 14 points on 5-for-6 shooting, but old friend Allen has yet to miss. Allen has 11 points off the bench for Miami, nailing all four shots he has taken.
The Celtics have shown some pride by sticking around with the Heat, despite missing some big names. The next 12 minutes will show if this is just a moral victory or an actual one.
Third quarter, 7:07, Heat 72-60: Now this is turning into the game everybody expected. James is turning the Celtics into mincemeat in his understated, efficient way, carving them up with 16 points on 7-for-9 shooting and five assists. His no-look bounce pass to Bosh split the defense and gave Miami its largest lead of the game after Bosh converted the finger roll.
Halftime, Heat 58-50: All things considered, this was not a terrible first 24 minutes for the Celtics. To be down by just eight to a squad with the world’s best player, plus a pretty strong supporting cast, is not bad.
But the Celtics have to be disappointed with this halftime result after leading for most of the first half. The Heat shot 58 percent from the field, helped by their bench shooting 10-for-13. Meanwhile, the Celtics could use a contribution from someone other than their de facto starting “frontcourt” of Bass, Green and Crawford. Those three have combined for 34 of Boston’s points and are the only Celtics players shooting at least 50 percent from the floor.
James has 14 points to lead all scorers, of course. Whatever.
Second quarter, 5:46, game tied 38-38: The Heat have yet to lead in this game, but it is coming. Wade, who has been quiet most of the game, drained a pull-up jumper to knot it up for the second time, after the Celtics had pushed back into the lead following a three by Norris Cole.
Cole was in position to tie it up thanks to back-to-back triples by Allen, whom the Celtics just keep leaving open. In their defense, maybe they just aren’t familiar with his game and were not aware the guy wearing No. 34 could shoot.
Second quarter, 8:53, Celtics 34-28: A 3-pointer by Lee gave the Celtics a 13-point advantage, their largest of the game, but gradually the Celtics’ lack of experience together is beginning to show through. Shavlik Randolph got called for a couple of tough fouls and for some reason Williams switched off Wade, leaving Randolph covering the former NBA Finals MVP on the perimeter.
Another defensive breakdown led to Ray Allen being left wide open in the left corner for a three, and the Heat are within six. That is as close as they have been since there were just under five minutes to go in the first quarter.
End of first quarter, Celtics 27-17: It took more than 6 1/2 minutes for somebody other than James to score a basket for the Heat. When it finally happened, on a dunk by Bosh, the Heat did not exactly take off and run with it.
With Green providing two highlight-reel dunks over Chris Andersen as part of his eight points, the Celtics held a comfortable lead for much of the first. The Heat did managed to cut a 12-point lead down to eight points with their own second unit, but for the most part the Celtics’ Garnett-and-Pierce-less lineup is beating the Heat to spots on offense, defense and loose balls.
First quarter, 6:56, Celtics 13-5: Stopping the ball in transition is one of the first things young players learn in their YMCA practices, but the Heat must not have covered that in their preparations for this game.
Jeff Green cruised coast-to-coast for two layups with Mike Miller just sort of watching him. That sort of lackadaisical effort has helped the Celtics burst out to an early lead despite being outmatched from a talent standpoint. Courtney Lee has a step-back jumper over James after missing a couple of gimmes, Avery Bradley has a corner three and Jordan Crawford banked home a Lee miss to help the Celtics build their eight-point lead.
6:55 p.m.: This one could get ugly. While Garnett and Pierce rest, the full South Beach Big Three will be on the court for Miami, as Bosh, Wade and James will take on a patchwork Boston lineup.
Jordan Crawford moves into the starting five for the second time as a Celtic and the first time since March 26, when he took the place of an injured Courtney Lee. Now Crawford and Lee will be on the floor together, and we will see what they can do against the star-studded Heat. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra has, however, decided to keep Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem out of the lineup. Gee, thanks.
The projected starters appear below.
12:30 p.m.: The Celtics probably aren’t playing Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, but it looks like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will be on the floor.
Miami’s Big Three will play tonight, the team announced. Udonis Haslem and Shane Battier, however, will sit out.
The Celtics plan to sit Garnett and Pierce, ESPN reports.
8 a.m. ET: Whoever plays will play, and the game will most likely be thrilling and chilling. We can only hope.
With the status of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all unclear, the Celtics and Heat will face off in Miami in a watered-down version of one of the NBA’s best rivalries. The Heat did not seem to miss a beat Wednesday without their stars, as Ray Allen came through to lead Miami to a win over the Wizards, but the Celtics have had far less success of late without their mainstays. Not even Garnett and Pierce’s presence could help Boston avoid a loss to the Nets on Wednesday.
Whether this turns out to be a star-studded affair or a glorified preseason game, there will be some pride on the line. Jeff Green, Avery Bradley, Shane Battier and others would surely like to prove they can beat another pretty good conference rival without their top players, even if said rival does not have its top players, either.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m. ET.