Final, Celtics win 101-96: Rajon Rondo won’t have any tanking in his building.
The Boston Celtics (23-46) point guard hijacked crunchtime to lead his squad to a victory over the Miami Heat (46-20). He dominated despite scoring just nine points by dealing 15 assists and grabbing 10 rebounds.
The Heat, who placed six players in double figures in scoring, couldn’t answer Rondo down the stretch. Avery Bradley set a new career-high with six 3-pointers, Brandon Bass was immense after halftime with 18 points and Kelly Olynyk chipped in 10 points off the bench.
But none did more things — big or small — than Rondo.
Fourth quarter, :18.7, Celtics 101-96: Rondo pretty much took over this game in the last minute.
He won a jump ball with Haslem, banked home a floater, hit Sully with a silly bounce pass for a jumper Sully missed, then tossed in a floater that should ice this for Boston.
Sprinkled in was a gorgeous defensive possession where Bass stayed with Wade on a switch, forcing a missed three by Chalmers.
Fourth quarter, 3:01, Celtics 97-94: No one can say the Celtics aren’t working. Despite some tough misses, the Celtics keep battling on the offensive glass.
A Sully offensive rebound led to an extra possession, which itself led to Sully being surrounded by defenders in the paint — before kicking the ball out to Green for a three.
Fourth quarter, 3:01, game tied 94-94: A blowout was anticipated, but a tight game has shown up.
Chalmers killed the Celtics on three straight pick-and-rolls to pull Miami back into contention, then Allen was fouled and dropped his free throws, naturally, to pull the Heat even.
The teams are going back-and-forth, with neither giving any ground. Olynyk, Bass and Andersen have all gotten big buckets, showing this isn’t just a one- or two-man game.
Fourth quarter, 6:23, Celtics 90-84: Stevens is rolling with a three-guard look of Bradley, Bayless and Rondo, and it’s presenting problems for Miami. Bradley drains his sixth three — a new career high — and Bradley misses a pull-up, but Rondo drilled a step-back jumper as Boston extended its lead.
The trio is stretching Miami’s defense and getting decent looks, even if Bayless missed his shot. The Celtics might want to keep feeding Bradley; he’s sort of got it going right now.
Fourth quarter, 8:03, Celtics 85-82: The pace has slowed down here, which is to be expected. Although the faces have changed, guys like Rondo and Wade are used to Celtics-Heat games being knock-down, drag-out affairs.
We could have another one of those brewing here.
The teams have combined for nine points in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. Quality shots are at a premium, as Sully and Andersen learned when they earned trips to the line rather than getting layups.
End of third quarter, Celtics 80-78: The Celtics have kept hitting their shots, continued to hold onto the ball and have narrowed the rebounding gap.
Yeah, it’s sort of incredible.
Bass finishes up a nice third quarter with a spot-up jumper to give him 16 points in the game. Bradley, who has 20 points, also has five 3-pointers, tying his career best. Rondo continues to distribute, dishing out 14 assists, but has attempted just two shots since halftime.
Third quarter, 3:52, Celtics 76-72: Brandon Bass has had a rough game, but he’s woken up in the last few minutes.
He hit a jumper to continue the Celtics’ run, then tipped home a Sully miss to push the Celtics ahead. He followed that up by going into the stands to save a loose ball, leading to a rare above-the-break three by Bradley.
Third quarter, 9:50, Celtics 63-61: Rondo and Bradley aren’t interested in all our talk about them cooling down.
The Celtics have come out on a mission. Bradley hit an and-one jumper, then rattled in a three, and Rondo fired a bullet pass to Green cutting for a reverse layup. Boom, the Celtics are off to a 10-2 start to the second half and have taken the lead.
Halftime, Heat 59-53: Following a forgettable start, the Celtics pulled themselves together in the second quarter, outscoring Miami 31-25 and making a game of it at halftime.
One thing the Celtics have done a very good job of is taking care of the ball. They have just four turnovers, as do the Heat, but the difference is that the Heat make teams pay for turnovers way more than the Celtics do.
As former Celtics coach Doc Rivers once cracked, if you’re going to turn the ball over against Miami, you’re better off throwing it straight into the stands. Because if it’s a live ball, it’s a dunk.
Jared Sullinger has 12 points to lead Boston, followed by Avery Bradley with 11. But Rajon Rondo and Jerryd Bayless have also done admirable jobs leading the offense. Rondo is focused on being a distributor, with eight assists and just three shot attempts. Bayless has played close to a flawless game with seven points on perfect 3-for-3 shooting, plus three assists and only one turnover.
Udonis Haslem continues to lead all scorers with 14 points, but Dwyane Wade isn’t far behind with 13. Mario Chalmers is doing his Rondo impression with a game-best nine assists. The Heat backcourt isn’t having a whole lot of trouble, despite Bradley and Rondo’s supposed defensive chops.
The writing is on the wall for this to get ugly in the second half, however. The Celtics are 9-for-18 from 3-point territory, haven’t turned the ball over and still trail. At some point, they’re going to cool off and they’re going to have a string of turnovers. We don’t have to spell out for you what will happen then, do we?
Second quarter, 2:13, Heat 53-48: Bradley’s gotten hot and Jerryd Bayless has done a nice job of transitioning from lead guard to scoring guard from possession to possession. The Celtics have looked more than competent over the last few minutes, and just need to finish out a strong second quarter.
Bayless has hit all three shots he’s taken in addition to Bradley’s team-high 11 points. Of course, neither is the equal of Haslem, who has 14 points and could probably have more if he didn’t want to avoid hurting the feelings of all the inferior mortals on the court.
Second quarter, 5:58, Heat 45-39: One of these days, an opponent is going to figure out that when a Miami player dribbles under the hoop, he’s about to pass it to the corner. They’ve only done the same thing for the past four years.
The Celtics haven’t figured that out yet, but at least they’ve figured out how to hit some shots. Bradley drains another three — his third of the game — and with that Boston has whittled its deficit down to six points.
Technically, it’s a two-possession lead. Where’s Haslem when the Heat need him?
Second quarter, 8:44, Heat 38-29: Miami coach Erik Spoelstra finally decided to go easy on Boston and take Haslem out of the game.
Even with Haslem out, though, the Heat are still rolling. Michael Beasley and Chris Andersen both scored old-fashioned three-point plays to keep the Heat comfortably ahead, even if they have cooled a bit. Bradley’s got a pair of threes to make things interesting, and Chris Johnson is playing his heart out, as always.
End of first quarter, Heat 34-22: The Celtics have nine buckets. Rajon Rondo has seven assists. That’s pretty much the story of this game, aside from Haslem going off.
The Celtics haven’t done much of consequence on offense besides what Rondo has generated. They’re 9-for-27 from the field and have been bailed out by a pair of Jared Sullinger 3-pointers.
But not even Sully’s long-range bombing can rival Haslem, who finally missed a shot — his seventh attempt of the game — and is pacing Miami with 12 points.
The Heat are shooting an impossible 70 percent and own a 17-8 advantage in rebounding. All this, keep in mind, with LeBron James on the bench.
First quarter, 4:36, Heat 20-16: You all were aware Haslem was one of the elite scorers of this or any generation, right? He’s just been playing possum for the last 10 years.
Haslem is off to a scorching start, hitting all five shots he’s taken and leading all scorers with 10 points early. He’s benefiting from some solid Heat ball movement and great shot selection.
The Celtics, by contrast, have demonstrated some awful shot selection. Jeff Green has five points to tie Bradley for the team high, but three of those game on a contested 3-pointer he didn’t really need to take. Not surprisingly, the Celtics are just 7-for-18 from the field early.
First quarter, 8:17, Heat 12-7: It didn’t take long for Brad Stevens to start worrying about his team against the two-time defending champs.
The Celtics have missed six of their first nine shots, with Avery Bradley accounting for almost half of those at 2-for-4 from the field, while watching the Heat hit six of their first seven. Udonis Haslem, dominant go-to scorer that he is, is a perfect 3-for-3 with a game-high six points.
So, that’s not ideal.
7:10 p.m.: There has been some confusion here as to who, precisely, is playing for the Miami Heat, but we think we’ve sorted things out.
LeBron James will not play, but Dwyane Wade is active and starting. The Heat announced James was out about a half-hour before tip-off, but Wade was wiped off the board as a starter as well.
Apparently, that was just some confusion. Toney Douglas will not start for Miami (sorry, Toney), with Wade manning his usual place as the starting two-guard. He’ll be opposite Avery Bradley, making his first start after coming off the bench for the first three games since his return from an ankle injury.
The projected starters appear below.
8 a.m. ET: There’s really no getting around it anymore. Watching Ray Allen play against the Boston Celtics as a member of the Miami Heat might be tougher than ever for a Celtics fan on Wednesday.
Earlier in the season, at least it wasn’t so obvious the Celtics (22-46) were in a season headed nowhere, and the Heat (45-19) weren’t conceivably less than a month away from beginning their second straight title defense in the playoffs. There’s really no ignoring it now, though. Allen will arrive at TD Garden like that ex-girlfriend who has a great job, handsome spouse and three beautiful children, while you’re living in your mom’s basement.
While LeBron James and the Heat haven’t played up to their championship standards of late, losing five of their last seven, Allen is finally turning it on. Also, struggles are all relative. The Celtics, who have lost five straight and 13 of their last 17, would love to have struggles like Miami’s.
Join us for updates and analysis from TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m.