Boston took the floor at the TD Garden hours after reports surfaced that the team is struggling because of tension in the locker room, but they battled through for a 107-102 victory against the Heat, their second straight win after a month of mediocrity.
The Heat shot 62.5 percent in the first half and finished shooting 52.1 percent from the floor, but the Celtics outrebounded Miami 41-31 to sneak away with the victory, despite the absence of injured captain Paul Pierce.
Kevin Garnett had his second straight solid outing, finishing with 14 points, six rebounds and a season-high nine assists in 31 minutes. But Rajon Rondo was the highlight of Boston's night, tallying 22 points with 14 assists and three steals.
Dwyane Wade led all scorers with 30 points and 13 assists. Rafer Alston and Udonis Haslem finished with 15 points apiece for the Heat.
Celtics 107, Heat 102
TD Garden, Boston, Mass.
Feb. 3, 2010
Headliner: The same day he hinted at perilous locker-room tension, Rajon Rondo did his best to dispel any tension on the court, controlling the pace offensively from the beginning. The guard drew foul after foul driving to the net, finishing 8-for-14 from the line, and he almost had a double-double in the first half alone, compiling 12 points and eight assists by the intermission.
Perhaps Rondo's biggest play of the game came with time expiring in the first half, when he drew a foul on a desperation 3-pointer as time wound down. He made two of three free throws, giving Boston a two-point lead heading into the half.
Unsung Hero: Eddie House came up big for Boston down the stretch, sinking a deep 3-pointer with 4:41 left to extend the Celtics' lead to five and then tallying a layup off a Miami turnover on the ensuing possession. In 24 minutes, House finished with 16 points and four rebounds.
Tony Allen, starting in place of Paul Pierce, had six points and six boards and was also instrumental in keeping tabs on Dwyane Wade defensively.
Scrub: After notching 20 points and 10 rebounds last time the C's faced Miami, Kendrick Perkins made far less of an impact on Wednesday. Not only did two early fouls limit his playing time in the first quarter, but he couldn't establish his presence on the boards, pulling down just five rebounds. He had the fewest rebounds of any Celtics starter.
With seven minutes left in the third quarter, he also lobbed a terrible alley-oop attempt to the always fragile Kevin Garnett, who — in his attempt to reel in the ball — stumbled into the photographers on the baseline and was slow to get up.
Key Moment: Miami's Michael Beasley was fouled by Rasheed Wallace with four seconds left in the third quarter, and he made both to knot the score at 74 heading into the final frame. That's when Ray Allen stepped up, hitting a 10-foot jumper to break the tie and then drawing a foul on the next possession and sinking one of two free throws to put the C's up by three.
Daequan Cook missed a 3 on the opposite end, and Allen grabbed the rebound and fed it to Wallace for a layup — which he missed — but Glen Davis put back the rebound to give the C's a five-point lead as part of a 14-4 run to open up the quarter.
Up Next: The C's have Thursday off before a welcome visitor hits the Garden — the New Jersey Nets. At 4-44, the Nets are dead last in the Atlantic Division and are 27 1/2 games behind Boston. (And just to rub it in, their winning percentage is .083. Ouch.) On top of all that, New Jersey is in the midst of a stretch in which it plays four games in five days, so it can't be expected to be at its freshest when Friday rolls around.
Brook Lopez leads the Nets in points (19.1), rebounds (9.3) and blocks (2.1).