Rondo stretched his run of consecutive games with at least 10 assists to 18 games. LeBron James scored 36 points in the defeat.
Fourth quarter, 1:01, Celtics 113-105: For the briefest of moments, the Heat seemed to have the momentum. They had pulled within five points, Wade was getting to the tin at will, and the home crowd was on their side.
Then Garnett did what he has done most of the game: abuse Bosh.
Garnett wheeled for a fadeaway jumper that caught nothing but twine to put the Celtics back up by seven points. The Heat lost a ton of their swagger with that shot.
Fourth quarter, 2:34, Celtics 108-101: Here is why it does not matter whether Allen starts or comes off the bench. With less than three minutes remaining in a close game in Miami, Allen had played 32 minutes and was on the floor for the Celtics.
Bosh, of all people, was the biggest contributor for the Heat in the first 10 minutes of the fourth. He had seven points and four rebounds, often with Bass defending. It is curious why the Celtics opted to go that route.
On the other end, the Heat seemed to have a disadvantage defensively at three of the five positions. They placed James on Garnett, Miller on Pierce and Chalmers on Rondo. That was a lot of juggling to get Wade on Allen and Bosh on Bass.
Fourth quarter, 5:18, Celtics 104-94: Garnett would like to win this game, thank you very much.
The Big Ticket drained four straight jumpers, accounting for eight straight Celtics points, to restore the Celtics' comfortable advantage after the Heat had cut the lead to only a single point.
Wade was the victim of a textbook shot fake, up-and-under foul drawn by Rondo, but Wade did not like it. He picked up a technical foul for arguing the call.
Fourth quarter, 9:01, Celtics 94-89: That Garnett-Allen-Bradley-Stiemsma-Pavlovic unit we were raving about almost gave away the Celtics lead to begin the fourth quarter. Five straight points by the Celtics via a Bass jumper and Allen three quickly changed that, but Rivers was wise to bring back Pierce and Rondo as swiftly as possible.
Allen's shot was just his fifth attempt of the game.
End of the third quarter, Celtics 89-81: The Heat managed to keep pace with the Celtics in the third quarter despite Rondo's scoring explosion, setting up another potentially epic final 12 minutes.
Rondo entered the final frame with 16 points and 12 assists. He had turned the ball over only three times, but rest assured that in his mind, that was three too many.
Third quarter, 1:50, Celtics 88-77: If it wasn't for offensive rebounding, the Heat would have lost control of this ballgame long ago. The Heat shot a blistering 6-for-20 from the field in the first 10 minutes third quarter but grabbed six offensive rebounds as the Celtics had their first poor rebounding quarter of the game.
Chalmers has been on fire, hitting three of his five shots entering the final two minutes of the third quarter.
James scored seven points, but they were of the dubious variety. He missed three of his four field goal attempts and got his other five points at the foul line. One of those foul line trips came after what appeared to be an egregious traveling violation. To be fair, Stiemsma appeared to travel as well before his dunk attempt was blocked by James moments later.
Third quarter, 6:53, Celtics 76-66: The Heat sliced into the lead a bit, and of course it was Mario Chalmers leading the way. Chalmers scored six of the Heat's first nine points of the second half, but he may have forgotten about slowing down Rondo at the other end of the floor.
Rondo hit his first two shots from the field and hit three of his four free throws to lead the Celtics with seven points in the first six minutes of the second half. This is a nationally televised game, so we probably should not be surprised Rondo would have a heck of game.
Halftime, Celtics 65-57: James undid a lot of Miami's struggles by dropping a triple as the first half expired. Pierce dared him to shoot, playing about eight feet off, and James obliged with a shot that cut the Heat's halftime deficit to eight points.
The Good: Remember what we said about Pierce not being involved in the offense? Forget it. Pierce led the Celtics in the second quarter with 10 of his team-high 16 points. … Dwyane Wade took control when the Heat were in a dire situation. Wade was 4-for-5 from the field in the second quarter and entered halftime with three assists and three steals to go along with his 16 points. … LeBron James can look so out of sync yet be killing you softly. James was 6-for-10 from the field for a game-high 18 points. He also handed out five assists versus only one turnover. Yet the two shots he had blocked created the illusion he was struggling. … Kevin Garnett continued his dominance over Chris Bosh, scoring 12 points and bringing down five rebounds while holding Bosh to four points on 2-for-5 shooting. … Rajon Rondo dealed out eight assists with only two turnovers. Even more, he missed only one of his four shots. … Greg Stiemsma and Sasha Pavlovic continued their strong second-quarter play for the Celtics, combining to go 4-for-4 from the field. Stiemsma added six rebounds and blocked a shot.
The Bad: Shane Battier is known for knocking down open shots and defending. He did neither in the first half, picking up two fouls and missing both shots he took in five minutes of work.
The So-so: Brandon Bass missed all but one of his four field goal attempts, but he defended Ronny Turiaf with vigor and nabbed six boards, tying Stiemsma for the team lead in that category.
Second quarter, 2:05, Celtics 61-46: Many have wondered how the Celtics will continue their roll with a starting backcourt that cannot shoot. In the long run, Bradley and Rondo will never be mistaken for Tim Legler and Dale Ellis, but each knocked down a midrange jumper to stifle a Miami run. Their contributions were needed, as Wade decided to stop missing. Wade hit four of his first five shots in the second to inch Miami closer on the scoreboard.
Second quarter, 4:12, Celtics 54-44: The Miami crowd went wild as a Wade dunk and Chalmers layup pulled the Heat within 10 points.
Not exactly a stirring comeback, but it was still cause enough for concern from the Celtics. What was once an 18-point advantage was down to a manageable size for the Heat, even if Garnett has been scorching and Pierce had yet to even do much in the flow of the offense.
James was terrible at converting shots at the rim in his last game against the Celtics, and this writer guessed that would not last beyond one game. But the King is showing the same difficulty finishing in this game, which begs the question of whether it really does have something to do with the Celtics defense.
Second quarter, 7:30, Celtics 49-31: Rivers has stuck with his new second-quarter lineup, and why not? The group only stretched Boston's advantage to a game-high 18 points.
Pavlovic knocked down his second shot from beyond the arc, and Bradley put in an 18-foot jumper. Garnett showed off some dipsy-doo with a reverse layup.
The Celtics were 7-for-9 from the field in the first 4:30 of the second quarter, with assists on five of those field goals.
Second quarter, 9:51, Celtics 42-27: Rivers may have found gold with the lineup of Garnett, Stiemsma, Allen, Bradley and Sasha Pavlovic. That unit has given the Celtics huge minutes in the second quarter of the past four games, and they did it again in this game.
The Celtics stretched their lead to 15 points with that group, helped by a 3-pointer from the corner by Pavlovic. Stiemsma found a cutting Garnett for a finger roll to prompt a quick timeout from Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
The Celtics were rolling again against the Heat, and this should be troubling for the presumptive Eastern Conference favorite. Boston continued to kill Miami on the glass, 14-5.
End of first quarter, Celtics 33-22: Bass has a renewed focus on rebounding over the last couple of weeks, and he showed that in the first quarter. The Celtics power forward grabbed five boards, equal to the Heat's entire rebounding tally.
Rondo had five assists and zero turnovers. Yawn.
First quarter, 4:21, Heat 20-17: Brandon Bass committed the cardinal sin. Instead of letting a ball bounce out of bounds, he hustled to save it. His hard work was rewarded with a fast break by the Heat, ending in an alley-oop dunk to James to tie the game at 17-17.
Just a few seconds later, Greg Stiemsma attempted an ill-advised pass that was picked off. James Jones trailed the ensuing break, caught the ball on the wing and drilled a 3-pointer.
Turnovers are the single worst thing a team can do against the Heat — worse even than miss shots.
Also, Stiemsma may have achieved a personal best when he picked up his first personal foul 50 seconds after stepping on the court. He was in the vicinity of James, so the referee must have assumed some sort of foul had taken place.
First quarter, 7:11, Celtics 11-9: LeBron James has been criticized for not taking his 6-foot-8, 240-pound frame into the post more often. He has done so more this season, and he took Paul Pierce into the post twice in the opening minutes. Both led to baskets for Miami. James was able to seal off Pierce to receive an entry pass and hit a layup, and he later found a cutting Wade for a layup out of a post-up.
The Heat picked on Pierce on both ends of the floor. They trapped Pierce every time he touched the ball, forcing other Celtics to do damage. They did. Avery Bradley scored the Celtics' first five points, and Kevin Garnett hit a pair of long jumpers before Rajon Rondo hit a pull-up jumper to give the Celtics the lead.
5:55 p.m.: On paper, the return of Dwyane Wade to the Heat's lineup should be taken as good news for the Celtics. After all, Miami has been almost unbeatable without its lead guard, going 10-1 in games Wade missed.
Games aren't played on paper, though. They're played inside television sets, where you probably saw the Celtics dismantle the Heat (with Wade being harassed by defense extraordinaire Avery Bradley) a little more than a week ago. The Celtics certainly did not take news of Wade's return from a sore right ankle as a reason to celebrate.
8 a.m.: The Heat are expected to be at full strength when the Celtics try to make it two wins in a row against the stars from South Beach on Tuesday. Dwyane Wade, who missed Sunday's game with a sore ankle, should be back in the lineup when the Heat do what they do best: play at home.
The Heat (40-15) own the NBA's best home record at 24-3, so the Celtics (32-24) will need to buck that trend. If the Celtics end up meeting the Heat at any point in the postseason, they would have to win at least one game on the road, so this could be a decent test of their mettle at American Airlines Arena.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 7 p.m.
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