Except for Michael Jordan, no opposing player has scored more points against the Heat in a playoff game than Rajon Rondo did Wednesday.
Ultimately, Rondos 44-point, 10-assist, eight-rebound masterpiece went to waste, with the Heat surviving several furious Celtics runs and escaping a game with a flurry of momentum shifts.
Rondo scored all 12 of Bostons points in overtime, showing no fatigue despite playing the entire game. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers and others all took turns defensively on Rondo, who scored 22 points in the first half.
Among Heat opponents in playoff games, his point total ranks third all time, behind 56- and 46-point eruptions from Jordan against Miami in 1992.
But it wasnt enough.
We had a lot of opportunities to win the game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. I didnt think we played smart all the time. We will not get distracted in this series. I guarantee you were distracted in our locker room. We have to move on.
In the first half, the Celtics brilliantly executed the blueprint for how to slow the Heat: exceptional point guard play combined with keeping Miami out of transition, forcing the ball out of Wades hands, moving the ball crisply on offense and shooting a high percentage. They went to halftime ahead 53-46.
Then it all seemingly fell apart in a 35-22 Heat third-quarter blitz.
But Boston down seven with 11 minutes to go strung together a 17-5 run to surge back ahead, by five, with 3:50 left, only to watch the Heat unleash a 9-0 run to go back ahead by four.
The Celtics forced overtime, with Ray Allen nailing an open three with 34 seconds left to tie the score.
Despite Rondo making four of his five shots in overtime, the Celtics didnt have enough. Kevin Garnett missed both his shots in the extra session, and Allen missed his only attempt.
Garnett closed with 18 points and eight rebounds but missed 12 of 18 shots.
Ive got to do a better job of getting Kevin the ball in the right spots, Rivers said. We have to find a way to get Kevin more involved.
Allen had 13, on 5-of-11 shooting. Paul Pierce scored 21 but fouled out with 47 seconds left in the fourth and Boston down two.
The Celtics came out with an attack-the-basket mindset, and Rondo was exceptional, hitting his jump shot with regularity (5 for 6 outside the paint in the first half), slicing to the basket on drives, and dishing to his teammates for high-percentage shots.
Rondo stepped up to the elbow where he shoots a high percentage and made shots, Rivers said.
Heat defenders primarily Chalmers in the first half gave Rondo a cushion, a strategy thats pretty typical against him.
But that not only gave him room to loft his jumper, but also gave him the space to make pinpoint passes.
But the Celtics put their signature on the first half with ball-swarming defense. They often double-teamed Wade, using hard traps, and that forced him to pass the ball or attempt difficult shots. He opened 0 for 5 from the field.
Were trying to shrink the floor, make Wade pass the ball, Rondo said at halftime.
Rivers told his team: I love our defensive pressure. Weve got to keep doing it.
They couldnt, with Wade scoring 21 points after halftime.
We trapped Dwyane and made him a passer [in the first half], Rivers said. We just didnt follow through with it as well in the second half as we did in the first half.
The Celtics were charged with 33 fouls, compared with 18 for the Heat, a fact that wasnt lost on Boston.
James took 24 free throws, Rivers said. Our team took 29. Its tough.