You know, a good old classic bar fight, Pierce said. It was a cut, scratch, grab, hold, elbow type of game. Youve got to expect every game to be like this. Coming down to the wire.
The Heat looked dumbfounded on defense in the first half, allowing a 2012 postseason high 61 points as Pierce scored 18, Rondo made 10 assists and Boston nailed seven three-pointers.
We havent played defense since we got to this town, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
But the Heat clamped down in what has typically been the pivotal third quarter, stalling Boston 21-12. Midway through the fourth, Bostons 18-point lead shriveled to zero when James followed a Battier three-pointer with a layup to tie the score at 74.
It was Bostons turn to be dumbfounded. The crowd went silent.
We were completely disorganized in the second half, Boston coach Doc Rivers said.
The Heat ratcheted up its pressure, blocking shots, deflecting passes, suffocating Rondo and forcing the Celtics to miss 65 percent of their shots for just 28 points. Haslem was a menace on the boards. Battier was a pest guarding various Celtics and drawing a critical charge on Pierce that negated a layup and saddled Pierce with his fifth foul.
We started playing desperate, Haslem said. We made a commitment to one another in the second half that we were going to play as hard as possible.
The effort to catch up depleted the Heat. Free throw shooting must improve. Blocking out must improve.
And, because the NBA playoffs come down to matchups, the Heat must find a way to make more stops against the deceptive Rondo, who had 15 points and, worse, 15 assists.
When Pierce fouled out, Rondo told Garnett, Its time. Time to take over. The Heat must summon the same sort of concentration.
Were not here to talk about history, Pierce says in the NBA commercial while sitting on a Garden rafter surrounded by Bostons 17 championship banners. Were here to keep making it.
The Heats Big Three havent made any yet. Perhaps they can learn from their elders.