This is likely the final postseason for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in Celtics green. You just knew this city and its rocking and rambunctious arena wasn’t going to let those guys get out of town without one more seismic home-court victory in the playoffs.
Two days after handing the Celtics a demoralizing defeat in the Eastern Conference finals, the Heat watched its 2-0 series lead get cut in half Friday night at TD Garden. For Garnett, Allen and Paul Pierce, the energy inside the building was like a steroid pumped directly into old legs. The place vibrated like a tin-roofed shed in a category-3 storm.
“We know this is a tough place to play but we can play better than this,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
The 101-91 loss to the Celtics snapped a five game win streak by the Heat this postseason. Boston led by 24 points in the fourth quarter before holding off a late rally.
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With two of the best scorers in the NBA manning its wing positions, Miami has come from behind to win games throughout this postseason. In Game 2, the Heat rallied from a 15-point deficit. The Heat spotted Boston too many points in this one. Led by a late-game shooting barrage from Mike Miller, the Heat got within eight points of Boston but never seriously threatened the Celtics’ lead.
LeBron James led the Heat with 34 points on 16-of-26 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and five assists. He was pretty much the Heat’s only player who seemed even remotely interested in competing in the game’s first three quarters.
Dwyane Wade had 18 points and struggled on both ends of the court. He was 9 of 20 from the field and didn’t attempt a free throw.
As a team, the Heat was 10 of 20 from the free-throw line. It was as if the deafening noise vibrations inside the Garden were strong enough to alter half of the Heat’s attempts from the line.
After combining to attempt 35 free-throw attempts in Game 2, James and Wade attempted just five in Game 3. James was 1 of 5.
“We’ll be more aggressive in Game 4,” Spoelstra said.
The last time Wade failed to attempt a free throw in a playoff game was in his rookie season.
“I guess it just wasn’t there for me tonight,” he said.
RONDO STILL A THORN
The Celtics didn’t need a historic effort from its point guard this time. Still, Rajon Rondo was the engine behind Boston’s offense. He finished with 21 points, 10 assists and six rebounds in 42 minutes. He played all 53 minutes of Game 2, but found time to finally take a breather during Friday’s blowout.
“My goal was to win by any means necessary,” said Rondo, who had 44 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds in Game 2’s loss. “I just wanted to call a great game, keep my penalties down and lead my team to victory.”
A driving layup by Rondo gave the Celtics a 95-82 lead with 4:29 to play but Mario Chalmers answered with five straight points, including a three-point play against Garnett that momentarily hushed the Garden. Chalmers swished his and-one free throw to cut Boston’s lead to 95-87.
Not counting a throwaway game at the end of the regular season, the Heat has been blown out in four of its past five games at the Garden in the past two years. The Heat’s lone victory in Boston during the Big 3 Era was in Game 4 of last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals. The Heat won 98-90. Despite Friday’s loss, this year’s Game 4 against the Celtics again presents an opportunity for the Heat to take a commanding lead in the series.
After struggling in Game 2 in Miami, the Eastern Conference’s old guard showed new life on its home court. Bothered by ankle problems at the start of the series, Allen opened the fourth quarter with a driving dunk to give the Celtics an 87-63 lead. He finished with 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting.
GARNETT HAS STELLAR NIGHT
Garnett led the resurgent Celtics with 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting. He also had 11 rebounds. Paul Pierce had 23 points and Marquis Daniels had nine points off the bench.
“We felt like we never took advantage of Kevin in [Game 2] and we weren’t physical enough,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “We did those things tonight.”
The Heat went 12 possessions without a score between the first and second quarters.
After an efficient start – James scored 16 points in the first quarter and the Heat shot 61.1 percent from the floor – the offense went rancid with less than three minutes remaining in the first period.
A pair of free throws from James Jones offered the Heat’s only points for nearly eight minutes of basketball. James put Miami ahead 28-22 with 2:38 left in the first quarter and the Heat went 0 of 10 from the field until James backed down Pierce for a turnaround bank shot with 5:58 left before halftime. Meanwhile, the Celtics raced ahead with a 15-0 run spanning the first two quarters.