Never mind the rivalry and the Celtics’ recent struggles. Look past the double-overtime drama. Forget, for a moment, the day’s big news of Rajon Rondo’s knee injury.
Boil it all away and there is this: The Heat still hasn’t figured out how to consistently win on the road.
After a mostly listless performance in regulation by the defending champions and then a wild and rough 10 minutes in two overtime periods, Heat forward Shane Battier missed a potential game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer in the Heat’s 100-98 loss to the Celtics on Sunday at TD Garden. It was the Heat’s first double-overtime game of the season; Miami had been 4-0 in overtime games this season.
“They made more plays than we did,” said Heat forward LeBron James, who had 34 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, three steals and a block in nearly 52 minutes of work.
“It was a good, just two very competitive teams. We’re not upset at all about this one. At all. We played until the end and just came up short.”
While James always seems to find the silver lining in hard-fought games, the Heat most certainly will feel like an opportunity for a rare victory in Boston slipped away. After all, Boston won despite Rondo being a late-game scratch. The Heat has lost 10 in row during the regular season at TD Garden.
James bailed out the Heat with a three-pointer on its final possession of regulation and the game went into overtime with the score tied at 87 after Jason Terry’s potential game-winner at the buzzer missed. There were 15 lead changes and 17 ties in regulation.
The first overtime ended with the scored tied 93-93. Miami was 3 of 10 from the field in the period but led by four points with two minutes to play after a pair of layups by James.
Kevin Garnett cut the Heat’s lead to 93-91 and then tied the score with 1:14 left after a turnover by Chris Bosh. With the score still tied, Ray Allen turned it over with an offensive foul on the Heat’s penultimate possession the first overtime.
But the Heat still had a chance to win it. On the final possession of the first overtime, Dwyane Wade missed a shot at the buzzer from 15 feet.
“We had opportunities,” said Wade, who had 17 points, seven assists and four rebounds. “We just couldn’t capitalize on the way we wanted to really close the door.”
An old-fashioned three-point play by James gave the Heat a three-point lead with a minute left in the second overtime but, once again, the Heat couldn’t close it out.
Terry cut the Heat’s lead to a point with a layup out of a timeout and Paul Pierce knocked down the eventual game-winner from 22 feet with 30.4 seconds to play. Pierce then gave the Celtics a two-point lead with 5.6 seconds left when he made the front end of a one-and-one.
James grabbed the rebound following Pierce’s missed free throw and quickly called a timeout, but the Heat’s final play of the game didn’t go as planned. After dominating the game and playing over 50 minutes, James didn’t touch the ball on the final play.
Instead, Wade found himself trapped in the corner following the in-bounds pass and tossed it back to Battier, who was about 27 feet from the basket. Battier’s heave from outside didn’t have a chance.
“They defended it very well,” Spoelstra said. “There were about three different options, four different options to it. They defended each one of them. So, we’ll have to draw up something better next time.”
Led by 16 rebounds each from James and Bosh, the Heat outrebounded Boston 53-46 but couldn’t overcome sloppy ball handling. Boston scored 19 points off 21 turnover by the Heat.
“That’s about as inefficient as we have played on that end of the court in a long time — sloppy with the turnovers, sloppy with the execution,” Spoelstra said. “The ball didn’t necessarily move. You have to give [Boston] credit.”
For the Celtics (21-23), it was a bittersweet victory. On one hand, Boston snapped a six-game losing streak and knocked off the defending champions after last season’s emotional Game 6 in Boston that propelled the Heat to the NBA Finals. On the other hand, Celtics coach Doc Rivers learned before the game that Rondo would be out for the remainder of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
“We still like our chances in the Eastern Conference,” said Pierce, who recorded his first triple-double of the season with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
Allen scored 21 points in his first game in Boston since signing with the Heat. Because of a poor effort by starting guard Mario Chalmers, Allen played the final 28 minutes of the game.
• It was the Celtics’ first back-to-back double-overtime games since March 11 and 13, 1951.