Dwyane Wade wore glitter-green shoes. Mario Chalmers fashioned a more traditional hue on his feet. LeBron James’ Nikes were downright loud.
If you were wondering if the Heat was trying to send a message with their off-color footwear on Friday, then the answer is yes. Exactly what that message was, however, isn’t exactly clear. Pretty sure it had something to do with the Celtics, though.
The Heat defeated the original boys in green 109-101 at AmericanAirlines Arena in possibly the last meeting of the two rivals until next season. The Heat (63-16) finished 3-1 against the Celtics (40-39) in the regular season. Miami and Boston could meet in the playoffs, but it wouldn’t be until the Eastern Conference finals.
As if the Heat’s unspoken communication with the Celtics wasn’t crystal clear — or should we say, clear as an emerald — from the opening tip, James and Wade changed shoes at halftime and walked onto the court with different designs of greenish shoes in the second half.
Over the top? Affirmative. But everything about this rivalry between these Eastern Conference foes has turned extreme in recent weeks. About two weeks ago, Pat Riley told Celtics general manager to “shut the [expletive] up” through a spokesman after Ainge criticized James for complaining about hard fouls.
Most of the venom was removed from the game when Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were held out of the lineup, but the tension was still pronounced.
It was Wade’s first game back on the court since March 29 — the very day Riley made those comments — and it showed. He was rusty to begin the game and didn’t make his first field goal until 7:56 remained in the third quarter.
Of course, Wade contributed in other areas. He finished with 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting to go along with seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and a blocked shot. He also committed five turnovers. All in all, it was a strong performance in his first game back after missing six in a row with a knee injury.
“He’s a rhythm player, so that’s what he needed,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Wade bruised his right knee against the Hornets way back on March 29 and he once again smacked the tender area against the Celtics. This time, Wade’s momentum carried him into the basket’s stanchion and the collision caused him a little discomfort.
Wade rubbed his knee after the play and attempted to stretch it out a few possessions later.
Friday was the first game for Wade, James and Bosh to share the court together since New Orleans, and it took a few quarters for the defending champs, winners of 27 in a row this season, to find their rhythm together. Things coalesced quick enough, though. After trailing by as many as 13 points, the Heat pulled away in the second and third quarters.
With Udonis Haslem (ankle) and Shane Battier (general soreness) on the inactive-player list, Mike Miller started alongside James, Wade, Bosh and Mario Chalmers. It didn’t go well.
Miller went 0 of 6 from three-point range and finished the game without scoring. Miami began the game 0 of 6 from distance but then went 5 of 6 from three-point range in the second period. The Heat scored 41 points in the second quarter — a high for a quarter this season — while going 16 of 19 from the field in the period.
Ray Allen was a perfect 3 of 3 from the field and 2 of 2 from three-point range in the decisive second quarter. No player scored in double digits in the period but six players scored at least four points. The Heat was 12 of 23 from three-point range and 12 of 17 from behind the arc after the first quarter.
“It makes it easier when you’re not concerned with who gets the shot,” Spoelstra said. “The ball was snapping around the horn to the open guy.”
The Heat’s bench outscored the Celtics’ reserves 52-14. Allen finished with 17 points. Rashard Lewis had 19 and Norris Cole scored 12 points.
James led the Heat with 20 points. He also had six rebounds and nine assists.
“It felt good to have most of our guys back and we’ll continue to move forward,” Spoelstra said.