LeBron James ate ice cream and cookies and a bacon cheeseburger in the locker room before the game, Dwyane Wade started the game with a bloody nose and Udonis Haslem started the game out for blood.
In other words, it wasn’t a normal night at TD Garden for the Heat.
Usually, when the Heat plays in Boston in the regular season, the game is one of the marquee events of the season.
But Paul Pierce is in Brooklyn now and so is Kevin Garnett, and Danny Ainge, well, Heat president Pat Riley hasn’t told his contemporary in the Celtics’ front office to shut the [expletive] up this season, so this 101-96 loss didn’t mean as much as it would have in years past.
So, in the Heat’s only visit to Beantown this season, there was James at his pregame locker, plugging McDonald’s by plugging his mouth with a cookies and cream McFlurry.
And there was Wade, starting the game by plugging his nose with a tissue to stop a pregame bloody nose.
How exactly did that nose start bleeding before Wade even stepped on the court?
“I wish I knew who hit me,” he joked afterwards. “We couldn’t get it to stop. Every time I wiped my hand and looked down there was blood.”
James didn’t play and Wade didn’t play well and the Heat (46-20), despite having six players in double figures, couldn’t match the energy of the downtrodden Boston rebuilders. Wade led the Heat with 17 points, going 7 of 17 from the field, and Chris Andersen had 16 points in reserve, but Chris Bosh only managed six points with James looking on from the bench.
“We’re searching for consistency and that’s our issue right now,” said Shane Battier, who came off the bench for the third game in a row. “When we’ve been on, we’ve been very good, and when we have been inconsistent, we have been very beatable.”
With Michael Beasley starting for James and Haslem starting for Greg Oden, the Heat featured its 16th different lineup of the season. The defending back-to-back champions have now lost 11 games this season to teams with a winning percentage below .500.
“That’s not good,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That’s not good. We have to do better.”
Guard Avery Bradley led the Celtics (23-46) with 23 points, going 8 of 13 from the field and 6 of 9 from three-point range, but it was the other, more famous Celtics guard that took the game over in crunch time.
Rajon Rondo hit a running layup to give the Celtics a 99-94 lead with 1:44 left, but the Heat kept it close when Wade found a present of an offensive rebound under the basket and made an easy layup.
The Heat had a chance to tie after a miss by Celtics sixth-man Jared Sullinger, but Mario Chalmers badly missed a wide-open attempt from above the break that would have tied the game. Rondo then finished off the shorthanded Heat with a floating baseline runner that gave the Celtics a 101-96 lead with 18.7 seconds to play.
“That was a great shot,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “He made two huge floaters. Those are two tough shots.”
For Rondo, it was one of his best games since returning from injury this season. He finished the game one point shy of a triple-double with nine points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists.
The Heat led by 14 points in the second quarter, but gave most of that lead back before halftime. The fourth quarter was just downright ugly other than a superb effort by Andersen, who was 4 of 4 from the field and 2 of 2 from the free-throw line for 10 points in the final quarter. He also had five rebounds in the fourth to give him eight rebounds overall. The Heat shot 31.8 percent (7 of 22) from the field in the final quarter.
Haslem, starting for the first time since early November, began the game with a mean streak and scored 12 points in the first quarter. He was 6 of 7 from the field to begin the game and finished with 14 points and five rebounds.
“We have guys who can step in and perform when their number is called,” Haslem said. “James [Jones] and Rashard [Lewis] are just sitting there waiting, just like I was for my opportunity. So, whenever a guy’s number is called, they’ll be ready.”