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Celtics 88, Heat 62

Celtics happy to frolic in field of dreams

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Marc J. Spears
Globe Staff / March 31, 2008

With little-known NBA Development League products named Blake Ahearn, Joel Anthony, Stephane Lasme, and Kasib Powell now starring for Miami, a Celtic nicknamed "The Truth" strongly spoke his mind on how his team handled business last night.

The Celtics hammered the cold Heat, 88-62, in a blowout at sold-out TD Banknorth Garden. The Heat sank only 17 field goals, setting an NBA record for the fewest since the shot-clock era began in the 1954-55 season. The previous NBA record was 18 by Chicago against Miami on April 10, 1999.

"I'm going to tell you the truth," Celtics forward Paul Pierce, who had 10 points in 25 minutes, said. "When you got Powell, [Earl] Barron, Lasme, and Ahearn, we're supposed to do that. That's D-Leaguers out there. I think we just handled our business. They put in about four or five guys from the D-League and we did our business.

"We knew this was a game we were supposed to win and we were focused from the jump and went out and did it."

The Celtics' top-ranked defense had its best game of the season, holding the Heat to 28.8 percent shooting (17 for 59). The visitors missed 17 of 21 3-point attempts and tallied 4 second-chance points. No Miami player scored more than 14 points or made more than four field goals.

"They told us about [the field-goal record] when we came in the locker room," said Celtics forward Kevin Garnett, who had 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists in 22 minutes. "Our defense has been our bread and butter all year. Tonight was no different."

Heat swingman Ricky Davis, who scored 14 points, said: "They are just on the same page defensively. Everybody is talking to each other, helping each other, kind of like they are on a string there."

The win reduced the Celtics' magic number to secure the Eastern Conference's top regular-season record to 3. Boston (58-15), in sweeping the season series (4-0), won its third straight game and finished March with a 13-3 record.

"We're trying to prepare and get ourselves ready for the playoffs," Garnett said. "The competition is what should motivate you. We definitely didn't want to lose the game or play with the game or mess with the game. So, we just came out aggressive and never looked back."

Said Celtics coach Doc Rivers: "The defensive effort was good throughout the game. So I'm happy. It was a win and we'll take it."

Boston reserve Leon Powe had game-highs of 17 points and 13 rebounds in 27 minutes. The 2006 second-round pick has gone from being stuck on the bench through mid-January to being the first big man into the game.

"I've worked for everything my whole life," Powe said. "I've been battling for something. Nothing came easy for me. So I want to play, but I'm going to have to earn it."

The Heat won their first NBA championship two years ago. Now, Miami, which has the NBA's worst record (13-60) might have a hard time winning the D-League title.

Miami coach and president Pat Riley missed the contest to scout the NCAA Tournament and was replaced on the sideline by assistant Ron Rothstein. All-Star guard Dwyane Wade is out for the rest of the season because of left knee treatment, forward Shawn Marion was out with back spasms, and six other players were out injured, as well.

The lack of NBA talent meant the Celtics' coaching staff had to study more tape than usual to learn the tendencies of the unfamiliar players wearing the Heat uniform.

"I did what I had to do in my 10 days," said Lasme, whose contract just ran out. The UMass product was only able to contribute 2 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 21 minutes

"If they don't like me and don't keep me for another 10 days, it's nothing I can really control."

While Rivers doesn't plan on benching any of his key players during the final stretch of the regular season, he would like to cut their minutes. Such happened on this night as all of the Celtics starters sat in sweats the entire fourth quarter, and not one of them played more than 25 minutes.

In contrast, Rothstein didn't have such a luxury.

"They got guys fighting for jobs or looking for jobs next year," Garnett said.

"This is a great opportunity for guys, especially from the D-League, who don't get a lot of opportunity to come in and play, show what they have and they want to showcase themselves. You just can't do it in the Garden. You just can't do it on the Celtics. That's all."

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