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celtics 107, heat 102

Celtics make the Heat second straight victims

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / February 4, 2010

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There were all sorts of indications the Celtics might be playing catch-up with Dwyane Wade in last night’s game against the Heat. Paul Pierce (strained left foot) was out, and his replacement, Tony Allen, got into early foul trouble.

But with the game on the line, Allen batted away Wade’s dribble and converted two foul shots in the final minute of the Celtics’ 107-102 victory at TD Garden.

“It was a rough night for me after those fouls,’’ Allen said. “But I didn’t pay attention. I was just trying to get back and do something big for the team.’’

The Celtics had recently been producing neither clutch offense nor late-game stifling defense before a 99-88 win at Washington Monday. This time, the Celtics followed the last-minute defending scheme, running the Heat off the 3-point line (with a couple of exceptions), and making Miami players shoot over a defender.

Wade (30 points, 13 assists) kept the Heat in contention after the Celtics (31-16) had built a 10-point advantage in the final quarter. Miami twice cut the deficit to 2, and had a chance to pull within 1 as Wade missed a banker with the Celtics leading, 97-94.

“That’s two games in a row, great fourth quarter D,’’ said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “Honestly, it couldn’t have got . . . it had to get better. What were they shooting [62.5 percent] in the first half? You know, it’s funny, I told them at halftime, and it sounds crazy, I thought we were playing hard defensively. I really did. [But] Wade controlled the first half.’’

The Celtics countered by focusing on ball movement. Rajon Rondo (22 points, 14 assists) set the tone and Kevin Garnett (14 points, nine assists) took the passing mentality to absurd levels, once passing up a shot under the basket to find Ray Allen (23 points) for a short jumper.

“It was contagious,’’ Rondo said of the passing game. “It started when we first came out, first play of the game, you know, we moved the ball. When guys are moving the ball we’re a great team and we’re fun to watch, can’t give our guys enough credit. We shared the ball tonight and played very unselfish.’’

The Celtics started the final quarter with a 14-4 run over 5:24. A Glen Davis follow made it 79-74 with 9:42 left. Udonis Haslem’s 3-point play out of a timeout was countered by a Ray Allen 3-pointer. Then, Rasheed Wallace’s 15-footer answered a Wade free throw and Kendrick Perkins dunked off a Ray Allen feed and scored on a fast break for an 88-78 lead with 6:36 remaining.

Wade’s 3-pointer out of a timeout sparked an 8-0 Miami rally. Rondo’s penetration produced an Eddie House three, then a House layup off a turnover and Garnett’s ninth assist upped the Celtics’ lead to 93-86 with 4:14 left. But the Heat rallied again, pulling within 96-94 on Quentin Richardson’s 3-pointer off a Wade feed with 1:36 left. Perkins’s free throw upped the Celtics’ edge to 3 with 1:22 to go, then Wade’s runner went off the backboard, Rondo rebounding.

Ray Allen misfired with :01 on the shot clock and the Heat set up a pick-and-roll for Wade. That’s when Tony Allen stepped in.

“Doc tried to tell me, ‘Don’t worry about fouls, just play,’ ’’ Tony Allen said. “[Wade] was having a great night, he was cooking. I just had to try to keep my head and whenever my number got called, I just focused in on trying to get a stop.’’

Said Wallace: “For maybe the fourth or fifth game in a row, Tony Allen came in and played pretty good defense. He came up with a pretty big steal on Wade. It just lets you know that if a guy does go down there’s somebody right there behind them that’s willing to take his place and know the pressure of it.’’

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