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Heat 101, Celtics 92

A Celtic sweep is derailed

Wade biggest of team’s troubles

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / April 26, 2010

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MIAMI — It’s the shred of truth that becomes apparent every so often, reminding you that they’re men, not machines.

Ray Allen hadn’t missed three free throws in one game all year. In fact, he hadn’t missed three in one game in more than three years.

He’s as cerebral as it gets at the line. He plays games with himself at times. “You’re going to miss it,’’ he’ll say to himself, just to add pressure.

He had made 91.3 percent of his shots at the line this season. Before he stepped to the stripe yesterday with 2:36 left in Game 4 of the Celtics’ series with the Heat, he had made his only free throw of the afternoon.

But after making one at 2:36, Allen ended up missing three freebies in a row, not helping Boston’s cause down the stretch in what ended up a 101-92 Miami win.

With the Celtics trailing, 96-91, Allen made his first foul shot. The next one clanged.

He had missed a pair in Game 4, and with a sense of his shot as keen as a golfer’s sense about his swing, he knew something felt wrong. “It just looked on line, and then it seemed like it caught a bad part of the rim,’’ he said.

Within seconds he was back at the line, at the 1:50 mark, now trying to cut into a 96-92 Heat lead. The first one back-rimmed out. The second one rolled out.

It was hard to fathom.

“To me I look at it as a fluke when it does that,’’ Allen said. “Sometimes, I’m just unlucky.’’

After rallying from as many as 18 points down to take a 6-point lead into the fourth quarter, the Celtics found themselves trying to fight off a scorching Dwyane Wade, who scored 46 points, 30 in the second half, both franchise records.

And when it seemed like Wade couldn’t miss, even on the wildest of shots, as he scored 19 in the fourth quarter, the Celtics watched as shots they’ve made hundreds of times this season wormed their way out of the basket.

Kevin Garnett would miss two more free throws after Allen, and Boston went 16 of 27 from the line overall in letting a series clincher that was in their grasp get away.

Game 5 is tomorrow night at the Garden, where the Celtics, leading the series, three games to one, again will try to finish it off.

“The basketball gods were with us,’’ said Wade, who had four increasingly devastating fourth-quarter 3-pointers. “You get Ray Allen to miss three free throws out of four and then KG goes up there and misses . . .

“That’s why you never know what the game is going to bring. That’s why you can never give up, because this is a funny game. The basketball gods are real tricky. That’s why we never gave up, because we know you never know what’s going to happen in a Game 5.’’

The Heat were fighting off elimination and were trying to block out the possibility of free agent-to-be Wade possibly playing his last game in AmericanAirlines Arena. They shot 50 percent from the floor, and drained 10 of their 18 threes, but the biggest assist they got yesterday wasn’t among the 16 in the box score.

“At some point, you need a little bit of help,’’ said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra. “If you’re trying to do the right thing, a team will sometimes miss also, and they missed some open looks . . . some shots they were making the other night. We don’t discredit them. But we were also a very determined and defiant group.’’

The misses, at times, were puzzling.

With the Heat playing their best offensive game of the series (Quentin Richardson had 20 points, Michael Beasley 15), the Celtics still were able to take some good punches, cutting the lead to 96-91 when Garnett zipped a pass to Michael Finley for a wide-open 3-pointer. After Allen split two free throws, Rajon Rondo got a clean look at a 7-foot floater, a shot he puts up before each game in shootaround. He kissed it off the glass.

“It just rimmed out,’’ he said. “I shot it like it was going in, but it just stayed on the rim too long and came on out.’’

It was the story of the final 2 1/2 minutes for the Celtics.

“Shots we normally make,’’ Rondo said. “We want our guys at the line. We got them at the line. It’s not necessarily one person, it’s the whole game — just a trickle-down effect.’’

The Celtics had nine turnovers in the first quarter alone, helping the Heat pile their lead as high as 18, with Wade doing dunk contest finishes.

They got back in it but finished with 16 turnovers, costing them 28 points.

“I can’t argue with anything that happened for us offensively,’’ Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “I told our guys that’s the human part of the game.’’

Allen already has blocked out time for practicing at the line today.

“You’ve got to get back in there and shoot a couple hundred,’’ he said.

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