Celtics drop Game 1 to Heat, 93-79
MIAMI—For nine minutes, the Boston Celtics were vintage. Everything was working, points were coming in bunches, the Miami crowd was rendered quiet and a big deficit disappeared.
It was about the only time all night things went Boston's way -- and that wasn't enough to take down LeBron James and the Heat.
James scored 32 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, Dwyane Wade scored 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter and the Heat beat the Celtics 93-79 on Monday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Shane Battier, playing in the conference finals for the first time, had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Heat, who wasted an early 11-point first-half lead before running away to break a halftime tie. Miami outrebounded the Celtics 48-33 and blocked 11 shots.
"We let Wade, we let LeBron play in extreme comfort," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "And we gave the other guys everything they wanted as well."
Kevin Garnett had 23 points and 10 rebounds for Boston, which got 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists from Rajon Rondo and 12 points from Paul Pierce.
Pierce was 5 for 18. Rondo shot 8 of 20. Ray Allen was 1 for 7 from the floor and 3 for 7 from the foul line -- missing four free throws for just the third time in his 1,270 career regular-season and playoff games.
"We kept fighting," Rondo said. "It wasn't pretty. We missed four or five layups, a bunch of free throws. That being said, we were tied at halftime but we just didn't come out with the right mindset in the second half."
The Celtics finished with four technical fouls (not including another for a defensive three-second violation), three of them coming in the second quarter -- which was by far Boston's best of the night. One came for delaying the game, Allen got another and Rivers picked one up as well for arguing a call.
"I know mine wasn't," Rivers said, asked if the technicals were deserved. "I can tell you that much. I don't know how long I've been in the league, but that has to rank as the worst I've ever had. ... Everybody has to keep their composure, not just the players and the coaches."
Game 2 is Wednesday in Miami.
It's the third straight year the Heat and Celtics have met in the playoffs, the third straight year James has seen his postseason path go through Boston as well -- the first of those matchups coming in 2010, his final run with Cleveland.
Each of those came in the first or second rounds, never one round away from the NBA finals.
And while both sides would say there's a long way to go in this series, Game 1 winners have a decided edge in any best-of-seven, the conference final being no exception. In the most recent 10 postseasons, teams with 1-0 leads in conference finals have advanced 15 out of 20 times. One of the five instances of a team rallying from a one-game deficit was last year, when Miami ousted Chicago in five games.
"One down. And they still have an opportunity in Game 2 to accomplish what they want to," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "At times it was a strange game. Some good runs, both teams. We felt we could have played better and I'm sure they felt the same thing. But we found a way to grind it."
Last season's Miami-Boston series ended with James scoring the final 10 points of Game 5, and the start of this year's matchup had him putting on another offensive display.
He had 13 points in the first quarter -- two more than the entire Celtics roster -- and Miami ran out to a 21-11 lead after the opening period. Garnett made three of his four shots in the quarter, while everyone else in Boston green was 2 for 16 from the floor.
The 11 points matched the lowest output by any team in the opening quarter this postseason. The other team to manage that few was San Antonio, which then dropped 32 on the Los Angeles Clippers in the second quarter of their game on May 19.
The Celtics' response was even better.
Boston scored 35 in the second quarter, erasing what was an 11-point deficit early in the period by scoring 27 points in the final 8:46 of the half to pull into a 46-all tie. Rondo, Garnett and Pierce combined to score 23 points in the quarter.
In the end, it went down as merely a one-quarter lapse for Miami.
"We knew at halftime we hadn't played our best basketball," James said. "We just had to stop making the mental mistakes."
Another technical foul, this one on Rondo, came in the third quarter, likely born from frustration as the Heat started to roll again.
With the game tied at 50, Rondo missed three shots in a 31-second span early in the third, the last of those getting blocked by Battier -- who hit a 3-pointer 11 seconds later. It started a 9-2 Miami burst, including a touchdown pass from Wade to James -- Wade grabbed the rebound of a miss by Pierce, spun and delivered a 90-foot pass to the reigning MVP -- for an easy score.
Miami led by as many as 13 late in the third, before taking a 72-61 lead into the fourth. James scored 10 more in the third, Boston went cold again shooting just 27 percent in the period, and Wade's left-handed bullet pass into the lane set up Joel Anthony for a dunk that pushed the Heat lead to 15 with 10:13 remaining.
NOTES: The Celtics allowed Miami to shoot 21 for 27 from inside the paint. ... Neither team shot particularly well from the line, Miami going 16 for 23, Boston just 11 for 21. And combined, the teams shot 9 for 39 from 3-point range. ... Spoelstra is now 6-0 in Game 1s at home.