All for nothing
Celtics improve, but still can’t beat the Heat
MIAMI - After Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, Rajon Rondo urged his Celtics teammates to get physical with the Miami Heat. The Celtics followed Rondo’s advice and also followed his direction Wednesday night, but it was not enough as they fell, 115-111, in overtime in Game 2.
Rondo played the entire 53 minutes and totaled a career-high 44 points, sparking the Celtics to a 15-point first-half lead, and scoring all 12 of their points in the extra session. Rondo could not win this one single-handedly, though, as LeBron James (34 points, 10 rebounds) and Dwyane Wade (23 points) produced nearly half the Heat’s points.
“He was absolutely phenomenal,’’ Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of Rondo. “Put the whole team, at times, on his shoulders. You know, it’s tough to have him play that way and not win the game, honestly, because he did basically everything right and we had a lot of opportunities to win the game.’’
This was an inspiring recovery by the Celtics, following a 93-79 loss, but they will take a two-game disadvantage into Friday’s Game 3 at TD Garden.
Things started breaking the Celtics’ way in overtime as James missed two foul shots 21 seconds in. But the Celtics squandered their last opportunity to pull away as Kevin Garnett missed a banker with a 101-99 lead.
Rondo thrice broke the tie in overtime, the third time going directly at James to earn two foul shots for a 105-103 lead with 2:16 to go. But James tied the score after being tied up by a Garnett-Rondo double-team, controlling the jump ball, and tipping in a miss with 1:50 left.
Rondo then missed on a twisting drive, disputing the non-call after Udonis Haslem made it 107-105 for the Heat, the Celtics calling a timeout with 1:27 to go. Garnett and Brandon Bass failed to connect out of the timeout and Wade finished a 3-point drive to make it 110-105 with 59.7 on the clock.
Garnett fired an airball out of a timeout and James rebounded. Shane Battier misfired on a 3-point attempt, but the Heat rebounded and Wade hit two free throws as Mickael Pietrus fouled out.
Rondo hit two 3-pointers, cutting the deficit to 114-111. But the Heat finished things off as Wade hit the second of two foul shots with 2.2 on the clock.
The Celtics lost captain Paul Pierce, who fouled out in the final minute of regulation, and reserves Pietrus and Keyon Dooling fouled out in overtime.
“LeBron James took 24 free throws and our team took 29,’’ Rivers said. “Paul Pierce fouled out of a game where he was attacking the basket. It’s just tough. But listen, we’ve just got to keep playing. I tell my guys, ‘doesn’t matter.’ We can’t get distracted. We will not get distracted in this series.
“I guarantee you right now they’re distracted, in the locker room. But we have to get it out of us and move on. Whatever happened, happened, and we’re just going to move on and play the next game.
“It’s corny, but they’ve won two games at home. And now we go to a place that we’re very comfortable in, and we have to win two games at home. And then we’ll see from there.’’
The Celtics trailed by as many as 8 points late in the third quarter, but went on a 13-2 run over a 5:48 span, going up, 92-87, on a Rondo jumper with 4:13 remaining in regulation.
James rallied the Heat, going down under the basket after drawing Pierce’s fifth foul, making two free throws, then two more after a Pierce jumper. Rondo began guarding James, and the Heat went to Battier for a tying 3-pointer with 2:19 to go, then took the lead, 96-94, as James converted two foul shots with 1:52 to play, following a Ray Allen miss.
After scrambling to avert a backcourt turnover, the Celtics called a timeout with 1:36 remaining and eight seconds on the shot clock. But Pierce missed a 28-footer out of the timeout and Haslem’s baseline jumper gave Miami a 98-94 advantage with 1:08 remaining.
Rondo and Garnett connected for a dunk out of a timeout with 1:03 remaining. Then, Pierce fouled out and Wade hit a free throw for a 99-96 Miami edge with 47.7 seconds left.
Allen converted an open 3-pointer out of a 20-second timeout to tie, 99-99, with 34.3 remaining. James missed a lefthanded drive out of a timeout, but rebounded, then missed a jumper at the regulation-time buzzer.
“It’s just tough when you get a loss, especially when you play so hard and you think you play so well,’’ Pierce said. “Definitely a winnable game for us - few little things we got to do a little better. I don’t think it has to do anything with the game plan, just a little more effort on loose balls. Even though we played great defense, they got a lot of loose balls, that’s what kind of opened up their 3-point game. I thought we fouled a lot, put them to the line. The little things, that’s what it’s really going to come down to, the little things, when you’re trying to win basketball games.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at email@example.com.