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In bench battle, Heat’s was hotter

By Cristina Ledra
Globe Correspondent / May 31, 2012
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MIAMI - The Celtics didn’t get much of anything from their bench on a night when their starters nearly gave them enough in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference finals Wednesday night against the Heat.

A game after leaving Kevin Garnett on an island, Rajon Rondo never left the floor in a 44-point effort, Paul Pierce contributed 21 points, Ray Allen scored 13, and Brandon Bass had 10 rebounds and 8 points. Garnett added 18 points and eight rebounds.

But the Boston bench accounted for just 7 points and five rebounds compared to Miami’s bench, which scored 25 and chipped in 17 rebounds to help the Heat escape with a 115-111 overtime win that gave them a 2-0 series edge.

“What Rondo did, I thought he just stepped up to the elbow, where he shoots a high percentage and he just . . . took the shots,’’ coach Doc Rivers said. “And I thought that’s what he had to do. He has to keep doing that. We have to get more guys involved as well.’’

Even as the Celtics responded to the Game 1 loss with more physical play and an overwhelming performance from Rondo - who added 8 rebounds, 10 assists, and 3 steals - it wasn’t enough without some offensive presence from the bench.

“It was a difficult loss for us,’’ said Keyon Dooling, who had 2 points in 15 minutes before fouling out, one of three Celtics to foul out. “We put our heart and our soul into the game. I think we executed all the adjustments that we wanted to make especially in the intensity and the energy category. But you have to tip your hat to them. They made plays down the stretch, they got stops when they needed stops, and their superstars made big plays.’’

Greg Stiemsma got in early foul trouble with four in the first quarter in a span of less than two minutes and ended up with 2 points in his five minutes of playing time.

Mickael Pietrus logged 28 minutes - the most of the Celtics’ reserves - finishing with 3 points and two rebounds, and fouling out with 18.4 seconds left in regulation.

“We’re satisfied with the way we played,’’ Pietrus said. “It’s nothing that went wrong tonight, it’s just we had players go down with six fouls and now we have to go home and, you know, soldiers keep fighting.’’

The lack of scoring from the bench proved costly in the overtime period after Pierce also fouled out.

“Any time you lose Paul it’s a big blow to our offense and our defense,’’ Dooling said. “He did a great job of getting after LeBron tonight, but Rondo picked up the slack, Ray made some big plays, KG was good when Paul went out.’’

Defensively, Pietrus and Dooling keyed on James, which left Mario Chalmers open and Chalmers responded with 22 points, hitting 8 of 16 shots, including 3 of 6 treys.

“Mario’s been phenomenal for them all year,’’ Dooling said. “He’s been extremely underrated and somewhat underappreciated in my opinion. He does a great job facilitating, he does a great job defensively, he’s quick with his hands, he makes open shots. He’s a very good complementary player to those slashers.’’

With the starters playing extended minutes in a desperate effort to even the series, the possibility of fatigue is real, but the Celtics are determined to keep doing whatever is necessary to keep their season alive. Game 3 is Friday night at TD Garden.

“I’m not concerned at all [about fatigue],’’ Allen said. “Everybody on the team wants to be out on the floor as much as they can. If Doc needs us in there, if he needs us on the bench, it’s his call. Whatever he decided for us, we’ll live with it.’’

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