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Their extra effort rewarded in rout

Heat make grade as James keys fast start

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / June 8, 2012
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For most of Game 6, it seemed that every loose ball belonged to the Heat, every bounce went their way, every little extra effort came from them. If 50-50 balls were going to be a deciding factor, it was clear the outcome could go no other way than that of the Heat.

The Heat had spent Wednesday looking relaxed, confident, and focused, perhaps even chatting a bit more than normal. They didn’t seem worried. They seemed like they knew what they needed to do.

That’s exactly what happened Thursday night at TD Garden. Miami wanted this game. LeBron James wanted this game. And because James poured in 45 points, because the Heat scrambled for everything they could get, despite getting little from their bench, there will be a Game 7 Saturday night after Miami won, 98-79.

The effort, that for three straight games had been squarely on the side of the Celtics, switched teams for the night. It was the Heat going up early, taking control, pushing their way through a defense that stopped little.

“We needed an effort like that to win in Boston,’’ Shane Battier said.

It was something they had yet to get in this series, not for a full game.

“We finally put together a full effort,’’ Battier said. “Close-out games are funny. You just never know how you’re going to react. I think that we started the game so well, and everyone said, ‘OK, guys, we’re here. Let’s try to get this.’ ’’

The Heat started quickly, pushed by James, and never let up. The trick will be replicating that in Game 7, in a game that will need the same - if not more - determination.

“I think tonight was our best effort of, no matter what was going on in the game, just focusing on the game and getting back and making sure they are seeing our defense,’’ Dwyane Wade said.

Or, as Udonis Haslem said, “Everybody just brought unbelievable effort. Needed to leave it all out on the floor, and that’s what we did.

“The season’s on the line. We have to do that. We focused on bringing an unbelievable focus for 48 minutes, and that’s what we got.’’

The Heat had talked Wednesday about all the bounces that didn’t go their way in Game 5, like the block by Wade that somehow ended up as a Mickael Pietrus 3-pointer. On Thursday, the Heat had no reason to mourn a single bounce.

The momentum that the Celtics brought from three consecutive wins was gone not long after the opening tip, snatched away by a hungrier, more desperate Heat team.

“It was an incredible effort by our team,’’ Chris Bosh said. “We did what we were supposed to do. Sending it back to Miami was, of course, our No. 1 goal. In order to do that, we had to win this game, we had to stay poised. I’m just really proud of the effort that each and every one of our guys gave tonight.’’

It was, in some ways, a lesson for a Heat team that has been disappointed in the way it has attacked the Celtics, especially in the first half of games.

“Just knowing that our backs are against the wall, I think we had more urgency, and we have to work on that,’’ Bosh said. “Before, we didn’t have the same urgency that we did tonight. For one, because it’s an elimination game, we lose we go home. That kind of changes your aspect as a team.

“But I think if we give that effort every time we step out on the court, we’re going to be a tough team to beat. We have to make sure we give that same effort, if not more.’’

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.

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