MIAMI — LeBron James said after Game 1 that he didn’t have to score 35 points for the Heat to win.
It doesn’t hurt.
James had 35 points and 7 rebounds as the Heat took a commanding 2-0 series lead with a 102-91 win over the Celtics tonight at American Airlines Arena. Since the arrival of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2007, the Celtics have never gone down 2-0 in a playoff series.
The way the Celtics went down in Game 2 was different than how they went down in Game 1. Boston hung around in the first half of tonight’s game, trailing by five points at the break. The Celtics never fell too far behind, and their persistence paid off when they took the lead on a layup by Rajon Rondo at the 5:35 mark in the third quarter. But the lead was brief. James scored 12 of his 35 points in the third, and the Heat outscored the Celtics 11-5 in the last four minutes of the period to lead 72-67 heading into the fourth.
Just as they’d done all game, the Celtics climbed out of another hole and tied the game at 80 on a pair of free throws by Paul Pierce with 7:10 remaining. The next hole they dug for themselves, however, was too deep. The Heat ran off a 14-0 run in the next three minutes, led by an energetic James, and that was too much to come back from. A technical foul by Doc Rivers summed up the frustration. The Celtics got down one too many times Tuesday night, and now they’re down 2-0.
What differed from Game 1 is that so many things went right for the Celtics. Rondo (20 points, 12 assists, 6 rebounds) played a complete game, while Dwyane Wade and James Jones — who killed the Celtics on Sunday — were held relatively in check. One thing that went wrong was an early injury to Pierce. Pierce left the game at the 5:05 mark in the first quarter and went to the locker room for evaluation. While there, the Celtics released word that Pierce had a left foot strain and deemed his return likely. Pierce returned to the Celtics bench during an early timeout in the second and returned to the game at the 7:41 mark of the quarter.
In the first quarter, Jeff Green carried the Celtics on offense in Pierce’s absence, scoring eight points in just over five minutes of play. Green was the only Celtic in double-figures in the first half. Garnett and Allen combined to shoot 3 of 14 from the field. Rondo played all 12 minutes of the first quarter and 22 minutes in the first half after being limited by foul trouble to eight minutes in the first half of Game 1.
Having failed to win a game in their first two chances here, the Celtics will need to win at least one of two potential remaining games in Miami — as well as protect their own home court — in order to win the series. The teams now have three days off before playing Game 3 at TD Garden in Boston on Saturday at 8 p.m.
Final: Heat 102-91 LeBron James scored 35 points as the Celtics are down 2-0.
2:48 4th quarter, Heat 94-82 The Celtics have gone cold on offense. This doesn’t look good.
4:36 4th quarter, Heat 92-80 James hits a 3-pointer to give him 34 points. He’s barking every time he makes a shot. Not sure what’s got James so animated, but he’s killing the Celtics.
5:46 4th quarter, Heat 87-80: LeBron James with a big rebound and putback. Can the Celtics make another run to stay in it?
6:22 4th quarter, Heat 83-80: Glen Davis lands on Mario Chalmers,
who remained down for a minute or so before getting up and staying in the game.
7:41 4th quarter, Heat 80-78: The Heat can’t pull away, and the Celtics can’t catch up. Paul Pierce is back in the game alongside Rondo, Krstic, West, and Green. They’re hanging in there with that lineup. This could come down to a great finish.
End 3d quarter, Heat 72-67: The Heat took Boston’s bench punch
and responded with one of their own to close out the third quarter. Rajon Rondo has taken over the game for the Celtics. He’s got 13 points, 9 assists, and 5 rebounds. But if Rondo is at his best, so are Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, who have 21 points and 23 points respectively.
3:35 3d quarter, Heat 64-62: The Celtics took a brief lead on Rajon Rondo’s layup. Garnett’s hit four shots in a row now.
6:54 3d quarter, Heat 56-53: Kevin Garnett finally makes a turnaround jumper. The Celtics could desperately use his offense.
11:23 3d quarter, Heat 49-42: We’re underway here in the second half. Heat go to Wade on the first play and draw a foul on Ray Allen trying to defend the lob. Wade’s such a tough cover.
Halftime, Heat 47-42: Dwyane Wade ends the half with two ridiculous moves, one on Kevin Garnett — faking KG right out of the gym — and one on Ray Allen to free up for a 3-pointer. Flash has 16 points to lead all scorers.
That’s the kind of momentum play we didn’t see much in the second quarter. The Celtics are shooting 37 percent, Heat 40 percent. Jeff Green is the only Celtic in double-figures. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are a combined 3 of 14.
59.7 seconds 2d quarter, Heat 39-36: LeBron tracks down Ray Allen from behind to block his layup attempt, but James Jones gets called for blocking.
5:42 2d quarter, Heat 34-33: Paul Pierce checked back in at the 7:41 mark in the second, but he clearly seems to be slowed by that foot. He looks tentative. The Celtics are hanging in the game, though they’re doing it unspectacularly.
8:57 2d quarter, Celtics 31-29: Both teams have their second units in, and it’s not pretty. The Celtics are running bad offense, even with Rajon Rondo on the floor. There’s just no reliable scorer in the second unit that Rondo wants to pass it to.
Paul Pierce just returned to the Celtics bench during the timeout. He’s being attended to by Celtics team doctor Brian McKeon.
End 1st quarter, Heat 27-26: It’s a left foot strain for Paul Pierce, who has yet to return to the Celtics bench. Jeff Green has filled in admirably. He has 8 points on 3-of-4 shooting.
5:05 1st quarter, Tied at 14: Paul Pierce runs to the locker room during the timeout. Has yet to return to the bench.
6:20 1st quarter, Celtics 12-10: Play is heating up a little now. Jermaine O’ Neal just picked up his second foul on an athletic move from Chris Bosh. But O’Neal got Bosh earlier on an offensive rebound plus one.
9:36 1st quarter, Celtics 2-0: Rajon Rondo has the only bucket of the game so far as both teams come out a little tentative. Crowd just arriving here. Not nearly as intense an atmosphere as Game 1.
Pregame: Chants of “U-S-A” here as we prepare for a special ceremony before the game.