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The Celtics opened their second round series against the Miami Heat Sunday afternoon and the heater must have been on high, because the Heat dominated the Celtics as they lost Game 1 99-90. Tally one up for the new Big Three, who outscored the old big three 67-50.
“I thought they were prepared, they were ready, they played with unbelievable intensity,” said Coach Doc Rivers.
It took a herculean effort from Dwyane Wade, a new record for Heat reserve James Jones and a Paul Pierce ejection to hand the Celtics their first loss of the 2011 playoffs.
Wade, who had struggled against the Celtics all season, dropped 38 points in this one while dishing out 5 assits. At halftime he had outscored all of Boston’s starters combined 23-21. He got help off the bench from James Jones, who added 25 points of his own, good for a new playoff scoring record for a player coming off the bench for the Heat.
Pierce was tossed in the 4th quarter after he took exception to a foul on James Jones. He turned and got in Jones’ face, literally. He threw a head butt at the Heat guard to earn his first technical. Then, after Wade tried to run through a Pierce screen, the two exchanged words. Pierce got his second technical of the game and an early trip to the showers.
After Pierce’s exit the Celtics cut the lead down to eight, but couldn’t keep the comeback alive.
Things started out slowly as both teams struggled from the floor. Wade scored the first bucket on a midrange jumper, which turned out to be a sign of what was to come.
Rajon Rondo picked up two early fouls and once he got his third he found himself on the bench for the greater part of the first half. Rondo only played 8:23 in that first half.
Wade dropped 13 points in the first 12 minutes of the game for Miami even though the Heat as a team were only shooting 37% after the first. The Celtics would have loved to have that percentage. They shot only 25% in the first.
James Jones was on fire in the first half from distance. He had 14 at intermission and was 4-5 from the three point line. The Heat overall were shooting 60% from three at the half.
Jones said, “I got some good looks. All of our playmakers got me good looks and I was able to knock them down with confidence because these guys trust me in the big moments.”
Wade had 23 on 9-for-11 shooting. His counterpart, Ray Allen, was the leading scorer for the Celtics at the half with 13.
The Celtics tried to get back into the game in the third quarter. They had a 12-0 run that was capped by a nice transition bucket from Pierce off a feed from Rondo. The basket made it a seven point game at 55-48, but back to back baskets by LeBron James thwarted the rally.
The score after three was 76-62.
In the fourth, Boston saw the wheels come off and the game started sliding away. The Celtics captain lost his composure and then the C’s lost their captain.
Pierce was fouled on a shot attempt by James Jones who came down hard on Pierce. Pierce let his emotions take over and head-butted Jones. Both Jones and Pierce received techs. Shortly after that, Wade was trying to run through a Pierce screen and Pierce wasn’t a fan of that either. He and Wade began barking and they both were T’d up again, causing Pierce to be ejected. It was Pierce’s language that was the basis for his second tech.
“In the rulebook, that is a verbal taunt,” said Crew Chief Dan Crawford.
With Pierce in the locker room, the Celtics gave their best effort to fight back into the game and an 8-0 run got them within 8, but the comeback ended. The Celtics now trail the series 1-0.
Other than the fact that the Celtics are down 1-0 in the series, there isn’t much to make of this game. The Celtics played one of their worst games. They lost their captain and they spent most of the first half without their point guard. They got little production from key bench guys and still only lost by 9.
One thing we do know from this game is that it’s going to be a tough physical series. These two teams are ready to battle tooth and nail to get to the next round.
“We’re going to have to fight for every inch, every game we get,” Wade said. “Right now, we won Game 1.”
They did win Game 1 and now it’s all about putting this game behind us and hoping the Celtics can regroup and fix their mistakes. In Game 2 on Tuesday, expect to see a different and more motivated Celtics team.