|2014 FIBA World Cup Pick ‘Em: Group Stage||2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup Preview||Video: Dobson Debuts with Can’t-Miss TD Catch from Garoppolo||Five Targets for the Celtics’ Rebuilding Process|
The Boston Celtics are still searching for their first win of the season, while the Miami Heat have yet to lose, after the Heat beat the Celtics, 115-107, Tuesday night in Miami. Boston is now 0-2 start in this shortened season that will likely be the last for Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett as teammates.
With Pierce lost for now to a bruised right heel, Boston would need a quick start and great play on both sides of the ball to have a shot. Instead, Miami started out red-hot, knocking down 7/8 field goals attempts, capped off by a Chris Bosh three that gave the Heat an early 18-11 lead. They continued to attack the Celtics’ defense with a high-flying assault led by Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. A technical foul on Rajon Rondo for complaining about a non-call after driving to the hoop turned into three more fast points for Miami and a 26-15 lead.
However, Rondo helped the Celtics regain some momentum, taking a charge amidst six Miami turnovers amidst a 10-0 run to cut the lead to 26-25. The quarter closed with the Heat leading 30-27, but that late surge at least kept the game in reach. Boston lacked aggression throughout the quarter, only taking three free-throw attempts.
The Heat started the second just as strong, going on an 8-2 run and forcing a Celtics timeout. Boston’s secondary – especially Brandon Bass – is stronger than expected, but neither starters nor backups on the Celtics seemed to match up against the Heat. James just watched from the bench as the Heat managed a 51-36 lead.
James reentered for Wade and the offensive explosion continued as 14 Celtics turnovers did little to help their cause. Allen did help, getting hot enough in the second to keep Boston relevant. He hit a couple of corner threes, watched Keyon Dooling hit one, then hit another himself to cut the deficit to 59-49.
However, the Celtics continued to fail to hold down the Miami offense as their fast break points created distance between the two teams. The Celtics trailed 69-54 at the half.
Allen led the Celtics with an impressive 18 points, a sign that he is certainly sharp as ever to start the year. Rondo played 20 minutes, with a solid line of 12 points, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds. The Heat, on the other hand, got 15 points each from James and Wade, the dynamic duo within Miami’s Big Three.
The Celtics clearly missed Pierce on both sides of the ball, but they did shoot over 51 percent from the floor. Only problem: Miami shot 65 percent.
The Heat offense is something special this year, flying up and down the court relentlessly. Amazingly, through their first six quarters of the season LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have combined for zero three-point attempts. The Celtics would need quite the rally to keep things interesting.
Things did get interesting throughout the third quarter, as the Celtics managed to chip away at the large Miami lead. Although both teams had a large number of turnovers at halftime, the Heat’s sloppy basketball continued in the third, turning the ball over five times in the opening two minutes and allowing the Celtics to cut the lead to 69-58.
The Celtics continued to rally, largely due to the efforts of Rondo and Allen, though the Heat kept pace for the most part. The Celtics did win the quarter to cut back into the overall lead, as Brandon Bass’ score late in the quarter cut the deficit to 91-83 heading into the fourth.
With a game Wednesday night in New Orleans, the Celtics had to decide how to handle the Heat if they started to widen the gap again in the fourth. Miami opened the quarter on a 9-2 run and came close to shooting an incredible 70% for the game, but Boston refused to back off. An and-one dunk from Bass combined with a three pointer from Allen cut the lead back to 102-93.
The tempo of the Heat started slowly dying down; a Rondo drive to the basket made it a seven point game. But questionable-at-best offensive foul called on Bass returned significant momentum to the Heat with just over three minutes remaining in regulation. It looked like the game was over when rookie Norris Cole drilled a 19-foot shot to give the Heat a 10-point lead, but Boston had one last surge.
Dooling scored seven consecutive points on four straight free throws and a three-pointer as time wound down. The Celtics were within three points of a dramatic tie that could have shocked the basketball world. Instead, Cole made quite the late impact.
Cole took charge in the fourth quarter, hitting two late jump shots to keep the Celtics two possessions away. He finished with 14 in the quarter to give him 20 overall. He and the Miami Big Three combined for 88 of the Heat’s 115 as they held off the still-winless Celtics.
Despite the stinging loss, much can still be interpreted from the first two games of this shortened season. Without Pierce, the Celtics held their own against two of the stronger teams in the East, nearly pulling off a last-second win against the Knicks on Sunday and managing to stay with Miami Tuesday.
It’s clear the Celtics can still bring their best and match up with most teams, but the biggest question for the aging group of veterans is how they handle back-to-back games. They will be tested on this right away, as the action picks up Wednesday night when the Celtics face the Hornets while still searching for their first win.