Celtics - Heat review: No moral victories for C's

Celtics - Heat review: No moral victories for C's
March 19, 2013, 12:45 am
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BOSTON — The Boston Celtics gave the Miami Heat all they could handle before the Heat managed to escape with a 105-103 win.

The C's have plenty of positives to take away from the loss.

But that means nothing to this team, not after having been in control for the better part of three quarters, only to allow LeBron James and company to steal the victory in the game's closing seconds.

"I told our guys, 'that was our first playoff game, for a lot of the new guys," Rivers said. "And I was really looking forward to the game because I didn't know how a lot of guys were going to react. Besides not winning the game we passed the test."

Try telling that to Paul Pierce who had 17 points but failed to make a 3-pointer in the final seconds that would have put the C's on top and potentially been the game-winner.

"We feel like we match up with them, top to bottom," Pierce said. "But you know, like I said, no moral victories."

For Rivers, the game was decided well before James' game-winning jumper over Green with 10.5 seconds to play.

"As hard as we played, and we played great ... I just thought we made too many mistakes defensively switching, and giving up lay-ups," Rivers said. "Overall, I'd take the game. It was a fantastic game. I just don't like losing it."

Added Pierce: "There's always positives from every game. It's always gonna come down to the little things, and those little things really add up at the end of the day when you have a two-point loss."

Here are some other factors outlined prior to the game, and how they impacted the game as the Celtics embark see their season-best 11 game winning streak at home come to a screeching halt by the Heat.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Despite having lineups filled with high-scoring talent, both of these teams have hedged their bets for success on stout defense. When the two played back in January, the Celtics won 100-98 in double-overtime. Look for points to be hard to come by for both teams once again.

WHAT WE SAW: The offenses for both teams were humming along Monday night, especially the Celtics who spent a good chunk of the game shooting better than 60 percent from the field. In the end, the Celtics made 54.2 percent of its shots while the Heat shot 49.4 percent from the field.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Avery Bradley vs Dwyane Wade:  Bradley and Wade have been a huge part of their respective team's success of late, with Bradley contributing with his defense and timely shot-making while Wade has been getting it done at both ends of the floor as well.

WHAT WE SAW: Bradley did a decent job defensively on Wade as he scored 16 points while taking 15 shots from the field. But down the stretch, Wade's rebounding was huge. He grabbed five of his seven rebounds for the game in the fourth quarter. To put that in perspective, the C's had a total of just six rebounds in the fourth.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jeff Green is indeed an X-factor for the Celtics. At the very least, Green needs to score in double figures as well as make his presence felt defensively. Although he only had 11 points in Boston's win over the Heat on Jan. 27, the Celtics were plus-6 with him on the floor which was the second-highest plus/minus ratio for any Celtics players (Paul Pierce, plus-8).

WHAT WE SAW: Green had the best game of his life, scoring a career-high 43 points to go with seven rebounds two assists and four blocked shots. "He had a tremendous game," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "He played great, he was aggressive, he was making tough plays, and he was putting a lot of pressure on our defense."

STAT TO TRACK:  The Celtics' success since the all-star break has been fueled in part by the increased scoring of the C's bench. For the season, the Celtics rank 15th in the league in bench scoring. But since the break, they are now 10th with a 35.2 bench points scored per game. In the C's triple overtime win against Miami on Jan. 27, Boston's backups outscored Miami's second unit, 39-29.

WHAT WE SAW: Bench scoring was not a huge factor in Monday's game, in part because of the key players for the Celtics' second unit - Jeff Green - was starting in place of an injured Kevin Garnett. Even with Green's production out of the equation for the backups, Boston's reserves still outscored their Miami counterparts, 17-16.