Celtics make statement in Miami, beat Heat, 115-107

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Celtics make statement in Miami, beat Heat, 115-107

MIAMI Between the third and fourth quarters of Tuesday's game between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics, a fan donning a Heat jersey banked in a shot at halfcourt which netted him a 2012 Kia Optima.

It was a polaroid moment for sure, because that was the only big shot you saw all night by someone donning the home team's gear.

The Boston Celtics used a blistering string of shots along with big-time contributions from their bench in defeating the Heat 115-107, for the second time in 10 days.

After trailing most of the night, Miami had a chance to tie the game at 89 when Chris Bosh scored while being fouled.

However, he missed the free throw.

Boston scored five of the game's next six points, which included a 3-pointer by Ray Allen to put the Celtics ahead 94-89.

The Celtics soon pushed its lead back to double digits, but the Heat seemingly had one last run in them in as Dwyane Wade's driving lay-up with less than three minutes to play cut Boston's lead down to 108-101 when Doc Rivers called a time-out with 2:34 to play.

Miami continued to chip away, but the Celtics managed to match every Miami spurt with one of their own, with Kevin Garnett (24 points, nine rebounds) and Paul Pierce (27 points) delivering one big shot after another in the game's closing moments.

Down the stretch, Boston once again relied heavily on Rajon Rondo as he continued his mastery of the Heat under the bright lights and intense pressure of a nationally televised game. He finished with 18 points and 15 assists for his 18th double-double this season.

Boston fell behind early, but took control about midway through the first quarter with a 10-0 run. The C's spent most of the first half ahead before taking a 33-22 lead into the second quarter.

Behind a second unit that has more firepower now with the addition of Ray Allen, Boston's backups catapulted the C's to a lead that peaked at 18 points.

As much as the attention on the Celtics bench will surely shift towards Allen, he wasn't the only Celtic reserve causing Miami fits.

Greg Stiemsma played just under 11 minutes in the first half, and tallied four points and six rebounds. Sasha Pavlovic chipped in six points in five minutes. And of course there was Allen scoring five points along with three assists in the first half.

But the Heat, one of the best in the NBA at the America Airlines Arena, were due to make a run at some point.

Gradually the Heat clawed their way back in the game behind the play of Dwyane Wade (16 first-half points) and LeBron James (15 first-half points), whose 3-pointer with no time on the clock cut Boston's lead at the half to 65-57. Wade finished with 20 points while James led all scorers with 36.

Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Hosting the San Antonio Spurs on Nov. 25, the Boston Celtics had the perennial title contenders on the ropes with the lead in the fourth quarter only to lose it and the game, 109-103.

On the road at Houston, one of the Western Conference’s top teams, the Celtics led in the fourth quarter and wound up losing their Dec. 5 matchup 107-106 as Al Horford missed what would have been a game-winning lay-up as time expired.

Boston played well in both games, but not well enough to win which unfortunately for the Green Team has been how things have gone when they’ve faced some of the better teams in the NBA this season.

They are hoping to break that trend tonight when they hit the road and face the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder (14-9) come in with a slightly better record than the Celtics (13-10).

Boston’s issue isn’t that they can’t play with the better teams.

It’s their finish that needs work.

Boston has lost five of its six games this season against teams that are currently among the top-4 in their respective conferences. 

Losses to San Antonio and Houston only highlight Boston not being able to make the late-game runs needed to win.

Even in their 101-94 loss to Toronto on Friday, it was the Raptors’ ability to make one clutch play after another when it mattered most, that proved to be what was needed to propel them to victory.

“That’s what good teams do; they execute at the end of the game,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “We just have to execute better and get stops at the end of the game. That’s what it comes down to.”

And while the Celtics have a number of returners from last season, every season brings about a different team and with that, a need to learn how to collectively be successful especially down the stretch in close games.

“We’re learning,” Bradley said following the Raptors loss. “We’re moving on to the next game.”

And that would be the Thunder who come in having won six of their last seven games.

Of course when it comes to the Thunder, everything starts with Russell Westbrook who is on everyone’s short list for league MVP.

He is averaging a triple-double this season with 30.9 points, 11.3 assists and 10.8 rebounds per game.

“He’s amazing,” said Boston’s Terry Rozier who will likely spend some time defending Westbrook tonight. “He’s going to be aggressive. We have to try and find a way to stop that. He’s putting up video game stats. It’s tough but we gotta do something.”

The Celtics will likely lean heavily on Marcus Smart and Bradley, a first-team all-NBA defensive selection last season, when it comes to trying to slow down Westbrook.

“Russell’s a good player,” Bradley said. “I look forward to every matchup. If it’s him, whoever it is, I look forward to it. That’s what this league is about.”

It’s also about growth and development of franchises into title contenders, something the Celtics are eager to continue pushing towards tonight.

Horford spent the previous nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, advancing to the playoffs every season.

He saw first-hand how they went from a team that could barely get into the playoffs, into one that produced four all-stars in one season and had the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Horford saw the loss to Toronto as an example of a really good team doing what great teams do and that’s finding a way to win regardless of how things are going most of the night.

“We made a run early (against Toronto), they stayed with it, didn’t rattle and eventually got over us,” Horford said. “We’re growing as a group.”

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that.