Big Four put on show in possible finale

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Big Four put on show in possible finale

BOSTON The Boston Celtics' Big Four won't be back at the Garden for more than two weeks.

And with the NBA trading deadline on Thursday, there's no guarantee when the C's do return, that the Big Four of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo, will all be back.

Well if this was going to be the last game played at the Garden by the Big Four, they certainly gave the fans in attendance something to remember with a 104-86 thumping of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Allen and Pierce led the way with 22 points each. Garnett, who only played 21 minutes, made all five of his field goal attempts and finished with 10 points and eight rebounds. Rondo, who played just 26 minutes, had eight points and five assists as the C's (21-18) won their fifth straight at home and improve their post all-star break record to 6-1.

Boston began to pull away in the first quarter after a lay-up by Garnett tied the game at 10.

From there, the C's went on an 8-0 run and took a double-digit lead into the second quarter.

Boston has one of the NBA's stingiest defenses.

But to start the second quarter, forget about being in shut-down mode.

The C's were more like in shut-out mode as they opened the third with a 16-0 run which propelled a comfortable win into an all-out crushing of a Blazers (19-21) team that has lost five of its last six games.

Portland got the lead down to 18 points in the fourth, but a jumper by Avery Bradley pushed the C's lead to 94-74, with 4:35 to play.

It was the kind of bounce-back performance that the Celtics certainly needed as they head out on an eight-game road trek that begins in Los Angeles on Sunday.

And while the mood among the players is certainly upbeat and optimistic, there's still the possibility that any member of the team - including the Big Four - won't be with the C's when they return home to face Washington on March 25.

While president of basketball operations Danny Ainge as well as head coach Doc Rivers have repeatedly said that there's no deal imminent, neither would rule out the possibility that a deal could be struck between now and the March 15 deadline.

And while players talked about the importance of chemistry and how difficult it can be to achieve, Rivers told Ainge to not worry about chemistry concerns if he can upgrade the roster, talent-wise.

"I'm not concerned with it, as far as on the floor," Rivers said. "Whoever we bring in, would have had one less practice than probably all of us, really. I told him (Ainge), 'if you think you can get a better talent this year, then the chemistry thing, is off.' Just go out and that's dangerous to tell Danny."

Celtics hold off Heat fourth-quarter rally for 112-108 win

Celtics hold off Heat fourth-quarter rally for 112-108 win

BOSTON –  As the final 10 or so games for playoff-bound teams like the Boston Celtics were poked and prodded to see who would have the toughest go of things down the stretch, the Celtics were deemed to have the easiest go of things.

Somebody forgot to tell their foes because it seems every night the Celtics are in a down-to-the-wire battle that’s not decided until the final minute or so of play.

And Sunday’s game against the Miami Heat was no exception with the Celtics managing to outlast the Heat for a 112-108 win. 

A 3-pointer by Jae Crowder put the Celtics ahead 102-101, which was soon followed by a pair of Isaiah Thomas free throws and a Thomas lay-up which made it a 106-101 game.

Miami's James Johnson scored four straight to make it a one-point game (106-105) with a minute to play. 

But Boston managed to maintain their lead for the remainder of the game as both teams exchanged free throws and defensive stops before the Heat simply ran out of time.

Boston (48-26) has now won four in a row and and eight of its last 10. 

In addition, Sunday's victory matched the team's win total from a year ago, with eight games to play. 

And maybe most important, Boston has now set itself up to at a minimum have home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a really strong shot at finishing with the top overall record in the East and with it, home court advantage throughout every round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. 

Both teams swapped one defensive stop for another, a free throw here with a few made baskets sprinkled in for good measure.

And with 4:50 to play, the score was tied at 99 following an Isaiah Thomas lay-up.

Boston went on a 7-2 run capped off by a driving lay-up by Thomas that made it 106-101.

But the Heat responded with a James Johnson dunk followed by a pair of free throws by Johnson which made it a 106-105 game with 1:23 to play.

Boston countered with – who else? – Isaiah Thomas whose driving lay-up which was set up by a Marcus Smart offensive rebound, gave the Celtics a 108-105 lead with 60 seconds to play when Miami called a time-out.

Thomas led all scorers with 30 points while Horford once again flirted with a triple-double, finishing with seven points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. 

This game being so close down the stretch wasn’t all that surprising when you consider it was a relatively close game most of the night.

Trailing 58-53 at the half, the Celtics knew that changes had to be made in order for them to regain control.

It didn’t take long to see that the Celtics’ plan of attack in the second half was to do just that … attack!

They were more aggressive offensively with their drives and ball movement.

Defensively, their close-outs were tighter, rotations more crisp.

Within minutes, the Celtics had the game tied up on an Amir Johnson basket and 3-pointer from Jae Crowder.

Boston began to get some separation behind a 9-2 run that gave them a 79-73 lead, and closed the quarter off by scoring six of the last eight points to lead 85-75 going into the fourth.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Johnson and Johnson doing damage off Heat bench

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Johnson and Johnson doing damage off Heat bench

BOSTON – Continuing their strong play at home won’t be easy for the Boston Celtics who trail the Miami Heat at the half 58-53.

The Celtics came into tonight’s game having won three straight and 12 of their last 13 at the TD Garden.

But the Heat have played well at both ends of the floor in a game that they have led for most of the night.

One of the biggest positives for the Celtics has been the return of Avery Bradley to the lineup. The 6-foot-2 Bradley, who has missed a team-high 24 games this season due to illness or injury, did not play in Friday’s win over Phoenix due to flu-like symptoms which kept him hospitalized. At the half he had eight points and two assists. 

The way Miami kept matching the Celtics shot-for-shot in the second quarter, it certainly had to make a number of Celtics feel ill.

But considering Boston fell behind by as many as 15 points, being just a couple possessions behind at the half is certainly something they can look to build upon against a Heat team that’s 35-37, but are playing as well as any team in the NBA when you consider they began the season with an 11-30 start.  

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Sunday’s game between Boston and Miami.

 

STARS

Hassan Whiteside

Always a problem for Boston, he made an impact around the rim throughout the half in which he had a near double-double of nine points and eight rebounds.

Isaiah Thomas

Miami has done a nice job of keeping his touches at a minimum, but Thomas is too good a scorer to be shut down. He had 10 points at the half on just 2-for-4 shooting.

 

STUDS

Johnson and Johnson

We’re talking about Tyler Johnson and James Johnson (no relation) who have been a devastating 1-2 punch off the Heat bench. Johnson leads all Miami scorers with 12 points while Johnson has played the point-forward position really well with six points and five assists.

Jae Crowder

All the attention Thomas has been getting will continue to give Crowder great looks offensively, so it’s on him to the most of those opportunities. At the half, he led the Celtics with 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting.

Amir Johnson

He has made his usual share of hustle plays, but Johnson’s doing a nice job scoring when the opportunity is there, as well as holding his own defensively and on the boards. At the half, he has eight points while making all three of his shots from the field to go with four rebounds and two assists.

 

DUDS

Celtics turnovers

Too many mistakes by Boston not only allowed Miami to get some easy baskets but also took away opportunities for the Celtics offense to generate some points. At the half, Boston has turned the ball over 11 times which led to five points – the point differential in the game at the half.