Celtics hold on, beat Heat in OT to even up series

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Celtics hold on, beat Heat in OT to even up series

BOSTON Another overtime game, a much different outcome for the Boston Celtics.

A playoff home loss last year in overtime put the Celtics in a playoff deficit to the Heat that they could not dig themselves from under.

Much different result on Sunday as the Celtics managed to hold on for a 93-91 overtime win against the Heat that ties the best-of-seven series at 2-2. Game 5 will be in Miami, with the winner of that having an opportunity to advance to the NBA Finals in Boston for Game 6.

Miami's Dwyane Wade, who had 20 points on 7-for-22 shooting from the field, tried to put the game away in overtime with a step-back 3-pointer that rimmed in and out as time expired.

Rajon Rondo had yet another big-game performance for the C's, tallying 15 points to go with 15 assists.

And Paul Pierce had 23 points before he fouled out in overtime.

LeBron James, who led all scorers with 29 points, also fouled out with less than two minutes to play in overtime.

Both teams had several opportunities both in the fourth quarter and overtime to take control of the game, only to see those efforts - much like many of their shots - come up short.

Boston led by as many as 18 points but soon found themselves in a nail-biter after a lay-up by James tied the game at 74 and moments later, Norris Cole - yeah, Norris Cole - put the Heat ahead for the first time all night, 76-74, with a driving lay-up.

Both teams continued to go back and fourth with neither establishing a strong sense of control.

Miami was living at the free throw line, but dying a slow death as they continued clank one free throw after another. For the game, they were 17-for-24. The C's were even worse, connecting on 14 of their 20 attempts (70 percent).

This game's ending was a sharp contrast from its beginnings.

The Celtics could not have scripted a better start to the game, with an 8-2 start followed by a 13-7 spurt that gave the Celtics a commanding 21-9 lead about midway through the first quarter.

With so much attention paid to Kevin Garnett coming in, the Big Ticket morphed into the Big Decoy as Pierce, Rondo and Brandon Bass combined for 27 of the C's 34 first-quarter points. Bass finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.

But the Celtics are all about defense, and their defense was pretty good for long stretches - but probably not as good as Celtics head coach Doc Rivers would have liked.

For Celtics Nation, a 34-23 lead after the first quarter is something to feel good about. Rivers' concerns probably stemmed from the fact that the Heat were still relatively close despite the Celtics outplaying them in just about every statistical category that mattered.

Boston's control didn't let up in the second quarter, with the Celtics' bench once again coming up with timely contributions.

Keyon Dooling had a pair of 3-pointers early in the second quarter as the C's were able to maintain a double-digit cushion in part because of their ability to double-team Wade akin to what the did in their Game 3 win. He finished with 10 of the Celtics's 11 points off the bench.

To put Wade's first-half in perspective, he had eight points on 2-for-11 shooting from the field.

All five Boston starters had at least eight points scored at the half which ended with the Celtics ahead, 61-47.

Thomsen: 'Andre Drummond is the dark horse' in Celtics trade rumors

Thomsen: 'Andre Drummond is the dark horse' in Celtics trade rumors

Ian Thomsen adds his thoughts on potential Celtics trade rumors and who he believes the C's need to target before the trade deadline.

Lowe: Wouldn't be shocked if C's move Bradley

Lowe: Wouldn't be shocked if C's move Bradley

Zach Lowe’s most recent podcast is worth a listen, as it features plenty of talk about what the Celtics may or may not due ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline. 

Lowe brought up the possibility of the Celtics top-1 or top-2-protecting Brooklyn’s first-round pick and including it in a deal for Butler. He surmises that the inclusion of the Brooklyn pick -- protected or not -- might not come until the final minutes. 

“Look, if Butler gets traded or if Paul George gets traded, that’s when it’s going to happen,” Marc Stein responded. “It’s going to happen in the last five to 10 minutes, so Boston has to make a decision, and let's see if they’re doing the math that they’ve had these assets for a while and it is time to do something bold and the time is now. Really, I think Boston will do it. The question is what will Chicago or Indiana do? And those are two hard reads.” 

Stein spoke to the Celtics’ lack of activity at certain points, but he said that if the C’s do fail to come away with a star player Thursday, it won’t be for lack of aggressiveness. 

MORE TRADE TALK

“I think the Celtics are taking criticism for waiting, and they’ve had all these assets they haven’t moved yet, but I think the record shows that Danny Ainge in general, in total, is very aggressive, not afraid to roll the dice, not afraid to make the aggressive move,” Stein said. “So I have less doubt about Boston saying, ‘Let’s just do it.’ I have far more questions about what Chicago and/or Indiana would do.” 

Lowe said that he imagines the Bulls would “think about” trading the C's Butler if Boston threw in the Nets’ pick unprotected, but added that Chicago would demand to also take two players out of Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown. 

“I think that will be the offer and they’ll get there and Chicago will either have a moment where they say, ‘We walk away or we’ll do it.’ And Boston’s not going to throw in the other Nets pick,” Lowe said. “That’s just not going to happen.”

Rating the aforementioned foursome in terms of trade value, Lowe said that Crowder is the best piece because of his “ridiculously good” contract, followed by Brown, Smart and Bradley. 

Lowe added that he considers Bradley one of the “sneaky interesting pieces at this trade deadline” because his contract is up after next season, which is the same time that Isaiah Thomas’ contract expires. Lowe says that given the uncertainty of his future in Boston, he wouldn’t be overly surprised if Bradley is moved at the deadline.