By A.Sherrod Blakely
BOSTON The Boston Celtics are a battered bunch.
The last thing they need is to play bonus basketball, and they know it. That's why it will hurt to look back at Monday's 98-90 Game 4 overtime loss -- a game they should have won in regulation.
"We had so many opportunities," said a visibly dejected Doc Rivers afterward.
The ending was disappointing on so many levels for theCeltics, who led after each of the first three quarters and had achance to win the game in regulation. However, Paul Pierce's off-balance, fadeawayjumper with the score tied was off the mark as time expired.
The Heat quickly took control in the extra session. After a Pierce basket cut Miami's lead in overtime to three points with 47.8 seconds to play, Heat forward Chris Bosh tipped in a LeBron James miss that essentially put the game away, with the Heat returning home with a commanding 3-1 series lead with a chance to eliminate the Celtics in Miami on Wednesday.
"Our goal was to come out and compete for two games and hopefully get one, and we accomplished our goal," said Bosh who finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds.
The final play of regulation, like so many for the C's throughout the game, didn't exactly play out the way it was supposed to.
Rivers acknowledged after the game there was an execution breakdown.
"It's a play we've run several times, and we just didn't execute it," Rivers said.
Poor execution was just one of the many problems experienced by the Celtics, who are now on the brink of playoff elimination.
In addition to their end-of-game gaffes, the Celtics committed a staggering 19 turnovers, leading to 28 Miami points, and were thoroughly out-worked on the boards, 45-28, which factored into being outscored 10-0 in second-chance points.
"Tough to win games when that happens," Rivers said.
Even with all the miscues made by the Celtics, they still spent the bulk of Monday's game with the lead.
However, those mistakes didn't allow Boston to put some distance between themselves and the Heat.
And because of that, Miami stayed within striking distance most of the game.
Once the game went into overtime, the Heat were determined to make the most of the opportunity to win in Boston for the first time in 11 trips.
In a game that featured a slew of big shots by Heat stars, few were as big as the long 2-pointer by Dwyane Wade with two minutes to play in overtime that put Miami ahead, 92-86.
Boston managed to cut into the lead, but they could never manage to get the big shot or the big defensive stop they needed in order to get the victory.
Not only did the loss put the C's in an extremely difficult hole in the series, it also wasted a gutsy effort by Rajon Rondo, who had 10 points and 5 assists despite being limited because of dislocated left elbow injury he suffered in Game 3.
It was clear the Heat was intent on finding out just how durable Rondo and that left elbow were.
Mike Bibby, who spends most games on the perimeter camping out, was running off baseline screens early the game, forcing Rondo to fight through them in order to keep up.
And when Rondo had the ball offensively, the Heat were much more aggressive in their man-to-man, doing what they could to force him to dribble with his left hand.
But at some point, you knew they were going to foul him hard enough to where he'd go down. When it happened, the foul put the Heat in the bonus, which meant free-throw attempts for Rondo.
Bum elbow and all, Rondo calmly sank both free throws as part of his six-point first quarter.
The injury certainly wouldn't allow him to do as much as he's accustomed to, but his struggles in many ways mirrored those of some of his teammates who weren't as limited health-wise.
"Anytime you have an injury like that you come out the next game, you're limited a little bit," said Celtics guard Ray Allen. "But when he's out there, I've sen him take a shot, he's feeling it as it goes up."
Right now, the only thing the Celtics can feel is the pressure to win.
It's always there.
But down 3-1 in the series heading back to Miami, the Celtics are dealing with yet another tough-to-win scenario.
"These are those moments, when you write papers, books, poems, quotes, whatever it is, these are those moments," Allen said. "I look forward to it; it's a challenge I think everyone on this team, we know what we have to do."