Celtics Fall in OT Despite Rondo’s 44

Dwyane Wade drives past Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass and Mickael Pietrus during overtime in Wednesday's Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The Boston Celtics threw everything they had at the Miami Heat in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals Wednesday night. They overcame two second-half Heat leads, played their Big 4 for 43-plus minutes each, and even got a career-best 44 points from Rajon Rondo, who played the entire game.

They did all that, and it still wasn’t enough.

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined for 57 points, including 12 of the Heat’s 16 in overtime, powering the Heat to a 115-111 overtime victory over the Celtics. The series heads to Boston for Game 3 Friday with the Heat up 2-0.

Celtics Comeback Twice in Fourth

Miami reserve Mike Miller‘s three-pointer – one of Miami’s 10 – put his team up 84-77 with just under a minute gone in the fourth. Two Kevin Garnett (18 points, eight rebounds in 45 minutes) free throws and a three-pointer from Mickael Pietrus cut the deficit to one, then went up 86-85 when Rondo picked off a pass and sprinted for the fast-break layup.

The Celtics built that lead as high as five, going up 92-87 on one of 10 mid- to long-range jumpers by Rondo. He shot 16-for-24 and went 10-for-12 from the free throw line, fueling nearly all of his team’s offense Wednesday.

James kept the Heat from crumbling late, however, earning and scoring six free throws in the final four minutes. His last two put the Heat up 96-94, and Udonis Haslem‘s 18-footer pushed the lead to four. Haslem led all reserves with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

The Celtics had another comeback in them, however, with Garnett’s alley-oop from Rondo (10 assists) cutting the deficit to 98-96. Following Wade going 1-for-2 at the line, Keyon Dooling drew four Heat defenders to him under the basket before finding Ray Allen behind the arc. Allen, who rebounded nicely with 13 points after a horrific Game 1, knocked it down to tie the game 99-99.

Heat Too Strong in OT

Following Allen’s trey, James sandwiched two misses around an offensive rebound, sending the game to overtime. Rondo opened OT with a layup, and the two teams then traded baskets over the next three-plus minutes. Haslem missed a layup with the Celtics up 105-103 with 1:52 left, but James tipped in another Heat offensive rebound (one of 13, including three in OT) to tie the game.

Haslem’s dunk put the Heat up 107-105, and Mario Chalmers (22 points, 8-for-16 shooting, 3-for-6 from downtown) picked off a Garnett pass on the Celtics’ next possession. Wade’s and-1 bucket on the other end put the Heat up 110-105.

The Celtics nearly mounted a third comeback, with Rondo hitting not one but two three-pointers in the final 15 seconds of the game. But Wade’s free throw put the Heat up 115-111 with 2.2 seconds left, and Allen’s three-pointer neither went in nor drew a foul.

Celtics Penetrate Heat Defense in First Half, Then Stop

Boston established early on in Game 2 that Miami couldn’t intimidate again in the paint as it did in Game 1. Rondo and Paul Pierce (21 points) showed no fear of driving inside or going for pull-up jumpers early, helping the Celtics build a first-half lead as large as 15. The Celtics shot 54 percent in the first half, at one point sinking 11 consecutive baskets.

The Celtics also didn’t fought far harder for offensive rebounds. They grabbed five in the first half, converting them into four points: two by Brandon Bass (eight points, 10 rebounds) on a layup following his offensive board with 9:42 left in the first, and two by Greg Stiemsma on a tip-in following his offensive board with 5:16 left in the second. Stiemsma’s offensive board followed another from Bass, who missed the put-back.

Stiemsma picked up four fouls in the first quarter, likely derailing the Celtics’ rebounding and penetration in the second half by forcing Doc Rivers to play Garnett for longer stretches. The Celtics grabbed just three more offensive rebounds after halftime, scoring four points on four free throws by Garnett.

The Celtics took a 53-46 lead into the second half, but the Heat got back into the game with three straight three-pointers from James and Wade. The Heat shot 65 percent in the third quarter, hanging 35 points on a Celtics defense that had held them to 37 percent shooting in the first half. The Heat also used a switching-heavy defense to slow down and confuse Rondo and the offense.

The Celtics absolutely didn’t fall apart in Game 2 as they did in Game 1. But Wednesday’s loss showed that even at their best, the Celtics just might not have enough to beat the Heat.

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