|After scoring 24 points and grabbing eight rebounds, Kevin Garnett could afford to be a little pumped at game’s end. (J Pat Carter/Associated Press)|
Celtics keep their cool against Heat
Excellent execution helps them in 4th
MIAMI - The Celtics hardly panicked last night when Michael Beasley scored 11 straight points for Miami to begin the fourth quarter, putting Boston in a 4-point hole.
Beasley, a fierce 20-year-old, used brute strength along with a silky 3-point stroke to put the Heat ahead.
The Celtics withstood the charge and countered with precision, execution, and steady play down the stretch. Beasley didn’t score for the final 8:01 and the Heat didn’t record a field goal in the final 4:27, a testament to Boston’s defensive domination in the clutch.
Kevin Garnett spearheaded a fourth-quarter Celtics rally for a 92-85 win at AmericanAirlines Arena, a gritty victory because they could have relented to the younger Heat. Instead they fought back with fundamentals.
The Heat missed 11 of 17 shots in the fourth and couldn’t even rely on Dwyane Wade, who had only 4 of his 27 points while being checked by Ray Allen.
Allen, whose thoughts were with his young son, Walker, who was released from the hospital yesterday after a bout with nausea, added a timely 3-pointer, a swisher from the top of the key that gave Boston an 89-83 lead and essentially sealed the game. Allen finished with 11 points on 5-for-13 shooting, but he kept Wade from being able to transform into Flash in the critical minutes.
“It was a good win for us,’’ coach Doc Rivers said. “We played, in the first half, very good basketball. And then in the third quarter, we [got cute]. When we went back [to our game], we went back to moving the ball.’’
After Beasley’s dunk put Miami ahead, 76-72, the Celtics countered with a 12-6 run over a five-plus-minute stretch. Rajon Rondo made two acrobatic layups, Garnett made a streaking dunk, and Kendrick Perkins converted a monster jam off a pick-and-roll for an 84-82 lead with 2:51 left.
The defense then responded, not letting Miami get the ball into the paint. Wade’s two free throws were Miami’s only points in the final 2:30. Garnett made an elbow jumper and then Allen sealed it with his 3-pointer.
It wasn’t an artful win, but it didn’t have to be. The Celtics realized they beat a quality team on the road and controlled the game most of the way.
“It shows a lot about our team,’’ Rondo said. “We kept our composure and I think our bench did a great job. We settled down and handled the little adversity we went through in the fourth and got the job done.’’
Garnett had 24 points on 11-for-12 shooting with eight rebounds. In his past three games he is 22 for 27 from the field and is showing the spring he lacked just two weeks ago. His surgically repaired knee is becoming less of an issue.
“You know what’s crazy man? I have been in tune defensively,’’ he said. “I haven’t really been thinking about the offense. The offense is just something that’s coming to me. It’s weird because I haven’t even thought about offense. It’s second nature.’’
A key sequence occurred with 7:02 left in the game when Rivers reinserted Perkins for Rasheed Wallace. Perkins plugged the middle, meaning Beasley couldn’t easily navigate the paint, and he also made Jermaine O’Neal work hard for position.
After going the first 10 games without a double-double, Perkins has three in his past seven, including 14 points and 13 boards last night. He also got three clean blocks off O’Neal, who appeared intimidated by Perkins’s length.
“Perkins was great for us, too,’’ Rivers said. “He is just doing all the little things and a lot of the dirty work you don’t get credit for. And he is a great secondary defender.’’
Once again the Celtics had trouble holding onto a third-quarter lead as Wade scored 10 of Miami’s 17 points in the quarter and the Heat reduced Boston’s lead to 67-65. The Celtics struggled with Wade’s dribble penetration and were caught standing around on defense.
Those struggles carried into the fourth as Beasley scored the first 9 points of the quarter as Miami surged ahead, 74-69. Beasley showed his array of skills with a 3-pointer, streaking layup, and lefthanded tomahawk jam off a missed free throw. But they eventually got him under control.
Of major concern was Boston’s inability to pull away despite shooting in the 70 percent range for most of the first half. Friday night against Toronto, Rivers suggested his team tighten its defense and that would lead to easy baskets on the offensive end. That strategy worked successfully as the Celtics pulled away in the third quarter.
Last night, the Celtics turned it up in the second period and ended the first half on a 17-7 run to seize a 55-48 lead. Allen started the third period with a jumper and Garnett followed with a layup off a Rondo pass and it looked like the night would be a cinch. That was hardly the case.
“We become an average team when guys step out of their roles,’’ Rivers said. “In the first half [we’re good]. In the third quarter we became the Globetrotters, and in the fourth quarter we got it back.’’