Stingy defense rediscovered
Second-quarter stretch spelled doom for Heat
From the time Jermaine O’Neal threw down a dunk with 10:10 left in the second quarter to the point when Michael Beasley knocked down a 21-footer with 2:07 left, the Celtics held Miami scoreless in last night’s 106-77 Game 2 victory.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra couldn’t believe it was only eight minutes.
“That’s all it was?’’ he asked. “It seemed like it was a two-quarter drought.’’
Miami missed 13 shots during the offensive blackout and with each empty possession it seemed the Celtics were shooting cannonballs into the Heat’s ship.
“After we missed about eight or nine straight, that’s where we lost it,’’ Spoelstra said. “Where we weren’t tough enough to stick through it.’’
The Celtics had given up 99.7 points a night during the regular season without Kevin Garnett, but Kendrick Perkins said the defense felt as solid as it was at the start of the season, when they started 23-5.
“We all were on the same page,’’ Perkins said. “Guys were helping. We did a great job on Dwyane Wade for a little bit. Wade still had  points, but we took care of the other guys.’’
After holding Miami to 10 points in the fourth quarter of Game 1, the Celtics did it again in the second quarter last night.
Wade said, “You could feel it leaving and going fast.’’
Perkins said he tried to remain focused.
“I really wanted to keep pounding on them and keep building up the lead,’’ he said.
Rajon Rondo and Perkins were on the court. Danny Ainge was sitting in the second row, directly behind team owner Steve Pagliuca. Doc Rivers was by the Celtics bench.
Ray Allen, however, was in no man’s land, sitting on the scorer’s table, getting ready to check into the game.
“You have to imagine, I was about to check into the game and I’m sitting at the scorer’s table, and in my mind, I’m confused because I’m trying to figure out what just happened,’’ said Allen, recalling the fracas at the end of Game 1 against the Heat that led to Garnett’s suspension for Game 2. “Because I don’t know how it escalated to this point.’’
“When I saw their bench jump up, I’m thinking, ‘Am I part of the bench or am I in the game now?’ I’m totally in limbo. How do I explain to them that I wasn’t running? I know they’re watching. Am I suspended now because I’m standing right here? Or if I went over there, would I be suspended? It’s all based on who interprets what the rule is.’’
The Celtics lost Garnett for Game 2, but because their bench was heady enough not to leave their area as a scuffle broke out on the other end of the floor among Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Miami’s Quentin Richardson, they didn’t lose anyone else. For that, they were fortunate.
“I guess it was smart,’’ said Rivers. “I think everybody’s pretty good at that now. You don’t see that anymore. I think they’re loosening the rules a little bit on that, anyway. I think you can kind of take a step.
“I didn’t give that a whole lot of thought. I actually assume that with our team. But it was nice.’’
Rivers said his natural reaction was to turn to the bench before he turned to the actual incident.
“You know, it’s funny,’’ Rivers said, “Us coaches, we’re like dogs now that have been shocked a hundred times. You turn around every time you see a fight. The first thing you do instead of running towards a fight, you run towards your bench first and then go the other way.
“But that was good. Our whole staff does it. You have to. You just can’t take the chance.’’
Rivers, who started by saying he doesn’t normally talk about coaching opportunities, said, “It’s great. I want all my assistants to be head coaches. Some of them have been interviewed, just none of them have gotten jobs yet. Hopefully someday they get a job.’’
Thibodeau has been Rivers’s associate head coach the past three seasons, working largely as the engineer of a defense regarded as one of the best in the league. He has been an assistant for seven teams, but never a head coach.
“It’s great for him,’’ said Allen. “You get to the end of the year and you’ve got a coach that’s worked very hard and he’s been in this system where he’s gotten us [to this point]. He doesn’t get the wins.
“It’s almost like we’ve got to push him out the door at some point, because he’s been successful with what we’ve been doing here and we’d like to see him grow even more.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.