Cleaning up on glass
Hosts shined in rebounding battle
MIAMI — The Celtics were outdone in many categories yesterday at AmericanAirlines Arena, but the stat that may frustrate them the most was rebounding.
The Heat outhustled the Celtics to the boards throughout their 100-77 victory, winning that battle, 42-26. It was a season low for the Celtics, who managed just three offensive rebounds for the game, all in the second half.
“It’s very hard losing like that, especially going into the playoffs,’’ Celtics forward Paul Pierce said. “You expect a little more urgency, especially in the last week of the season. The hustle game is killing us. It is very disturbing when I look up and we are down 15 rebounds to a team that is not known for their rebounding.’’
Second-chance points slipped away from the Celtics left and right; they finished with 3. The Heat had 15 offensive rebounds and collected 18 second-chance points.
Pierce and Glen Davis had a team-high seven rebounds for Boston. The Celtics didn’t get much of a boost from center Jermaine O’Neal, who returned to the lineup after missing Friday night’s game against the Wizards. O’Neal played 14 minutes and was the only starter without a rebound. He was 0 for 2 from the field and had four fouls.
“I thought [O’Neal] was physical early on,’’ coach Doc Rivers said. “I wasn’t upset at him. I think [O’Neal] is going to help us. I think he gives us toughness. We need more from other guys.’’
O’Neal’s most physical moment came on the defensive end when he stepped in front of LeBron James as he was driving toward the basket in the second quarter. O’Neal dropped his shoulder and was called for a flagrant foul that led to a mini skirmish between the teams with the Heat protecting a 37-32 lead.
It may have been the most aggressive moment for the Celtics the entire game.
The Heat got 10 rebounds and 7 points off the bench from Joel Anthony.
“Anthony killed us by himself, just keeping the ball alive and offensive rebounding,’’ Celtics forward Kevin Garnett said.
As long as the Celtics continue struggling with their inside game, questions will hover about the Kendrick Perkins trade. Heat forward Chris Bosh said without Perkins, the Celtics run the same plays, but he may be missed in other ways.
“Of course the personnel [is] a bit different, but the system is the same,’’ Bosh said. “They move the ball the same and they still have a big-to-big action. It’s just a difference in players.
“Kendrick Perkins brought a certain element to that team and it’s not there anymore. I think everyone should learn from last year and not downplay these guys. They made the trade and they’re still a good team.’’
We’ll take it Clamping down on Rajon Rondo may have been a goal for the Heat, but Miami coach Erik Spoelstra stopped short of taking credit for the guard’s low numbers.
In the previous three meetings this season, Rondo averaged 14.3 assists. But yesterday, he had five assists and 7 points in 37 minutes.
“I would love to say it was because of our scheming and our ‘X-ing’ and ‘O-ing,’ but it’s not,’’ Spoelstra said. “A lot [of it], we were trying to do the same thing that we did in the previous three games, but with a little bit more conviction and a lot more effort. I think we were covering up a lot of our mistakes with our energy.’’
Aim now Wednesday The wait for Shaquille O’Neal to return to the lineup continues. A strained calf is still giving O’Neal some trouble and the 39-year-old center didn’t travel with the team for its final trip of the regular season. “Wednesday is possible [for O’Neal to return], but I’m just going to wait and see,’’ Rivers said. “That’s the last thing I’m thinking about.’’ By the time the Celtics return to the Garden for the regular-season finale Wednesday against the Knicks, O’Neal will have missed five games since he tweaked his calf against the Pistons April 3. The game against Detroit was the first game back for O’Neal after he missed 26 with an inflamed Achilles’ . . . Garnett’s 3-pointer was his fourth since he joined the Celtics in 2007-08 . . . Guard Carlos Arroyo returned to Miami for the first time since he was cut by the Heat in March. Arroyo played the final 2:30 and after the game was greeted by a few of his former teammates at halfcourt.
Monique Walker can be reached at email@example.com.