Heat are off and running

Fatigue cited in veteran Celtics

By Cristina Ledra
Globe Correspondent / May 5, 2011

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MIAMI — The Celtics appear to be blurring the line between being experienced and being old.

The Heat just want to keep running.

After two games of this second-round series, Miami guard Mario Chalmers said he is seeing fatigue in the opposition. Citing Kevin Garnett in particular, Chalmers said, “His face during the duration of the game gets longer and longer, so we just want to keep running on them. We know they’re an old veteran team, and our young legs, we want to use them to our advantage.’’

Coming off a 102-91 victory in Game 2 Tuesday, the Heat were given yesterday off and will practice this morning. They are being careful not to get too confident as the series shifts to Boston this weekend.

“It is a long series,’’ said LeBron James. “I am not getting too high. I am not getting too low. This is what we wanted to do. We wanted to win the first two games. We are looking forward to going to Boston.’’

The series kicked off with a physical, defensive matchup in Game 1 (a 99-90 win for the Heat), and Game 2 was close until Miami went on a 14-0 run in the fourth quarter.

“I think when it comes to the fourth quarter, we have an extra push,’’ Chalmers said.

The Heat have made speed and athleticism as much a part of their style as bruising defense, and the Celtics look to be feeling the effects.

“Defensively, we grinded,’’ said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “Guys were making multiple efforts. Even when they broke us down or had an opening, [we were] able to recover and use our speed and athleticism to make up for it.’’

Following Game 2, Spoelstra said his players were tired because of how hard they had to fight for the win.

The Celtics, he said, “have so much experience. They don’t panic, they don’t really let you pull away too much because of their defense and their pace of game. They kept on hanging around, so we knew it would not be easy and at no point did we feel we could relax.’’

The Celtics are giving the Heat a hard time, but Miami has found ways to come out ahead. In Game 1, it was strong defense and the clutch shooting of James Jones off the bench. In Game 2, it was the same brand of defense and Dwyane Wade and James finding a rhythm on offense that the Celtics couldn’t contain.

“This is what is really unique about our team,’’ said James. “We do not have the huge front line, size and height, but we have athletic guys.

“Joel [Anthony] is not the tallest guy, but he is very athletic. It gives us the option to guard multiple positions. We are not the biggest team in the league as far as our height, but a lot of us play above the rim.’’

The Miami bench has performed well, which allows the stars to break free. Anthony has been able to get up for deflections, if not actual blocks. Mike Bibby landed a few shots for 8 points in Game 2, and Jones couldn’t be left alone after his 25 points in Game 1.

“You can’t win games with three players,’’ James said. “The reason we are up, 2-0, is because our bench and other guys have done an unbelievable job.

“It is our job to understand that we have to continue to make it tough on them. They are going to make shots.’’

The Heat have spoken a lot about their mental state, mainly about staying focused. And with three days between games and a 2-0 series lead, keeping the right mind-set is key.

“So now the mental discipline begins,’’ said Spoelstra. “This thing is just getting started, and that’s what we talked about in the locker room.’’

On Saturday night, Miami expects to find an enthusiastic home crowd and a rejuvenated Celtics team at TD Garden.

“The series is far from over,’’ James said. “We did what we wanted to do, and that was protecting home court. Now the series starts in a very hostile environment on Saturday. We look forward to the challenge.’’

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