A handful of thoughts after the Celtics topped the Heat, 92-85, in the first game of a four-game road trip Sunday in Miami:
Rondo takes over: Need a barometer that shows how Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo took over Sunday's game? Check out his plus/minus rating, which was a team-best (and by a wide margin) plus-16. And that might not even tell the whole story.
Rondo registered 13 points and 11 assists, but his stamp was all over a pair of pivotal fourth-quarter runs in which Boston pulled even, then motored away.
With the Celtics trailing 74-69 with about eight minutes to play, Rondo assisted on a Brian Scalabrine 3-pointer, then made back-to-back driving layups to tie the game.
With the game knotted at 82 with less than three minutes to go, Rondo assisted on three consecutive buckets, including a 3-pointer by Ray Allen with 1:38 left that put Boston out front, 89-83.
"Those situations were created by that little guy," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Rondo. "He was excellent tonight, really... I thought he controlled this game as well as anybody and I don't know if his stat line is really as indicative of how much impact he had on this game."
Almost perfect: Last Sunday in New York, Kevin Garnett labored through 4-of-15 shooting, but hit an overtime buzzer-beater to lift the Celtics over the Knicks. Later he suggested it was the type of shot that could give the Green some much-needed confidence.
Maybe it gave Garnett some confidence as well. The Celtics have won four in a row and, in the three games since that win over New York, Garnett is 22 of 27 (81.8 percent) from the floor, highlighted by an 11-for-12 showing (and a team-high 24 points) against the Heat.
Garnett's lone miss came at 8:28 of the third quarter as part of a stretch that saw Miami rally from an 11-point deficit. Unfazed, Garnett drilled a pair of trademark 19-footers late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. The first came with 2:12 remaining and Boston clinging to a one-point lead, and the other fell with 38 ticks remaining to make it a six-point cushion.
Garnett added eight rebounds and, while he didn't register a block, was a force in the defensive end.
"[Garnett] was big for us, especially defensively," said captain Paul Pierce. "He was really aggressive on the offensive end."
Garnett, who hadn't shot better than 70 percent from the floor before Friday's game against the Raptors, made all six shots in the victory over Toronto. He has connected on 18 of his last 19 shots overall, dating to Wednesday's win over the 76ers.
Big man does little things: Kendrick Perkins quietly registered another double-double with 14 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Despite some struggles at the charity stripe (6 of 11), coach Doc Rivers heaped praise on his center.
"Rondo was terrific, but you know who's playing great for us is Perk," said Rivers. "He's doing all the little things. A lot of the dirty work that you don't get a lot of credit for."
Perkins added three of Boston's seven blocks.
Areas of concern: Despite starting the road trip off on the right foot, there were three areas of mild concern:
Disappearing lead: After building a 59-48 advantage, Boston connected on just 1 of its next 11 shots over a near eight-minute stretch in which Miami rallied to pull even. "In the third quarter we became the Globetrotters, but in the fourth quarter we got it done," said Rivers.
Struggling subs: Boston's bench, which carried the team at times early in the season, has been quiet recently. The second unit of Rasheed Wallace, Marquis Daniels, Shelden Williams, Scalabrine and Eddie House combined for 15 points on 6-of-16 shooting and all five finished in the minus for plus/minus.
Triple trouble: One area the bench did excel in was shooting from beyond the arc. Boston's reserves hit three of the team's five trifectas, but the Celtics finished 5 of 21 (23.8 percent) overall from 3-point land.
Loose balls: Boston now boasts a 6½-game lead in the Atlantic Division, though Pierce noted the other night he couldn't tell you how many division titles the Celtics have won in his tenure. Clearly, this team has larger goals in mind ... Ray Allen, who missed Saturday's practice to be with his hospitalized son and rejoined the team just in time to fly to Miami, finished with 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting. He made just one of seven 3-pointers, but it was a crucial triple with 1:38 to play ... Wallace picked up his seventh technical foul of the season in the first quarter after arguing to referee Bennett Salvatore that he was fouled while making a short jumper.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.