MIAMI -- Rapid reaction after the Miami Heat defeated the Boston Celtics, 115-107, on Tuesday night at American Airlines Arena:
HOW THE GAME WAS WON
The Celtics improbably rallied from a 20-point, third-quarter hole to twice make it a one-possession game with less than two minutes to play, but Heat rookie guard Norris Cole made a pair of clutch jumpers to prevent Boston from rallying any closer. LeBron James scored a team-high 26 points with six rebounds and five assists, while Dwyane Wade kicked in 24 points with eight assists. Ray Allen scored a game-high 28 points on 8-of-12 shooting for Boston, while Rajon Rondo added 22 points, 12 assists and 8 rebounds in another monster effort.
The Heat shot a blistering 65.7 percent in the first half (23-of-35, including 5-of-6 beyond the 3-point arc) while scoring 69 points and building a 15-point cushion at the intermission. That lead ballooned early in the third quarter as the Heat flirted with 70 percent from the field. The Celtics shifted to a zone defense in the third quarter that aided their rally, but the Heat ultimately shot 56 percent (42-of-75) -- the third highest mark in their big three era.
OFFICIALLY A PROBLEM
For the second time in as many games, referees made themselves a storyline. Olandis Poole drew Doc Rivers' ire early and often for what Boston's coach thought was uneven whistles, particularly in the first half. The Heat generated 24 first-half free throws behind 15 foul calls against the Celtics (Boston shot 15 free throws on nine personal fouls on Miami). Rondo got T'd up by Poole in the first half and Rivers finally boiled over in the third quarter, even as Boston trimmed its deficit to single digits.
TURNOVERS A BIGGER PROBLEM
The Celtics committed 15 first-half turnovers leading to 23 points (the Heat turned the ball over 11 times, but for only 11 points). Boston couldn't control the officiating, but it could have been less sloppy with the ball (especially after coaches stressed valuing the ball, particularly against this team). For the game, Boston gave the ball away 24 times for 33 points.
Cole, selected one spot after JaJuan Johnson at No. 28 in June's draft, chipped in 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting with four assists and four rebounds.
WHAT IT MEANS
Boston has lost six of its past seven games against Miami (including a five-game series loss in the Eastern Conference semifinals last season). After winning three of four regular-season matchups last season, the Celtics know regular-season success isn't an indicator of postseason potential, but you get the feeling that Miami isn't exactly frightened by the idea of jousting with Boston given their recent success. That said, Boston's late rally might have reminded them they can never count out the Celtics.
The Celtics tackle the first of 19 back-to-backs (not including a back-to-back-to-back in April) this season Wednesday night with a visit to New Orleans that concludes a season-opening, three-game road trip. Boston, which will again be without captain Paul Pierce versus the Hornets, meets Detroit on Friday night in Boston in the home opener.