MIAMI -- Just in case Celtics players could possibly forget, a reminder about valuing the ball was scrawled above a series of offensive plays on the whiteboard inside the visitor's locker room at American Airlines Arena Tuesday night.
Players really shouldn't have needed a reminder. Every recent trip to Miami has included a friendly reminder from Doc Rivers about the ball-hawking abilities of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Boston's coach endlessly stressing how the Heat thrive off easy buckets following careless turnovers.
And yet, the Celtics still went out and turned the ball over a whopping 24 times Tuesday night leading to 33 points for the Heat in Boston's 115-107 loss.
The Celtics snapped out of the holiday spirit and stopped being so darn generous in the second half, but the damage was done before the intermission as Boston gave up the ball 15 times for 23 points.
"All I told them at halftime was stop trying to do too much," said Rivers. "When you come off a pick and it’s not there, just make a simple pass. We told them that before the game: No crosscourt passes, and I think we had like nine of them in the first half. Five of them were in the air -- jump passes. I told them, 'You’re playing against Deion Sanders.' That’s what LeBron and Wade are, they are going to get every crosscourt pass. Even if it looks like the guy is open, they are going to get it, so don’t give them that opportunity.
"I really thought that’s what made [the Heat] comfortable. All the turnovers. It was a layup drill [in the first half], they were shooting 67 percent at halftime, and I told our guys, I didn’t know if our defense was good or not, because we never played it. We were always in transition. You’re never going to beat that team turning the ball over. And you’re never going to beat that team in a race. We almost did, but you can’t."
If Miami wasn't cashing in turnovers for easy baskets, they were thriving in transition and making the entire game a track meet. The Heat shot a ridiculous 90 percent in transition on Tuesday, making 9 of 10 attempts, according to ESPN Stats and Info. In fact, Miami's own clumsiness was its only obstacle, scoring 23 points in 21 transition plays, hindered only by eight turnovers.
Even still, it was Boston's turnovers that might have been the story of the game.
"It just starts with our turnovers -- I know I had too many tonight," said point guard Rajon Rondo, who accounted for seven turnovers, including one on a poor outlet pass in a one-possession game in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. "We just gotta do a better job of taking care of the ball, especially against a team like that. You can’t give those guys an easy look at the basket."
Added backup point guard Keyon Dooling: "I think we were trying to do too much. When you have a team as athletic as the Heat -- D-Wade and LeBron are very, very good weak side defenders -- and there’s air under the ball, they can run up under it. We gotta do a better job, we’ve been careless, we’ve been reckless."