Heat 88, Celtics 85
BOSTON (AP)—The schedule didn’t give the Miami Heat a chance to celebrate after clinching a playoff berth, so they took a little break against the draft lottery-bound Celtics.
Shaquille O’Neal had 22 points and 11 rebounds on Friday night as the Heat beat Boston 88-85 despite failing to score for more than 7 minutes in the fourth quarter and blowing what had been a 14-point lead.
“We’re very fortunate to dodge a bullet tonight,” said Miami coach Pat Riley, whose defending NBA champions clinched a playoff spot on Thursday with an overtime victory in Cleveland. “Yeah, this is what you’d call sort of a trap game. … We played a tough game last night. I was just hoping we could get out, do what we have to do, But sometimes these things happen.”
The Heat led 64-50 midway through the third before Boston hit four straight 3-pointers. In the fourth, Miami took an 80-74 lead with 8:35 to play but went scoreless until Eddie Jones hit a 3-pointer with 1:27 left to make it 83-all.
James Posey converted a three-point play—on an assist from O’Neal—to put Miami ahead for good. Rajon Rondo made a scoop shot to cut the deficit to one, 86-85, but Udonis Haslem hit a jumper from the left side to push the lead back to three.
“We were up three with 1:33 left and I thought we were going to win it,” Celtics center Kendrick Perkins said. “But that’s a championship team, so you have to expect them to dig out of situations like that.”
Perkins and Leon Powe held O’Neal to just two points in the second half— none in the fourth quarter.
“Well, that’s a good thing,” Perkins said. “But he had 20 in the first.”
The Celtics took an 83-80 lead on Powe’s steal and dunk with 2:16 left. After O’Neal missed a pair of free throws—three, if you count the lane violation—Powe missed two foul shots with a chance to extend the lead.
O’Neal went 2-for-9 from the line. Haslem scored 17 points and added nine rebounds, and Jason Williams had eight points with 13 assists for Miami.
Green scored 21, Rajon Rondo had 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Powe 10 points and 11 boards for his first career double-double.
Dwyane Wade, who has missed six weeks with a dislocated left shoulder, worked out before the game but did not play for Miami. He is trying to get back in shape for the playoffs, but the Celtics’ injured have no such motivation.
“When we were coming out for warmups it looked like we didn’t have that much of a team,” Powe said.
Miami opened a 12-2 lead, but Boston tied it with a 12-2 run of its own. The Celtics took a 36-33 lead with O’Neal out of the game, but when he returned he ran off 11 of the Heat’s next 13 points—and that was even with missing 3-of-4 from the line—to help open a 52-45 lead at the half.
Miami held Boston scoreless for almost 6 minutes spanning the halftime break, scoring 13 straight to open a 59-45 lead with 8:15 left in the third. But the Celtics came back with 12 in a row on 3-pointers by Gomes, Allan Ray, Ray again and then Green on a spinaround assist from Sebastian Telfair that made it 64-62.
Williams had nine assists in the first. … Near the end of the first half, Celtics coach Doc Rivers reached onto the court and pushed Green into position. … The Celtics had won three straight at home. … Pierce (left elbow) missed his fourth straight game, Jefferson (right knee) missed his second straight and Delonte West missed his first with a sprained left ankle. … Comedian and “In Living Color” star Tommy Davidson was in attendance.