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Celtics beat Heat but lose Rondo for season

The SportsXchange

BOSTON -- To call Sunday's double-overtime Boston Celtics win bittersweet would qualify as the understatement of this NBA season.

In Boston, anyway.

On the day they learned they lost Rajon Rondo for the season to a torn right anterior cruciate ligament, the Celtics ended their six-game losing streak in dramatic fashion with a stirring 100-98 victory over the Miami Heat.

"You can write the obituary, but I'm not," coach Doc Rivers said after his team survived a war with the world champions.

Word came out during the game that Rondo, the NBA assists leader (11.1 per game), who had just come off two straight triple-doubles, was done for the year with the injury Friday night in Atlanta against the Hawks.

"You can go ahead. But I'm not," Rivers said. "We won tonight, so the way I look at it is: We're going to stay there."

On the floor after the win, veteran Jason Terry talked via PA to the excited crowd about the "championship character" of this team, which will now, of course, be tested.

"Obviously the Rondo news is pretty tough," said Rivers, who said he doesn't know what he'll do for a starting point guard. "I knew it before the game; no one else knew it. I just didn't think it was time to tell any of our guys that. I told them after the game. Pretty emotional in the locker room."

"It was a great win ... you have a lot of mixed emotions in here," said Paul Pierce, who had a triple-double in the victory. "The guys were all shocked, surprised."

The Boston win, in the club's second straight double overtime game, spoiled the return of Ray Allen, who won a championship with the Celtics but left for free agency after last season. Many felt his rocky relationship with Rondo was a main reason he left. Allen scored 21 points in 38 minutes off the bench but was just 7 for 17 from the floor, including 2 for 8 from 3-point range. He even missed two free throws, which doesn't often happen.

Pierce, who handled the ball a lot in the game, hit a tough jumper with 30.4 seconds left and then, after LeBron James missed at the other end, Pierce got the rebound and was fouled. He made 1 of 2 with 5.6 seconds remaining and the Heat called time with 5.1 seconds left. Miami then settled for a very long Shane Battier 3-pointer that missed and the Celtics had their 10th straight regular season home win over the Heat.

Pierce, who has been in a shooting slump, finished with 17 points (only 6 for 16 from the floor, 40 for 118 the last eight games), 13 rebounds and 10 assists (and six turnovers) in almost 49 minutes. Kevin Garnett had 24 points, 11 boards, four assists, three blocked shots and two steals.

After the game, fellow guard Avery Bradley, talking about Rondo, said, "I know he's sad. I'm sad for him ... we're family."

James forced overtime with a 3-pointer with 7 seconds left and then, after almost winning the game with two straight OT baskets, converted an old-fashioned 3-point play to put his team ahead by three with 1:02 left in the second OT. But Terry (13 points, despite 1-for-7 shooting on 3-pointers) hit on a drive and, after Dwyane Wade missed a floater, Pierce hit his jumper.

James had 34 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists, while Chris Bosh posted 16 points and 16 boards, and Wade had 17 points, but was 6 for 20 from the floor, including 0 for 4 from 3-point range.

"They made more plays than we did," said James. "It was a good game, just two very competitive teams. We're not upset at all about this one. We played 'til the end and just came up short."

Wade, asked about Rondo, said, "We continue to say, man, one thing about this league is it's a brotherhood. You never want to see anyone go down with any kind of injury, especially a season-ending injury."

The loss ended Miami's four-game winning streak and dropped the Heat to 28-13. Miami, which beat Boston on opening night down south, eliminated Boston in last year's conference finals and went on to win the NBA title.

The Celtics ran a video tribute to Allen during the first timeout, boos giving way to cheers and a standing ovation, with Rivers out on the floor applauding. But Allen, also cheered by Miami players, was booed when he went to check into the game and every time he touched the ball.

"When I saw it, just all the emotions came streaming back from all the great things we did here," Allen said. "...I always know I'll always be a Celtic in my mind, regardless of what anyone else says."

News that Rondo had suffered a hyperextended right knee Friday night in Atlanta hit just before the game, with word he was having an MRI. Rondo showed no signs of injury after Friday night's game, finished the game with the injury, thinking he had injured his hamstring. "It means he's pretty tough," Rivers of Rondo continuing to play. "I know when I tore mine I was crying on the floor like a little baby."

Notes: Rookie Jared Sullinger, moved into the starting lineup as Rivers looked for answers, scored on a fast break late in the second quarter and then got tangled up with Miami's Rashard Lewis. The players both received technical fouls. Sullinger had seven points and four rebounds in 22 minutes. ... The teams combined to go just 10 for 43 from 3-point range. ... The Celtics improved to 4-4 in OT games, Miami falling to 4-1. ... The Heat opened a four-game road trip and is in a stretch of 10 of 12 games on the road and visit the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday, when the Celtics host Sacramento. ... Big man Chris Wilcox returned for Boston after missing 19 games with a thumb injury. He came off the bench in the first quarter and logged just 2:31.
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