On a night where the Boston Celtics faced the hottest team in the NBA without defensive leader/spirit animal Kevin Garnett, reserve forward Jeff Green stepped up and turned in the game of his life. On a night where the Miami Heat sought to stretch a six-week winning streak into the second-longest run in NBA history but got blitzed early by a game Boston squad, LeBron James stepped up to drag his team back from 13 down with nine minutes to go.
With less than 30 seconds remaining after a Brandon Bass miss and the score knotted at 103, the two forwards faced off, Green defending as James dribbled down the clock just inside the 3-point line along the left wing. Much of the night had belonged to the 26-year-old Green, who has come back from heart surgery to become an integral piece for a tough Celtics team and was having the best night of his NBA career in front of a national audience eager to see whether the Heat could keep the streak alive. But this moment — like most of the season, really — would belong to LeBron.
The 21-footer — which, as ESPN color commentator Hubie Brown noted, was contested by Green about as well as it could've been, considering James had dribbled left to the basket for a layup just a couple of possessions earlier — gave Miami a 105-103 lead with 10.5 seconds remaining. Green had a chance to answer on the ensuing Boston possession, driving hard to his right against Heat defender Shane Battier, but while the Georgetown product had repeatedly beaten Battier and several other Miami defenders off the bounce earlier in the game, Battier got the better of him this time, getting his hand on the ball twice to notch the block, send the ball out of bounds and prevent Green from getting a shot up.
After a lengthy official review to determine possession, Boston got the ball back with just over seven seconds left, needing a 2-pointer to tie. Going for the jugular, though, Celtics coach Doc Rivers drew up a play to get captain Paul Pierce a clean look at a corner 3-pointer for the win ... but it came up short, with Dwyane Wade snagging the rebound, as Miami held on to post a 105-103 comeback win in Boston, snapping the Celtics' 11-game winning streak at the TD Garden and extending the Heat's own overall winning streak to a stunning 23 games, which knocked the 2007-08 Houston Rockets down the all-time list and left coach Erik Spoelstra's squad all alone in second place, 10 games shy of the record set by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.
James finished with a Heat-high 37 points on 16 for 29 shooting, adding 12 assists (albeit against five turnovers), seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks in 42 minutes. Spoelstra got James a few minutes of rest at the start of the fourth quarter, which Miami entered trailing 82-78; by the 9:06 mark, Boston had extended its lead to 10, at 93-83. The Heat would close on a 22-10 run, with James outscoring the Celtics by himself (13 points on 6 for 11 shooting and three assists) and Wade doing so much of the rest (two points, five rebounds, three assists and a steal) down the stretch while the Boston attack — white-hot early, as the Celtics shot 65 percent in the first quarter and 62.2 percent in the first half — went cold, missing 12 of its last 15 shots to open the door to a Miami comeback.
Wade finished with 16 points on 7 for 15 shooting, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals in the win, while Mario Chalmers added 21 points on 10 shots (including a 4 for 5 mark from 3-point land) and Chris Bosh chipped in 13 points, five rebounds, two assists and two blocks, one of which was a huge rejection of a Green layup just inside the three-minute mark that kept Miami within two points, allowing Chalmers to put the Heat ahead with a 3-pointer on the next possession. Miami hasn't lost since Feb. 1; next, the Heat will travel to Ohio for a road game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday. The fans there will probably recognize the guy who hit tonight's game-winner.
Green led all scorers with a career-high 43 points on 14 for 21 shooting (including 5 for 7 from deep), seven rebounds, four blocks, two assists and two steals in 40 minutes — he was amazing, especially in his huge first half, which saw him make 9 of 12 shots for 26 points to put the Celtics up six at intermission. He had help — headlined by 17 points, eight boards and eight dimes from Pierce, and 13 points, four assists, three rebounds and three steals from Courtney Lee — but 21 turnovers (including seven by Pierce) that led to 24 Heat points were absolute killers for Boston, who fall a half-game back of the victorious Atlanta Hawks into seventh place in the East.
And that James guy was pretty killer, too.
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