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Rajon And Ray Overcome the Heat: 107-102

One game after closing strong to beat the Wizards, the Celtics followed suit to beat the Heat.

Fourth quarters have been a big problem during the Celtics post-Christmas funk. Finishing what they started was a foreign concept.

With the score tied at 74 after three periods, based on recent history, a win was by no means to be predicted.

Fourth Quarter
Ray Allen led with 9 fourth quarter points, Eddie House had 7, and Kendrick Perkins had 5, as eight Celtic players scored in the final period to close out the Heat.

The Celtics went up by 10 at 88-78 on a Kendrick Perkins dunk, before Miami closed the gap.

During that run up, Ray Allen had two nice assists in a row, getting the ball outside the paint and feeding the bigs down low. First he got the ball on the right side and dumped it down to Rasheed Wallace, who hit a little jump shot. Shortly after, he got the ball near the middle and dumped it down to Perkins for a dunk.

Rondo’s Look Away

The run was capped off by a stellar fake by Rajon Rondo. Using a trick from his high school QB days, it looked like a play action fake, as he looked at Ray on the right side and started to pass but changed directions immediately to send it to Perkins on the left coming in for a lay up. It was a superb play and the score was 88-78 with 7:09 to go.

Of course, the Celtics aren’t in a habit of closing strong, if at all, as the Heat worked themselves back within two one more time

Pierce Out, Ray And Rajon Cover
With Paul Pierce out nursing a sprained ankle, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo stepped up offensively with 23 and 22 points respectively to lead the Celtics to victory.

Rondo handed out 14 assists with 6 rebounds, 3 steals and 4 turnovers to keep things glued together in the absence of Pierce. Rajon had 21 points and 10 assists after three periods.

Miami closed to within two points for the second time in the quarter at 94-96 with 1:36 left on a Quentin Richardson 3 pointer. Boston then widened the lead through a series of trips to the line, led by Ray Allen with 5 of 5 shooting from the charity stripe in the final 30 seconds.

The Celtics didn’t score a field goal in the last 2:52 of the game, but maintained their lead by hitting enough of their free throws to keep Miami at bay.

Eddie House finished with 16 points on 5 of 9 shooting with 4 for 4 from the free throw line. Fast Eddie had a big role in maintaining control down the stretch with a three pointer, a two point jumper and a rebound on consecutive plays to extend the lead to 93-86 after the Heat got within two.

This was House’s third best scoring game of the year and highest since December 30th.

Tony Allen started in place of Pierce and had the difficult assignment of guarding Dwyane Wade when he was in. Tony played pretty well, though he scored only 6 points on 2 of 6 shooting. Tony grabbed 6 rebounds, two steals, and two turnovers in 27 plus minutes.

Celtics Defense tightens up for a few spells late in 4th
The Celtics let the Heat shoot .521 on the game and gave up 28 fourth quarter points. But they played strong defense for short bursts, late in the quarter.

Tony had a critical steal from Wade as he tried to make a move at the top of the key. On the ensuing break, 64% foul shooter Tony was fouled by Udonis Haslem and made his only two free throws of the game for a 99-94 score with 36 seconds left.

Wade had a strong game scoring and dishing, as he finished with 30 points on 11 of 16 shooting, 13 assists, 5 rebounds, 6 turnovers, a steal and 2 blocked shots. Rafer Alston was second with 15 points.

Wade loves to go up and block those centers. He did it in this game against Perkins underneath.

Kevin Garnett had a very productive game, particularly as a facilitator, with 14 points on 6 of 10 shooting, 6 rebounds, and a season high 9  assists in just 30 plus minutes.

Kendrick Perkins, a person of interest to other NBA GMs, says Ken Berger of CBS Sports,  contributed 13 points on 5 of 8 shooting, with 2 blocks, and 3 turnovers in 26 plus minutes.

Rasheed Wallace, perhaps the person Rondo was referring to in recent veiled comments about personal agendas on the team, scored 7 points on 3 of 10 shooting, 1 of 4 from downtown, with just 2 rebounds in 21 minutes. The Celtics were plus 6 points when ‘Sheed was on the floor.

Wallace didn’t get a technical all evening and seemed rather subdued for Wallace.

Glen Davis, who has been a funk himself, seems to have been more active in this contest with 5 boards, and 6 points in 17 minutes.

Rondo ‘Non Call’ Angers Heat
But Jermaine O’Neal was whistled for a technical after voicing demonstrative displeasure at a non-call on Rondo drive and basket that he defended.

He said that Rondo pushed him away with his other arm to create space for the lay up. After O’Neal’s tech, Rafer Alston immediately got one for arguing the same non call, and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was upset as well.

More Rondo
As infrequent as a bi-weekly pay check, Rajon hit two three pointers as the shot clock was running down. The first gave the Celtics a lead at 60-58 and the second broke a tie to make it 69-66. Both were huge in a close game like this.

With Rondo looking like a QB again, Ray Allen dove and ‘caught’ a pass on the ground, also in the third quarter and called time out, saving the possession. First and ten.

It’s the Rebounding
In a sign of hope, the Celtics out rebounded the Heat 41 to 32 overall and 15 to 6 on the offensive boards. That means the Celtics rebounded 15 of 39 of their own misses, a very solid number. And it made a big difference in the outcome of this game.

More Numbers

Points in the Paint: 44-44
Points off Turnovers: 17-17
Fast Break Points: 11-9 (Celtics)
Second Chance Points: 16-11 (Celtics)

With comments recently coming out from Rondo about some internal issues, ubuntu is strained. Not that it wasn’t noticeable in the Celtics’ play. Still, having someone as inscrutable as Rondo being the one to publicly suggest some things aren’t right in the locker room is a bit of a ground tremor.

The team played well enough, if not great, to beat the Heat last night. Fixing what is wrong is done on a game by game basis. I’d say last night was a step forward.

Dwyane Wade was + 6 in 40 plus minutes, meaning (obviously) the Celtics took the lead when Wade was off the floor resting. But worth noting.

The Celtics are now 31-16.

Up Next: the New Jersey Nets in Boston on Friday

Thomas Halzack

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