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Celtics Withered by Heat

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Lebron James And Ray Allen Mike Ehrmann Getty Images Sport

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By TIM REYNOLDS   AP Sports Writer
MIAMI (AP) _ A big early Miami lead was wasted. Once the Heat
took control again, they simply ran away from the Boston Celtics.
And the NBA finals are now three wins away for LeBron James and
the Heat.

James scored 32 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, Dwyane Wade
scored 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter and the Heat beat
the Celtics 93-79 on Monday night in Game 1 of the Eastern
Conference finals.

Shane Battier, playing in the conference finals for the first
time, scored 10 points and had 10 rebounds for the Heat, who wasted
an early 11-point first-half lead before running away to break a
halftime tie. Miami outrebounded the Celtics 48-33, and blocked 11
Boston shots.

Kevin Garnett scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for
Boston, which got 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists from
Rajon Rondo and 12 points from Paul Pierce.
Game 2 is Wednesday night in Miami.

It’s the third straight year the Heat and Celtics have met in
the playoffs, the third straight year James has seen his postseason
path go through Boston as well _ the first of those matchups coming
in 2010, his final run with Cleveland.

Each of those came in the first or second rounds, never one
round away from the NBA finals.

And while both sides would say there’s a long way to go in this
series, Game 1 winners have a decided edge in any best-of-seven,
the conference final being no exception. In the most recent 10
postseasons, teams with 1-0 leads in conference finals have
advanced 15 out of 20 times. One of the five instances of a team
rallying from a one-game deficit was last year, when Miami ousted
Chicago in five games.

Last season’s Miami-Boston series ended with James scoring the
final 10 points of Game 5, and the start of this year’s matchup had
him putting on another offensive display.

He had 13 points in the first quarter _ two more than the entire
Celtics roster _ and Miami ran out to a 21-11 lead after the
opening period. Garnett made three of his four shots in the
quarter, while everyone else in Boston green was 2 for 16 from the
floor.

The 11 points matched the lowest output by any team in the
opening quarter this postseason. The other team to manage that few
was San Antonio, which then dropped 32 on the Los Angeles Clippers
in the second quarter of their game on May 19.
The Celtics’ response was even better.

Boston scored 35 in the second quarter, erasing what was an
11-point deficit early in the period by scoring 27 points in the
final 8:46 of the half to pull into a 46-all tie. Rondo, Garnett
and Pierce combined to score 23 points in the quarter, looking
absolutely vintage, near-perfect offensive execution getting to
Miami time and time again. And the Celtics’ comeback happened even
while they got hit with three technical fouls in the second
quarter, plus Allen missing four first-half free throws _ matching
his career-worst for an entire game.

In the end, it went down as merely a one-quarter lapse for
Miami.

Another technical foul, this one on Rondo, came in the third
quarter, likely born from frustration as the Heat started to roll
again.

With the game tied at 50, Rondo missed three shots in a
31-second span early in the third, the last of those getting
blocked by Battier _ who hit a 3-pointer 11 seconds later. It
started a 9-2 Miami burst, including a touchdown pass from Wade to
James _ Wade grabbed the rebound of a miss by Pierce, spun and
delivered a 90-foot pass to the reigning MVP _ for an easy score.

Miami led by as many as 13 late in the third, before taking a
72-61 lead into the fourth. James scored 10 more in the third,
Boston went cold again shooting just 27 percent in the period, and
Wade’s left-handed bullet pass into the lane set up Joel Anthony
for a dunk that pushed the Heat lead to 15 with 10:13 remaining.

NOTES: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is now 6-0 in Game 1s at home.
… James passed Sam Jones (2,909) for 22nd on the NBA’s playoff
scoring list with a layup late in the first quarter, and Garnett
passed Dirk Nowitzki (1,314) for 22nd on the league’s postseason
rebound list. … The Heat left the floor at halftime with a 48-46
lead, then had two points by Anthony taken off after a lengthy
reviewed showed he had a basket after the shot clock expired. …
Miami F Chris Bosh did a light pregame workout, but still remains
out indefinitely with a lower abdominal strain. He was on the Heat
bench for the first time in Miami’s last six games.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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