LeBron James and the Miami Heat couldn’t win in Boston in the regular season. And now they might have to do it in the playoffs.
Rajon Rondo had a triple-double, and James missed a crucial free throw with 12.5 seconds left in the Celtics’ 85-82 victory over visiting Miami on Sunday. Boston improved to 3-0 against the Heat this season, taking back the top spot in the East and clinching the potential tiebreaker for home-court advantage in the playoffs.
The teams will play again in Miami on April 10.
“They are the defending Eastern Conference champions. You have to go through them, and they ain’t going to make it easy,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We understand that this isn’t going to be an easy ride for us, and that’s where we’re at our best.”
The Heat eliminated most of a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit and trailed 83-81 with 19 seconds left when they brought the ball in from a timeout and got it to James at the top of the key. He drove on Paul Pierce and drew the foul but missed the first shot, then made the second.
On the ensuing inbound pass, James went into the stands for the ball but merely knocked it to Ray Allen; the Celtics got the ball downcourt to Glen “Big Baby” Davis, who was fouled. Davis hit both foul shots with 6.3 seconds to go, and Mike Miller missed a 3-point attempt in the final seconds that would have sent the game to overtime.
“They’re going to be a different team in March and April, the more important months, when we’ll probably have to see them again,” said Paul Pierce, who was 0 for 10 from the floor and scored just one point. “It gives us the series in case something happens with a tiebreaker.”
The Celtics have won 12 of their last 13 games against Miami, including a 4-1 series victory in the first round of last year’s playoffs; they then knocked James and the Cleveland Cavaliers out in the next round. James fled to Miami to join Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, but the Heat still haven’t been able to beat Boston.
“This is classic, typical bigger brothers,” Wade said. “You’ve got to get over the hump. We’re getting closer and closer, but we’re not there yet.”
Around the league
Dwight Howard had 31 points and 13 rebounds as the Orlando Magic earned their first victory over a winning team in more than a month, downing the visiting Los Angeles Lakers 89-75. Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum each had 17 points to lead the Lakers. Lamar Odom added 13 and Pau Gasol 11. … Nick Young scored 31 points, John Wall had 19 and 14 assists and the Washington Wizards snapped their 25-game road winless streak with a 115-100 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. … LaMarcus Aldridge scored 36 points, Wesley Matthews added 24 and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Detroit Pistons 105-100 in Auburn Hills, Mich. Portland also got 15 points and 12 assists from Andre Miller. Ben Gordon scored 18 points and Tracy McGrady had 16 for Detroit.
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