2011 NBA playoffs: Miami Heat seeks a breakthrough in Boston for Game 4 vs. Celtics


Though he won a playoff game in Boston last season with the Cavaliers, Lebron James missed 10 of his 16 shots in the Heat’s Game 3 loss on Saturday night. (ADAM HUNGER/REUTERS)

Ever since Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined forces with Paul Pierce on the Boston Celtics, TD Garden has become a cauldron for the Miami Heat. It’s a place where Heat players have become discombobulated, lost their powers, and inevitably lost 11 consecutive games — including four in a row in the postseason.

And on Saturday, the arena was where the Heat also lost somewhat of an edge, after two dominant performances in Miami. It watched in awe as Garnett broke out of a series-long slump to have Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra comparing him to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Pierce kept his emotions and sore heel in check to outplay LeBron James. Dwyane Wade brought down Rajon Rondo to the parquet floor and Rondo’s left elbow snapped back, but he still returned to lead his team to an emotional 97-81 victory with one good arm; even knocking away the ball from Chris Bosh with his bad limb before throwing down a soft dunk.

James won a playoff game in Boston last season with Cleveland, but ever since he ripped off his Cavaliers jersey for a final time in this arena last postseason and donned a Heat uniform, he hasn’t had any success either, losing three times this season.

“We ain’t found out how to win here,” said Wade, who has been on the floor for nine of the losses in Boston. “We know this team has played very well period, no matter where they are, but at home they have a homecourt advantage. There is so much energy in this building.”

Rondo fed off that energy on Saturday, when his adrenaline fueled him to return from a dislocated left elbow after his teammates, and even the Celtics’ trainer, thought the game and possibly his season was over. Instead, he played the entire fourth quarter as the Celtics closed the gap to 2-1 in their best-of-seven series.

On Sunday, as the Celtics prepared for Monday’s Game 4, Rondo was dozing off on a training table at the team’s practice facility in Waltham; highly medicated on pain relievers, with his left arm covered in ice and awaiting the results of an MRI exam and a CT scan, which later came back negative. After the game, Rondo said he was “going to play regardless. I’m not going to use it as an excuse. We’re a no-excuse team.”

Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said that he expects to have available Rondo and his backup, Delonte West — who is battling a bruised left shoulder — and wouldn’t put his players at risk. “We're not going to do anything, number one, to hurt the player. And we're not gonna do anything to hurt the team. It may not be until game time and the game until we find that out. Obviously, the latter part, or either one of those, would be awful, to find out during the game. But that may be the case.”

Wade answered several questions on Saturday about his awkward takedown of Rondo after the game, defending himself by stating, “I’m not a dirty player. It’s physical.”

A day later, he deflected follow-up questions, including one about fear of retribution. Although he didn’t think Wade intended to hurt Rondo, Rivers claimed that he had to keep a “furious” Garnett from retaliating. “Keep him back from what? From fighting? This is basketball. Keep them back from what? They going to beat me up?” Wade said. “I’m not answering any more questions about it. I’m done. I’ve moved on.”

Bosh is also trying to move on, after he was silenced again by Boston. Bosh has been held below double digits in scoring just five times this season, but three of those occasions have been against the Celtics, including twice this series. Spoelstra said Bosh played with a pinched nerve in his neck on Saturday, when he scored just six points on 1-of-6 shooting, but Bosh said his poor play was the result of being passive and indecisive. “There’s a bunch of things that I could’ve done better personally to affect the game more and get into more of a rhythm. I can look at my mistakes because mistakes teach you more than anything else,” Bosh said. “We all want to win and I think I can be aggressive and help this team out. Live and learn. Sometimes you got to get smacked to learn a lesson.”

The last time the Heat won in Boston, Shaquille O’Neal was Miami’s starting center and the Celtics’ starting shooting guard was Allan Ray. James missed 10 of 16 field goals and scored just 15 points in Game 3, but said that instead of worrying about location or rotations, the Heat needs to be more concerned about how it plays in order to finally get a win in Boston. “We’ve got to be aggressive. They are very aggressive team. And the only way you can counter aggressiveness is to be aggressive on the other end. We didn’t play as well as we wanted to — our worst game this postseason — so we’re looking to get better in Game 4.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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