American Airlines Arena in downtown Miami, Fla. was filled to capacity on Tuesday, Dec. 27, when the Heat dominated the Celtics. With only a few green jerseys sprinkled throughout the large crowd, the morale for the Celtics was low. I found myself struggling to root for my new Boston team, as I have lived in South Florida since I was born. Nevertheless, the game was exhilarating, and the Celtics showed a renewed effort throughout the last quarter.
The Celtics lacked Paul Pierce (out on heel injury), while the Heat gained Norris Cole, a talented rookie who garnered 20 points throughout the game and had the crowd chanting “M-V-P!” at the final buzzer.
The first quarter was marked initially by multiple lead changes until Chris Bosh’s 3-pointer and Dwyane Wade’s huge layup put the score at 23-13 Miami. A technical foul on Rajon Rondo for yelling at an official put the Heat further ahead. The Celtics fired back and brought the score to 25-26 following a finger roll layup from Marquis Daniels. The Heat returned to end the first quarter at 30-27.
The second quarter continued the offensive stride for Miami. The Heat scored 39 points in the quarter and had a high energy 15-5 run with three 3-pointers by James Jones. The Celtics answered back with three 3-pointers from Ray Allen and one from Keyon Dooling, formerly a guard for the Heat, pushing the Celtics back up to 49-59. Due to the Heat’s offensive command, the quarter ended 69-54 Miami. While the Celtics only had a few more turnovers than the Heat, the Heat did a better job at capitalizing on these opportunities, turning Boston’s 15 turnovers in the first half into 23 points.
The third quarter marked a huge offensive takeover by the Heat’s Lebron James. He scored six straight points, including a beautiful “alley-oop” dunk shot from Dwyane Wade, pushing the Heat ahead 85-65. However, at this point there was only one Heat starter on the floor, and Boston seized the opportunity to come back. Both Boston’s defense and offense strengthened as the Celtics held off the Heat and went on an 18-6 run, ending the quarter at 91-83 (Heat). The Heat’s field goal percentage declined as the team missed their last 8 shot attempts of the quarter.
Boston’s streak continued into the fourth quarter, but the Celtics could not handle the Heat’s Norris Cole, who earned 14 of his 20 points in the final quarter. The Celtics narrowed the gap to 108-105 (Heat) following a Rondo floating dunk shot and a beautiful Dooling 3-pointer. Wade thwarted Dooling’s next attempt by stealing a pass intended for Dooling and getting the ball to James. James found Cole, who made the next two jump shots. A free throw by Wade and two by Cole finished up the game at 115-107 (Heat).
The Celtic’s fourth quarter zone defense definitely helped them keep up with the Heat, but Miami’s standout rookie Norris Cole, as well as the Wade-James combo, pushed the Heat ahead and led to their victory.