Heat's stars get better of Celtics
MIAMI - The Miami Heat, with its "Big Three" reunited for the first time since March 29, defeated the Boston Celtics 109-101 Friday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Meanwhile, Boston was without its Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. Boston was led by Jeff Green (25 points and eight rebounds) and Jordan Crawford (20 points).
For the Heat, LeBron James, who had missed four of the past six games due to an injured hamstring, had 20 points, six rebounds and nine assists. Before the game, he was given the trophy for being named Eastern Conference Player of the Month, an award he has won five straight months.
Dwyane Wade, who had missed six straight games due to knee and ankle injuries, had 11 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Chris Bosh, who had missed three straight games due to a hyper-extended knee and the flu, had 17 points and seven rebounds.
The Heat also got strong performances off the bench from Rashard Lewis (19 points) and Ray Allen (17 points).
But the return of the Heat's stars was the most significant development in a game that otherwise had no meaning for Miami. The Heat have already clinched the top seed for the playoffs and the best record in franchise history.
Miami is 63-16 overall, 35-4 at home and 27-2 since the All-Star break. Its post-All-Star record is the best in NBA history so far, with three games still to be played.
The Celtics, who had their past two seasons ended by the Heat, are 40-39 and in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. As it stands now, the Celtics would open with the New York Knicks in the first round of the playoffs.
Boston has been without point guard Rondo (knee injury) for most of the year, and he won't return until next season. But Pierce and Garnett - both out with ankle injuries - are expected to return in time for the playoffs.
The Heat won the season series against the Celtics, 3-1, this season. It was the first time since 2005-06 that the Heat took a season series from Boston.
On Friday, the Celtics got off to a fast start, leading by as many as 13 points early in the second quarter. But the Heat got 41 points in the second quarter - their highest-scoring period of the season - to take a 58-50 halftime lead.
Also in the second quarter, the Heat broke the franchise record for 3-pointers in a season, breaking the previous mark of 678.
Notes: The Heat rested two of their top forwards - Shane Batter, who has a sore left knee, and Udonis Haslem, who is batting an ankle injury. ... Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said of Wade's return to the lineup on Friday: "We want him to blow it out and get his wind, (but) he won't get his normal 34 or 36 minutes." ... Celtics coach Doc Rivers on Rondo and whether or not he'll travel with the team while he rehabilitates: "It doesn't matter to me. His job is to get healthy, not to travel with us and fall behind (on his rehab). Rajon is on a tight schedule to get back for next year, and that's where I want his focus." ... Rivers said he doesn't care who the Celtics play in the playoffs. "We don't have home-court advantage, and that is a concern," he said. "And other than Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, we don't have anyone who has been to the playoffs together." ... Spoelstra said he and the Heat scouts liked Celtics guard Avery Bradley when he was in college and getting ready for the NBA Draft. "He showed an ability to go 94 feet and turn the ball repeatedly. He is showing he can do that at the pro level. He was highly talented in the first 17 games of his freshman year (at Texas), and then he got hurt and perspectives changed."