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Heat takes early series lead with 93-79 victory over Celtics

LeBron James has 32 points and 13 rebounds as Miami wins Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against a fatigued Boston squad.

May 29, 2012|By Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun Sentinel

MIAMI — An argument could be made that this one was won Thursday, when the Miami Heat finished off the Indiana Pacers in Game 6 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series.

By contrast, the Boston Celtics, who had to push through a Saturday night Game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers in the other East semifinal, arrived at AmericanAirlines Arena with little in the way of legs, and, ultimately, hope.

Competitive for one quarter, but not much more, the Celtics fell, 93-79, to the Heat on Monday in the opener of this best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals series, with the question now whether the aging and ailing Celtics can regain their legs in time for Game 2.

"We were able to find a way to grind it, and you have to do that against this team," said Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra, still concerned about the Celtics stealing home-court advantage Wednesday. "They still have an opportunity in Game 2 to accomplish what they want to."

With power forward Chris Bosh still sidelined, the Heat didn't exactly get the two-man game that finished off the Pacers last week in the final three games of that series, but they got plenty of LeBron James.

With 32 points, James became the first Celtics opponent to score at least 30 points this postseason. The previous high had been 29 by the Atlanta Hawks' Joe Johnson in the first round.

James improved to 14-1 in home playoff openers, with Spoelstra now 6-0 in openers of playoff series that started in Miami.

Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who had been dynamic at the close of the series against the Pacers, added 22 points and seven assists.

"When they play aggressive, it requires a lot of different triggers," Spoelstra said of offsetting the Celtics' scrambling.

Indeed, this time the support system was there, with point guard Mario Chalmers offsetting enough of Rajon Rondo's game, fill-in power forward Shane Battier grabbing 10 rebounds, reserve forward Mike Miller hitting shots and Joel Anthony offering a feisty effort in the middle as part of the Heat's 48-33 rebounding advantage.

"We let Wade, we let LeBron play in extreme comfort," Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said, "and we gave the other guys everything they wanted, as well."

While center Kevin Garnett led the Celtics with 23 points and 10 rebounds, James offset Garnett's rebounding with 13 of his own. There otherwise was little offensive support for the Celtics, with ailing Paul Pierce (five for 18) and Ray Allen (one for seven) off with their shots.

The Celtics were called for three technical fouls, in addition to a delay-of-game technical, the last of them on Rondo.

"You could see him getting frustrated a little bit. Our job is to just keep him frustrated," said Chalmers, who finished with nine points, five rebounds and four assists.

Rivers said his technical for complaining to referee Ed Malloy was the worst such call ever made against him.

"Everyone," Rivers said, "has to keep their composure, not just players and coaches."

Then there was the Celtics' fatigue, which was tangible.

"They crushed us in the 50-50 game," Rivers said. "Everything loose or rolling, I thought we could have got more of them."

iwinderman@tribune.com

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