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Fast Break: Heat burn Celtics

12.27.11 at 11:07 pm ET

The Celtics almost pulled off an amazing comeback against the Miami Heat, rallying from a 16-point third quarter deficit behind a small lineup and an effective zone defense. A Keyon Dooling 3-pointer sliced Miami’s lead to three points with just over two minutes remaining, but the Heat answered after a crucial Boston turnover in a 115-107 victory.

Without Paul Pierce (bone bruise, right heel), the Celtics didn’t have an effective defensive counter for LeBron James. They also didn’t learn their lessons from last year’s playoff series as 15 first-half turnovers led to 23 Miami points.

Their defense was absolutely shredded as Miami shot 56 percent and put on a clinic in the open court. James scored 26 points and Dwyane Wade added 24 and the Celtics had no answers for either of them.

For all the concerns about the Celtics’ ability to score points, it’s been their defense that has let them down. Coach Doc Rivers hit upon an effective strategy midway through the third quarter when he went zone. That, plus a small lineup of shooters somehow got the Celtics back in the game, but they couldn’t complete the comeback.

There’s no rest for the Celtics with their first back-to-back on tap Wednesday in New Orleans. The last time they started a season 0-3 was 2006-07, the year before Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen arrived.


— James abused Sasha Pavlovic and got Marquis Daniels in foul trouble almost immediately. Rivers rode with Daniels for as long as he could but he picked up his fourth foul in the second quarter, forcing Rivers to play three guards at times

— No matter how many times it’s been said, you can’t turn the ball over against Miami because it’s almost a guaranteed two points. The Celtics have no chance of keeping up with the Heat in the open court and they were burned time and time again.

— The Celtics were forced to trap James and Wade, which left James Jones open and he did what he always does, going 3-for-3 on 3-point attempts in the first half.

Chris Wilcox played only eight minutes and left with a bruised left shoulder. X-rays were negative but a thin frontcourt can’t afford to lose any of its top four players.

— There were a handful of calls that didn’t go the Celtics way and they wound up shooting eight fewer free throws than Miami. Both Rivers and Rajon Rondo were given technical fouls.


— Allen did his best to keep the Celtics in the game, knocking down four 3-pointers in the first half in only five attempts and finishing with 28 points on 8-for-12 shooting. The Celtics vaunted floor spacing and passing has been off in the first two games without Pierce and Allen was forced to attempt hurried off-balance shots. Still, no one does it better.

— Rondo continued to be aggressive, earning 11 free throw attempts. He’s going to have to make them consistently and even then teams will continue to foul him, but that’s the best sign of the early going.

Keyon Dooling had a strong game off the bench. Except for a brief stretch when Avery Bradley was in the game, Dooling handled all the backup minutes at both guard positions and was on the floor with Rondo and Allen when the Celtics went to a smaller lineup that was very effective.

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