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Fast Break: Celtics topple Heat on starless night

04.24.12 at 10:42 pm ET
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Of the seven current or former NBA All-Stars on the Celtics and Heat rosters, only Paul Pierce graced the Garden parquet on Tuesday night, and even he only played 18 minutes. That left major minutes for guys like Marquis Daniels and Sasha Pavlovic, the only C’s to reach double figures in an ugly 78-66 victory against the Heat.

Pavlovic (16 points) and Daniels (13 points) helped the Celtics (38-27) outscore Miami 28-16 in the fourth quarter and finish the season 3-1 against the Heat. With only a home game against the Bucks on Thursday remaining, the Celtics trail the Hawks (39-26) — 109-102 winners over the Clippers — by a game. As division winners, the Celtics own the tiebreaker for home court advantage in their first-round playoff series, but they would have to beat Milwaukee and hope Atlanta loses to the Mavericks.

Dexter Pittman (12 points) led the Heat (46-19), who officially conceded the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed to the Bulls.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Quis to the game: From the season opener on Christmas Day to April 19, Daniels never reached double digits in scoring or grabbed more than six rebounds in a single night. He almost exceeded both those benchmarks in the last two games. After totaling 12 points and eight boards against the Hawks on Friday night, he amassed 13 points and five rebounds against the Heat. He’s not likely to see much, if any, playing time in the playoffs, but at least something other than his shoes did the shining.

Block party: With the Celtics clinging to a 54-52 lead in the fourth quarter (yes, the fourth quarter), rookie JaJuan Johnson blocked a Juwan Howard layup attempt. Just 42 seconds later, newly signed Boston College product Sean Williams blocked Howard’s 10-foot baseline jumper, sending it into the stands for a 24-second violation. Williams sandwiched a four points around his rejection to help the C’s establish a six-point lead.

Heroic Herren: Each home game, the Celtics honor a member of the community who goes to extraordinary lengths to help those in need with a “Heroes Among Us” ceremony. Tuesday, the C’s recognized a member of their own community: Chris Herren. The Fall River native and Durfee High graduate battled substance abuse issues throughout a career that led the former McDonald’s All-American to Boston College, Fresno State, the Nuggets (No. 33 overall pick in 1999 NBA Draft) and the Celtics before several destinations abroad. Since recovering from addiction, a journey detailed in the ESPN Films production “Unguarded,” Herren founded Project Purple to fight drug abuse. As a result, he found himself back on the Garden parquet, the recipient of a rousing standing ovation — this time in a suit, clean and sober.

WHAT WENT WRONG

For starters: For fans who paid back in November to see the Heat visit the Garden in the penultimate game of the regular season, a Celtics starting lineup that included Pavlovic and Ryan Hollins had to be a disappointment, even if Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass and Avery Bradley donned the green and white. What’s worse, the Heat’s star trio all rested for the playoffs, leaving Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra with Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem and Pittman as his starters.

Worst first: In what had to be the ugliest quarter of basketball all season, the Celtics failed to score in the first 6:15 and netted only 10 points in the game’s first 12 minutes. In that span, they committed seven turnovers — five by Pierce — that led to 13 of the Heat’s 17 points. Not until Pierce twisted and turned his way into the lane to bury a fallaway jumper midway through the first quarter did the Celtics get on the board, snapping an 11-0 Miami start.

Big bust: When Hollins cleared waivers and signed with the Celtics, team president Danny Ainge said the former Cavaliers center had earned the respect of Garnett and Pierce during some summer ball on the West Coast over the summer. Whether they still hold his game in high regard remains a question. Outside of a few highlight alley-oops from Rondo, Hollins hasn’t played a meaningful minute since joining the team. He finished scoreless in 25 minutes against the Heat, and his season-high in rebounds is five. That effort came in 30 minutes of action while the stars rested against the Hawks (he had three boards against Miami). Need we remind you he’s a 7-footer?

Read More: Boston Celtics, LeBron James, Marquis Daniels, Miami Heat
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