|Fast Break: LeBron James spoils Jeff Green’s career night||03.18.13 at 11:00 pm ET|
Jeff Green (career-high 43 points) became the first Celtics player not named Paul Pierce in more than 12 years to score 43 points in the regular season, and it still wasn’t enough to end the Heat’s winning streak, which LeBron James (37 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds) extended to 23 games in a 105-103 thriller in the Garden.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Garnett loss: Considering they shot 62 percent from the field in the first half, the Celtics’ offense didn’t miss Garnett all that much — thanks to Green’s monster night. The defense? Different story. After building a 17-point lead, the C’s allowed five straight second-quarter layups. Doc Rivers quickly reinserted Avery Bradley — whose ridiculous chase-down block of Norris Cole gave the C’s a brief lift — but Miami responded with a 12-4 run to close the half, taking a more manageable six-point deficit into the break. That doesn’t happen with Garnett. Of course, neither do the Heat’s 8-0 run to start the second half nor the 18-4 string down the stretch of the fourth quarter, each of which erased comfortable Celtics leads.
LeBron being LeBron: Growing increasingly frustrated with his teammates — even showing up Chris Bosh when the Heat center allowed Brandon Bass to waltz into lane for an offensive rebound on a missed free throw — James took over. He showed again and again why he’s the game’s greatest player, even if for one night Green gave him a run for his money. When he wasn’t posterizing Jason Terry, he was drawing defenders and finding everyone from Ray Allen to Shane Battier for wide-open 3-point attempts.
Bench pressed: At some point, there’s a breaking point. Since Garnett’s absence moved Green into the starting lineup, the reserves featured only two players who started the season with the Celtics. Outside of Jason Terry, who knocked down four of his six attempts in 24 minutes, the C’s didn’t get much from the rest of the roster. For the most part, Jordan Crawford (8 points) seemed lost, Chris Wilcox racked up the fouls and the China trio of Terrence Williams, D.J. White and Shavlik Randolph didn’t see the floor.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Green lantern: Either James and Green switched jerseys, or Green played his best basketball in a Celtics uniform. The C’s closed the first quarter on a 17-0 run, including 12 points from Green, to take a 31-19 lead after one. That momentum carried into the second, as Green scored 22 points in a span of 10:43, nearly playing the Heat to a standstill (24-22) through the games’s first 15 minutes. What’s more, he grabbed six boards in that same span — twice his season average. Basically, Green unlocked God mode for 15 minutes.
Truth matters: You can bet Rivers took mental note as his starting combination of Green and Pierce gave the Heat fits. While Miami attempted to guard one of the two with Udonis Haslem (and for some reasonn Chris Andersen), Green and Pierce took advantage. As the former enjoyed a career night, the latter submitted another retro performance, quietly approaching a triple-double (17 points, 8 assists, 8 rebounds) in tandem.
Quality Lee: Courtney Lee followed up perhaps his most complete performance of the season (13 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks against the Bobcats) with another solid effort against the Heat. He contributed 13 points — including a huge fourth-qaurter triple to snap a 9-0 Heat run — to go along with four assists, three rebounds and three steals. His performance helped offset a mostly underwhelming night for fellow pitbull Avery Bradley, who struggled in the face of fullcourt pressure from Miami’s Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole.
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