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Heat knock off Celtics behind LeBron James’ 29 points

01.21.14 at 10:01 pm ET
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Despite a valiant effort from a depleted Celtics team, the Heat nudged out a victory on Tuesday night, 93-86, in Miami.

Boston (14-29) played without two of its shooting guards, and Rajon Rondo‘s minutes were still limited, but a strong showing from some unlikely characters on the bench kept the game close.

LeBron James led all scorers with 29 points, and he also pulled down a team-high eight rebounds. Chris Bosh added 16 points.

Brandon Bass led Boston with 15 points off the bench. Kris Humphries (14 points), Jeff Green (12 points), Jared Sullinger (12 points) and Chris Johnson (11 points) also chipped in.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS

Johnson debuts: Injuries to shooting guards Jerryd Bayless and Avery Bradley necessitated minutes of play from Johnson, who joined the Celtics late last week. In his first action with Boston, Johnson, the 6-foot-6 swingman from Dayton, finished with 11 points. His debut began with a pair of corner 3-pointers only two minutes apart. Before he drilled his first triple, Boston trailed 34-17; by the end of the half the Celtics had cut the deficit to 11. Johnson quieted until the fourth quarter. In the final frame he converted an and-1 play on Anderson, the Heat’s best shot-blocker; then grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back in; and finally dished out a beautiful assist to Humphries for an easy dunk.

Rebounding: It’€™s well known that the Heat’€™s one weakness is a lack of an interior presence, and more specifically, major issues with rebounding. Boston exploited Miami on the boards, as it held a commanding 46-33 advantage in rebounding. Humphries led the way with 13 rebounds. Sullinger also added 11 boards, including eight offensive.

Bass boost: Bass’€™ final line does not light up a stat sheet, but in a game where Boston desperately needed someone to step up because of injuries, and a general lack of a go-to scorer this season, Bass answered the call. The three-year Celtic came off the bench for 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting in 18 minutes. It was Bass’€™ third double-digit scoring game in his last five.

Double trouble: Both Sullinger and Humphries aided in the Celtics’€™ exploitation of the Heat on the boards with double-doubles. Humphries notched 14 points and 13 rebounds, while Sullinger scored 12 points and grabbed 11 boards. They both excelled in the second half after a sloppy first half. The starting forwards combined for four points, 11 rebounds and a dreadful 1-for-8 shooting line in the first 24 minutes.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS

Points in the paint: Boston showed its inferiority inside on offense and defense, particularly in the first quarter. Some stats that highlight this point: In the first seven minutes, the Heat led 16-7 and scored 14 points in the paint to the Celtics’€™ zero; It took Boston until the 3:04 mark to register its first points in the paint; and at the end of the quarter, Miami held a 16-4 advantage on inside points, which contributed to the Heat’€™s 14-point lead.

Bradley injured: With Bayless temporarily out, MarShon Brooks no longer a Celtic and a hampered Rondo, the last thing Boston needed was an injury to its most dependable guard. But that’€™s exactly what happened against Miami, as Bradley left early in the second quarter with a sprained ankle. The injury occurred when the shooting guard was engaged in his usual full-court defense, and his right ankle rolled outwardly. This left Boston with Pressey, Johnson and a limited Rondo as the only three available guards.

Rusty Rondo: For the second straight game, the effect of Rondo’€™s extended absence showed. Rondo scored just one point and failed to make any of his eight field goals. He also missed a pair of free throws with 44 seconds remaining that would have cut the deficit to two, and then missed a shot on the Celtics’ next possession. Rondo had six points on 3-of-10 shooting in Boston’s 93-91 loss to Orlando Sunday.

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