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Thursday, May 5, 2011
LeBron's 35 propel Heat to 2-0 series lead
MIAMI — With the outcome decided in the final seconds, LeBron James walked toward Mario Chalmers to begin his version of a celebration.
He playfully punched his teammate twice in the chest.
Fitting, because James and the Miami Heat have now landed two blows against the Boston Celtics.
James scored 24 of his 35 points in the second half, Dwyane Wade added 28 and the Heat used a late 14-0 run to pull away and beat the aching Celtics 102-91 in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series on Tuesday night.
"Feel good about it," James said. "Series is far — far, far, far — away from over. It's really just beginning for us."
James shot 14 of 25 from the field, and logged 44 minutes with no turnovers. Chris Bosh finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds for Miami, which leads the best-of-seven 2-0.
Game 3 in Boston isn't until Saturday night, and the Celtics may be particularly thankful for the break.
Rajon Rondo played through a balky back to score 20 points and add 12 assists for Boston, which got 16 points from Kevin Garnett and 13 from Paul Pierce — who retreated to the locker room for treatment on his strained left Achilles' injury in the first half. Ray Allen was held to seven points, and left with what he said was a bruised chest cavity courtesy of an elbow from James in the third quarter.
"Being down 2-0 doesn't scare any of us, doesn't make us nervous," Allen said. "It's just an opportunity to come out shining."
Boston tied the game 80-80 on a pair of free throws by Pierce with 7:10 left. The Celtics missed their next six shots and Miami pulled away, taking command of both the game and the series.
"That's our staple. We know the only way for us to win games, especially in the playoffs, is to play defense," James said. "Everyone has each other's back. If one guy gets beat, another steps up. They made a run, a heck of a run . . . but we just kept grinding, kept playing our principles, and we finally wore them down."
Jeff Green scored 11 and Delonte West added 10 for Boston.
Even for a franchise with such fabled history as the Celtics, an 0-2 deficit represents a colossal challenge.
This is now the ninth time Boston has dropped the first two games in a best-of-seven series. In the previous eight, the Celtics prevailed only against the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1969 NBA Finals.
And it's something this group of Celtics has never faced before, either.
The last time Boston lost the first two games of a playoff matchup was in 2004, when it was swept by Indiana. The current core of Celtics had lost Game 1s four other times before this series, then bounced back to win Game 2 each time, against Chicago and Orlando in 2009, then Cleveland and the Lakers in 2010.
Thunder 111, Grizzlies 102
In Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant scored 26 points, James Harden led an outburst by the Thunder bench with 21, and Oklahoma City evened its series with Memphis at 1-1.
After scoring just 16 points in a Game 1 loss, the Thunder's bench tripled that amount and put Oklahoma City firmly in control with an 18-6 run to start the fourth quarter.
Russell Westbrook scored 24 and his backup, Eric Maynor, added 15 for the Thunder.
Mike Conley scored 24 for Memphis, which cut a 21-point, fourth-quarter deficit to six in the final minutes.
Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol combined to make just five of 22 shots for 28 points — just over half their total from the opener.
"That's what they've done all year, and that's why we are in this position, because they have done either a good job of catching up or extending leads," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought they were outstanding tonight."
"It was a classic desperate team, more aggressive team," Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. "I say the desperate team usually wins, and they were the desperate team in their play, which was a sense of urgency and aggressiveness."