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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Rondo, Celtics cool off Heat in OT to tie series

AP

BOSTON — Rajon Rondo delivered the trash talk at halftime and the big plays in overtime.

News photo
Luck of the Irish: Celtics guard Rajon Rondo attempts a shot against Heat guard Dwayne Wade on Sunday. AP

And after one final defensive stand, the Boston Celtics were two wins away from an improbable chance to play for another championship.

Rondo had 15 points and 15 assists, and scored the final three points of the Celtics' 93-91 overtime victory over the Heat on Sunday night that evened the Eastern Conference finals at two games apiece.

Getting a huge break when LeBron James fouled out for the first time since moving to Miami, the Celtics recovered after blowing an 18-point lead in regulation and moved two games away from a third trip to the NBA Finals in five years.

Kevin Garnett added 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Celtics, while Paul Pierce scored 23 points before fouling out. Ray Allen finished with 16 points.

"Stops," Rondo said when asked what was the difference in the tight game. "I think we executed offensively, came up with some lucky plays and we got stops at the end."

James had 29 points and Dwyane Wade scored 20 after another dismal start for the Heat.

"Not stressed the series is tied 2-2," James said. "It's great basketball, great competition. We wanted to get one up here and we didn't."

In a game that started as a Celtics blowout and turned into a foul- and tension-filled fourth quarter, followed by the second overtime in this series, the Celtics held on when Wade missed a potential winning 3-pointer on the last possession.

"We knew they were going to Wade. I wanted to check him," Rondo said. "They set a great pick. . . . We're lucky we got a stop."

Mickael Pietrus drew James' sixth foul and grabbed two huge offensive rebounds that extended consecutive possessions for the Celtics, who lost Game 4 in overtime in a second-round series against the Heat last year with a chance to tie the series.

This time, they overcame their second-half stall on the offensive end by limiting the Heat to just one basket in overtime, by Udonis Haslem.

"At the end you have a chance to win after 50-plus minutes and losing the MVP. Hey, you'll take that," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Rondo's layup gave the Celtics a 92-91 lead with 2:34 left, and neither team scored again until he made a free throw with 21 seconds to play. Wade, already finding it tough to locate any room with Chris Bosh out and then having to do it with James also on the sideline, saw his potential winning attempt bounce off the rim as time expired.

In what could have been the final Beantown game for the Celtics' Big Three, Boston scored 61 points in a sensational first half that concluded with some televised trash talk from Rondo. But the Celtics managed only 12 points in the third quarter, and Wade finally got going after managing just eight points in the first half.

"Our execution in the first half was flawless," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "It was as good as maybe we've had. And then we just got away from it."

And after leading the Celtics to the highest-scoring half the Heat have surrendered this postseason, Rondo even fired a shot at the visitors, saying in his televised halftime interview what was working for Boston was the Heat "complaining and crying to the referees in transition."

The feisty point guard didn't back down after the game, either.

"What I said was true," Rondo said. "I don't take back what I said. That's what it is."



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