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Heat rolled again by Green Machine

By David J. Neal, McClatchy Newspapers –

MIAMI — Two ways to look at the Heat’s 115-107 home loss to Boston — a team that looked doddering during a blowout Heat win in December and retro 2008 in dusting the Heat twice this month.

(PHOTO: Miami Heat’s LeBron James screams after he was called for a foul during an NBA game against the Boston Celtics during the first quarter at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida, Tuesday, April 10, 2012. )

One way is to consider it an anomaly. Boston’s 65 first-half points were the most it has scored in any half and the most the Heat has allowed in any half this season. Nobody from Boston seemed to miss. Not point guard Rajon Rondo. Not Kevin Garnett, who went 11-of-14 shooting with equal proficiency whether against Chris Bosh or air. When a fan hit a half-court shot to win a Kia, you half expected him to plop himself down on the Celtics bench.

Boston shot 58.9 percent in the third quarter. It was its worst shooting quarter of a game in which it shot 60.6 percent from the field.

“They shoot like that, it’s going to be tough to beat them,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said.

Bosh said, “They executed well. They were a step ahead of us the whole time. They kind of knew what our schemes were defensively. They made quick adjustments and got to open spots really quick. (Garnett) is one of the best jump shooters in the league from that range. Uncontested jumpers are like layups for him.”

First-quarter runs of 10-0 and 8-0 put the Celtics up 33-22 after one quarter, and the Heat spent the rest of the night trying to get back into the game. An old fashioned three-point play — basket and foul — by Mario Chalmers pulled the Heat to 89-86. Chalmers drew a charge on Boston’s Greg Steimsma, then Bosh sank a jumper while being fouled by Sasha Pavlovic.

With a chance to tie the score, Bosh missed the free throw. Boston’s Brandon Bass hit a jumper. Following a Chalmers free throw, Ray Allen nailed a three-pointer. Garnett accounted for the next eight Boston points with 15- and 20-foot shots that put the Celtics up 102-91 with 6:41 left. Paul Pierce (27 points) and Garnett combined for 16 Boston points in the fourth quarter.

“We left Boston feeling awful. We’re not feeling that pain (Tuesday night),” said Heat guard LeBron James after his game-high 36 points. “Those guys were locked in. Not only did they make the open shots, but they made all the contested shots. … When you’ve got it going like that, just tip your hat off. We tip our hat off to them. They won it.”

The other way to look at the loss is it was indicative of a team that is 5-5 in its past 10 and is searching for chemistry and consistency with the playoffs getting closer.

“To give up 115 points on our home floor, that’s not our style,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’re being made to feel uncomfortable right now. That’s the residual of the last three weeks or so. And when you feel uncomfortable, the one silver lining out of it is our group, staff and players, are getting to know each other now on the level that is needed for us to prepare for the playoffs. We all know we have to take a big step forward as a basketball team.”

Bosh, who went 3 of 5 from the line, 5 of 13 from the field for only 13 points, said that what ails the Heat can’t be fixed with one good night.

“We need a streak. We need a big-time streak,” Bosh said. “We need some tough road game wins. We have to put a streak of wins together. Winning always helps everything. We just have to make sure to stick together.”

Wade said confidently, “We’ll be ready for the playoffs on (April 28),” and, obviously, the Heat’s not exactly inexperienced at handling the playoffs. But some of the things Spoelstra spoke about after Tuesday weren’t indicative of a veteran team.

He criticized the Heat’s defensive mental discipline, usually the hallmark of an experienced team that stresses defense.

“Missed shots right at the rim, we have to move on, next possession,” Spoelstra said. “Where we may think we were fouled, next possessions, we’ve got to play. On those things, we will be better by the time we reach the playoffs because no one likes this feeling of being uncomfortable. But we do have to take that next step forward as a basketball team.”

Boston coach Doc Rivers said, “You would never know it from the score, but I thought both teams played great in a lot of ways.”

Boston improved to 18-7 since the All-Star break and dealt Miami a blow in the race for the No. 1 seed in the East. The Heat fell 21/2 games behind Chicago, which played later Tuesday at home against the New York Knicks.

“It took a while,” Rondo said, “but we’re peaking at the right time.”

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