LeBron James scored 24 of his 35 points in the second half on Tuesday as Miami’s star trio poured in a total of 80 points in a 102-91 victory over Boston in their NBA Eastern Conference semi-final series.
Dwyane Wade added 28 points and Chris Bosh chipped in 17 with 11 rebounds as the Heat stretched their lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-0.
A 14-0 scoring run saw Miami turn back a determined Celtics team who had tied the contest at 80-80 with little more than seven minutes remaining when Paul Pierce sank two free throws.
Boston missed their next six shots and the Heat pulled away.
“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,” James added.
Rajon Rondo scored 20 points and added 12 assists for the Celtics, who host game 3 on Saturday.
Kevin Garnett scored 16 points and Pierce added 13 for the Celtics, who have rallied from a 0-2 hole in a best-of-seven series only once before.
Ray Allen scored only seven points and departed with a bruised chest after he was elbowed by James in the third period.
“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.”
However, for the current Celtics squad, a 0-2 deficit is uncharted territory, although they showed they could challenge the star-studded Heat with a 13-6 fourth-quarter scoring run that tied the game at 80-80.
Miami responded with their own surge, including a three-point play by James, who was fouled on a dunk and made his free throw to put the Heat ahead 88-80 with less than six minutes remaining.
The Heat, who lost to Boston in last season’s first round and lost three of four games to the Celtics in the regular season, are now two victories away from reaching the Eastern Conference finals.
James said the series was far from over.
“This is a great team we are going against right now,” he said. “We’re just trying to give ourselves a good chance to win, just try to keep on attacking them, playing as hard as we can defensively, just trying to wear them down throughout the game, but it’s a great team.”
“Now the mental discipline begins,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “This thing is just getting started.”
THUNDER VS GRIZZLIES
AFP, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA
Kevin Durant scored 26 points and Oklahoma City’s reserves provided plenty of scoring support on Tuesday as the Thunder beat Memphis 111-102 to level their NBA Western Conference second-round series.
Russell Westbrook added 24 points and his backup, Eric Maynor, chipped in 15 as the Thunder knotted the series at one game apiece.
James Harden scored 21 points off the bench for the Thunder, who were surprised at home by the Grizzlies in Game 1 and now face the next two games in Memphis, starting with Game 3 on Saturday.
Maynor’s three three-pointers and seven points from Harden helped the Thunder take control early in the fourth quarter.
“I expect James Harden especially and Eric Maynor to have at least one big game in the series,” Grizzlies forward Sam Young said. “They are great players and they are in this position for a reason.”