The Miami Heat withstood a virtuoso performance from Rajon Rondo, who tallied a career-high 44 points, to emerge with a 115-111 overtime victory over the Boston Celtics and claim a 2-0 Eastern Conference Finals lead on Wednesday.
The outstanding Rondo, who added 10 assists and eight rebounds, was on court for the entire 53 minutes of a hugely entertaining encounter, but was left to fight without Paul Pierce (21 points) in overtime after he fouled out in the fourth.
Rondo’s range of skills — his pinpoint shooting, light-footed dribbling, vision and fitness — were all on display and he scored all 12 of his team’s points in overtime, but remained unmoved by his outstanding statistics.
“It’s irrelevant. We lost. It’s as simple as that,” a dejected Rondo told reporters.
Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, however, knew that he had seen something special from his point guard.
“He was absolutely phenomenal and put the whole team on his shoulders at times,” he said. “It’s tough to have him play that way and not win the game, honestly, because he basically did everything right.”
Miami had to dig deep to muster an impressive third-quarter comeback to haul themselves back into the contest after trailing by as many as 15 points during the second quarter and went into the halftime interval 53-46 down.
However, by the end of the third, Miami had moved 81-75 ahead, having outscored the Celtics by 13 points in the quarter, Dwyane Wade finally breaking free of close attention with 12 points, after managing only two in the first half.
The crowd were on their feet throughout the fourth quarter, sensing victory, but there were a few more twists and turns before Miami had the win in the bag.
Miami led by three points with 34.3 seconds left on the clock, but they allowed Ray Allen space for a three-pointer that he sank with characteristic aplomb, and then LeBron James (34 points) missed a jump shot in the final second of regulation to leave with the scores level at 99-99.
With two minutes of the extra period remaining, Rondo drained a three-pointer, reduced to two on review, to put Boston ahead, but baskets from James, Udonis Haslem and Wade carried Miami to victory.
Boston were angered that no foul was called with the score tied at 105-105 when Rondo went for a lay-up, but missed as he was struck in the face by Wade.