Updated: May 31, 2012, 3:40 AM ET

1. Heat Withstand Rondo's 44-Point Night

By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com

MIAMI -- When the game went official, Rajon Rondo stood and stared back at the clutch of Miami Heat players starting to congratulate each other as cameras swarmed the court. It wasn't until Rondo's teammates came to get him that he let his focus go and reluctantly turned toward the locker room.

It was understandably hard for Rondo to accept that Game 2 was indeed over and there was no more fighting left for this night. It was hard for the Celtics to control emotions that were still coursing. The bitterness took many forms. The officials, for sure, and their own shortcomings. But there was something else that might've been deeper but the harshest of all.

The Celtics prepared and executed a strong game plan, made excellent adjustments, played with energy and intensity, hit some clutch shots and got what has a chance to go down as the greatest game of Rondo's career. And they still could not beat the Heat.

Dwyane Wade
Robert Duyos/Sun Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images

There were so many things to grab the attention when the Heat's 115-111 overtime victory was over. Rondo's unprecedented shooting and stamina, Dwyane Wade's defining play in overtime, another huge overall game from LeBron James, James' missing the final two shots of regulation, Ray Allen's late 3-pointer that forced overtime and two crucially important judgment calls by officials that went against the Celtics and had a discomforting impact on the how things played out.

Each of those topics merits its own discussion and each is multifaceted enough to inspire natural debate. But none was as powerful as the overriding message, which admittedly might have been hard to identify through the clutter.

The Heat have now won five games in a row, all without Chris Bosh, and done so with an impressive combination of dominance, parity and resilience. Even as the San Antonio Spurs have emerged as the dominant force in the West, the Heat are rising as they make their way through the East, and Wednesday night was some exhibit.

The Celtics got 44 points from Rondo, easily a career high, in a wondrous 16-of-24 shooting effort in 53 minutes of pure will. They shot 49 percent as a team. They led by 15 points in the first half and five points with three minutes to play. They held Wade to two points in the first half. Miami missed 16 free throws. Allen rediscovered his shooting stroke despite a bad ankle. Boston got 39 points and 14 rebounds combined from Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The Celtics scored 99 points in regulation, the most the Heat have allowed all postseason.

And still the Heat did not lose.

All the circumstance and frustration over certain whistles can't overcome that fact. For the third time in these past five playoff wins by the Heat, they came from double digits down to win. The Celtics had been 33-1 when they held a 14-point or better lead. These are not accomplishments to be ignored.

"I have no idea, I'll be honest," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said when talking about how he's supposed to stop Rondo when the strategy of backing off him and letting him shoot does not work.

"Bonehead play on my part," Wade said about the defensive gamble he lost that led to Allen's 3-pointer that forced overtime.

"I had a good look at the end of regulation, it just didn't go down," said James about his fading jumper that cracked the rim just before the fourth-quarter buzzer.

Plenty of failures. But the Heat overcame them all. A year ago, six weeks ago even, all of these were crushing. Remove Bosh and you'd expect their margin for error to get even smaller. Instead, though, it's only widening. Mario Chalmers had a huge effort, scoring 22 points. Udonis Haslem had 13 points and 11 rebounds. The Heat's bench outscored the Celtics by a 25-7 count. None of it deserved to be overlooked.

But it was easy to. The Celtics were exasperated about the officiating. The Heat took 18 more free throws and were called for 15 fewer fouls. Three Celtics fouled out and another had four fouls in the first quarter; no Heat players had more than four fouls for the game.

Two plays especially cut deep: Pierce being called for his disqualifying foul on Wade late in the fourth quarter on a pure borderline play. Then in overtime, Wade getting away with hitting Rondo's face with the game tied and just 90 seconds left.

"I thought it was a good play, me jumping straight up; it didn't go my way," Pierce said of his sixth foul.

"It was obvious," Rondo said of the non-call on Wade.

"We all thought he got hit, I'll say it," Allen said to back Rondo up.

"LeBron James took 24 free throws and our team took 29," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said, summing up his feelings.

Replays being what they are, the Celtics have some points. But there is also no hiding from the 54 percent the Heat shot in the second half, the unstoppable will Wade showed with eight of his 22 points in overtime, James' ability to get several crucial loose balls in addition to his fourth 30-point, 10-rebound game of the past 10 days, the Heat's outrebounding the Celtics by eight in the second half, some perfect passes by James, some clutch shot-making by Udonis Haslem, the 40 points in the paint the Heat scored and their 18 second-chance points.

In the guts, the Heat were still too good. Even with Rondo being so great. When it was all over, that was what uplifted the Heat and demoralized the Celtics.

"You know, it's tough to have [Rondo] play that way and not win the game, honestly, because he did everything right," Rivers said. "We had a lot of opportunities to win the game."


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