They just can’t find a way to beat the Boston Celtics.
Ray Allen hit his first seven 3-point tries and finished with 35 points, and the Celtics never trailed in a 112-107 win over Miami on Thursday night, beating the Heat for the second time this season and handing them a second straight home loss.
"Ray was unbelievable on both ends," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.
Paul Pierce added 25 points and Rajon Rondo had 16 assists, adding to his NBA-leading total. Boston has won 13 of the last 14 regular-season meetings with the Heat in addition to eliminating Miami in the opening round of last season’s playoffs. Then, the Celtics ended the LeBron James era in Cleveland a couple of weeks later, setting the wheels in motion for James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to team up in Miami.
A Heat team put together to win a title fell to 5-4.
"We’re the best 5-4 team in the league," Wade said. "How about that? But we’ve got a lot of work to do."
Kevin Garnett had 16 points and 13 rebounds for Boston, which led by as many as 20.
James finished with 35 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, narrowly missing his second straight triple-double. Wade was held to eight points on 2-for-12 shooting.
The Heat got within 110-107 on Udonis Haslem’s free throws with 13.3 seconds left, but Allen hit a pair of free throws to seal it.
The Celtics topped the Heat 88-80 in the season opener Oct. 26, and Miami insisted it had gotten better since then.
So, apparently, had Boston.
"Everybody just stepped in and did their job," Rivers said. "Tonight was the first night I thought we had complete trust in the next pass."
Allen hit seven 3-pointers for the 22nd time in his regular-season career, and there was nothing sneaky about the way he got open, either. It was as simple as Allen running to the open spot, and waiting to see if the Celtics could get the ball to him.
When they did, he made the Heat pay. His last 3 might have been the biggest – it put Boston up 102-89 midway through the fourth quarter, and the Celtics held on from there in a frantic finish.
"It’s easier said than done," Allen said.
Haslem had 21 points and 10 rebounds for Miami, which got 15 points from Bosh and 13 from Eddie House. Nate Robinson added 12 for the Celtics, who moved to 7-2.
"You get to a point where you say you try to rush it, you try to rush the process," James said. "And we just can’t do that. We’re talented enough, we’re going to win some games, we’re going to win a lot of games. But we have to accept this process and understand that it’s going to be one."
The Celtics wasted no time taking control, making nine of their first 15 shots. Some were downright spectacular: Glen Davis set a pick on House, giving Rondo a full head of steam to blow past Bosh for a highlight-caliber dunk and a 22-10 lead.
Even the breaks went Boston’s way.
Midway through the second, Rondo tried a bullet pass down the center of the court in transition, only to have Wade get a hand on the ball and tip it off the backboard. Didn’t matter – Davis, remarkably agile for someone listed at 289 pounds, was running at full steam, reached back and managed to get just enough of his paw on the ball to tip it in for a 39-29 Boston edge.
"No one’s happy about it right now," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "But it’s only us that can make it get better."
In a 53-minute stretch of basketball at home, counting the overtime against Utah, the Heat’s defensive numbers were just plain offensive. They gave up 145 points on 62 percent shooting over roughly the equivalent of a full game, which wouldn’t be good enough to beat any NBA club.
And certainly not the defending Eastern Conference champs.
"Nov. 11, right now, we’re not there," Spoelstra said.
When Miami made little runs, Boston had answers. When the Heat got within 32-28 in the second quarter, the Celtics held them to two field goals in the ensuing 5 1/2 minutes. When Wade got his first field goal of the night early in the third, Allen scored five points in about 90 seconds to push the Boston lead to 20. And when Haslem got Miami within 97-89 with 8:17 remaining, Robinson hit a runner in the lane, followed quickly by Allen’s seventh 3-pointer of the night.
With that, a standing-room-only crowd soon began heading for the exits.
"There’s no need to be frustrated," Bosh said. "We’re nine games into the season and we can’t play perfect basketball right off the bat. We’re up against a lot. We just have to keep working. … When it’s all said and done, I think we’ll be where we want to be."
Notes: Rondo’s assist average rose to 14.9. … From the odd stat department, when Davis plays, the Celtics are 9-0 against Miami. … Heat F Mike Miller, who broke his right thumb during the preseason and needed surgery to repair the fracture and ligament damage, said he’s hopeful of returning by Christmas. … Celtics C Jermaine O’Neal did not dress, still dealing with left knee pain.