LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade had not played together in a couple of weeks, so the Miami Heat needed some time to get back into rhythm.
About 12 minutes, to be precise.
The Heat scored 41 points in the second quarter — their highest-scoring period of the season — to erase what was an early 13-point deficit, and went on to beat the Boston Celtics 109-101 on Friday night.
”Felt good to get back in the lineup with the other `Big Two,”’ James said. ”It’s great. We’re just trying to get some more continuity, get our legs up under us.”
James had 20 points and nine assists in 29 minutes, and Rashard Lewis added 19 to lead a huge night for the Miami bench, which outscored Boston’s reserves 52-14.
Bosh and Ray Allen each scored 17 for Miami, which got 12 from Norris Cole.
Wade, back after missing six games with bone bruises around his right kneecap, scored 11 points in 34 minutes for Miami, which won its 35th home game to tie the standard set in 2004-05. That was one of two single-season marks for Miami on the evening – the Heat also made 12 3-pointers to push their total for the year to 686, topping the mark of 678 in the 1996-97 campaign.
”It was good to have most of our guys back tonight,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ”And we’ve got to keep on moving forward.”
Miami has three games left, two at home, and already has clinched home-court advantage for the entirety of the NBA playoffs. Spoelstra said all players will continue to be evaluated on a day-to-day basis, though it seems highly unlikely that several regulars wouldn’t get at least one more game to rest nagging aches and pains before the playoffs open next weekend.
Miami played Friday without Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem.
Jeff Green scored 25 for Boston, which played without Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, both out with ankle soreness. Celtics coach Doc Rivers expects both Pierce and Garnett to play on Saturday in Orlando.
”Orlando is a team that, obviously, you see them. I don’t want to give them any fuel, but they’re terrible,” Celtics guard Jason Terry said. ”So we must go in there with whoever we have and scrap for the win.”
Jordan Crawford added 20, Courtney Lee scored 18 and Brandon Bass had 17 for Boston.
The Celtics need one more win to wrap up the No. 7 spot in the East, which would lock Milwaukee into the No. 8 seed and a first-round matchup with Miami.
”I thought their subs beat our subs if you want to just simplify it,” Rivers said.
Boston lost three of four to the Heat this season, and if the teams are to meet in the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season, it would now almost certainly have to be in the Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics lost in seven games to Miami in that round a year ago.
The Celtics came out flying early, running out to a 10-point lead after the opening quarter and extending that lead to 30-17 when Lee opened the second with a 3-pointer.
After that, it was largely all Miami.
The Heat shot 16 of 19 from the field in the second quarter – their best shooting in any quarter since 2007, and the NBA’s third-best, single-quarter effort this season – on the way to turning around the game. Miami’s bench shot 8 of 9 in the quarter, scoring 22 points, one less than Boston’s entire roster in the period.
Miami held massive edges in both rebounding (9-2) and assists (12-3) in the quarter, and when Wade beat the buzzer with a layup Miami went into the break with a 58-50 lead.
”I’ve still got some work to do,” said Wade, who appeared to bang his knee against the basket support Friday but said he was feeling fine.
Boston got within five in the third, but again, the Heat bench proved the difference, with Lewis ending the quarter with a pair of 3-pointers that helped Miami take a 12-point lead into the final 12 minutes.
One more gasp from the Celtics came late in the fourth, when a three-point play by Bass got Boston within 99-90. But Terry was called for a technical 16 seconds later on a play where Allen was fouled, and the former Celtic responded by making all three ensuing free throws. A minute later, James, Bosh, Wade and Allen all checked out for the final time.
”We want to continue just to work our habits throughout these last three games of the regular season,” James said. ”And then the real season begins.”
NOTES: James, Wade and Bosh all sound like they want to play against Chicago – the team that stopped Miami’s 27-game winning streak – on Sunday, though Spoelstra hasn’t committed to a lineup. … Five of James’ first six baskets were dunks. … Miami’s previous season best for scoring in a quarter was 40 against Atlanta, that coming in a fourth period. … Actor Ken Jeong was in the crowd. … Bosh returned from a three-game absence, the first of those because of a sore knee and the last two because of flu-like symptoms. … When Terry got his technical foul, Rivers called timeout and spent the entirety of the 20 seconds explaining his position to referee Mark Lindsay – never appearing to talk to his team during the stoppage. … Miami had 28 assists to Boston’s 15.