MIAMI (AP) — If this was a preview of the Eastern Conference semifinals, then the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics showed exactly what to expect.
There will be few pleasantries.
There will be pushing and shoving.
And if there’s a Game 7, it may very well be in Miami.
LeBron James scored 27 points, Dwyane Wade added 14 and the Heat moved closer to wrapping up the No. 2 seed in the East playoffs by beating the sliding Celtics 100-77 on Sunday.
Miami moved a game ahead of Boston, and trimmed its magic number to clinch the second seed to two.
Chris Bosh added 13 points and eight rebounds for Miami, which had been 0-3 against Boston this season.
Paul Pierce scored 24 points and Kevin Garnett added 21 for Boston, which lost for the 10th time in its last 19 games.
The Heat finally solved the Boston hex, beating the Celtics for the third time in the last 21 meetings. Bosh had been 1-13 against Boston since March 2007, and the Celtics ended both the 2009-10 seasons for Wade (in the first round) and James (in the second round).
Miami won for the 13th time in its last 16 games and outrebounded Boston 42-26, the Celtics’ total a season low.
Ray Allen scored 13 points for the Celtics. Rajon Rondo was held to just seven points and five assists on 3 for 8 shooting.
Miami’s role players were huge.
Mario Chalmers had nine points in the second quarter, when the Heat took the lead. Joel Anthony had eight rebounds in the first half, two less than the entire Boston roster. Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored six quick points early in the third as the Heat remained in control, and Anthony took advantage of a triple-team on James for a dunk and a 74-59 lead on the final play of the third quarter.
Then James took over.
An alley-oop dunk from Chalmers, followed by a 20-foot jumper, pushed Miami’s edge to 81-61. Of course, this being Celtics-Heat, nothing would come easily for Miami.
Down by 22, Boston ran off 12 straight points, Allen starting it with a four-point play, and Pierce adding both a 3-pointer and a three-point play to get the Celtics within 85-75.
It was the last gasp. Mike Bibby’s 3-pointer with 4:49 left, followed by Bosh’s follow of James’ miss, sent the lead back to 15. And with 2:38 left, Celtics coach Doc Rivers went deep into the bench, essentially conceding.
Boston scored the game’s first eight points and hit eight of its first nine shots. The Celtics were making it seem easy, especially when Garnett — who hadn’t made a 3-pointer all season — stepped into one from the left wing and connected for a 22-15 lead.
Boston went scoreless for the next 6:17, and just about everything seemed to change.
Miami got within 22-21 after the first quarter, then took its first lead on Bosh’s first field goal on the opening possession of the second.
Tensions were already high, and emotions soon boiled over.
Jermaine O’Neal — who had just been easily scored on by James 27 seconds earlier in transition — tried to stop another drive by the two-time reigning MVP with a shoulder check, making no play on the ball.
A scrum quickly broke out under the basket. O’Neal earned a flagrant-1, James got a technical for throwing the ball back at O’Neal, Wade and Pierce also got technicals for some pushing and jostling, and a small amount of debris flew from the stands onto the court.
Bosh earned another technical 2 1/2 minutes later for arguing he tied up a loose ball with Rondo, only to have referees award Boston a timeout.
The half ended with Miami up 47-40, having held Boston to a season-low 10 rebounds in the opening 24 minutes.
NOTES: Bosh addressed the crowd before Miami’s final home regular-season game, saying “We couldn’t do it without you.” … Heat C Erick Dampier was inactive, and Miami only got seven minutes from Mike Miller, who left with a sprained left thumb — not the one he broke near the start of the season. … Rivers said G Carlos Arroyo — who Miami waived earlier this season — gave “us the entire Miami scouting report.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)