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By Homer D. Sayson

Heat burns rusty Celtics, takes Game 1
Tue, 03 May 2011

NBA Playoffs 2011
East Conference Semifinals

The Celtics Big Three remains as one of the NBA's most feared and potent offensive juggernauts. But this great All-Star trio is slowly getting up there in age.

Ray Allen is 35, as is Kevin Garnett, while Paul Pierce is 33. Highlighted by a championship run in 2008, they have a combined 41 years of NBA experience. They also have their fair share of nicks and dings.

So when the Celtics finished their quick sweep of the hapless New York Knicks last April 24, the Big Three and the other veterans in their roster looked forward to the few days off while awaiting a 2nd Round opponent.

That wait ended Sunday afternoon at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, where Game 1 of the best-of-7 Eastern Conference semifinals took off.

And after a ruggedly physical, wild and wacky 48 minutes of action, the rested Celtics looked rusted and fell, 99-90.

The Heat fought extremely hard for this 1-0 series lead. Their defense held Boston to 32-of-75 from the field (42.7 percent). They had more shotblocks 8-3, and their aggressiveness resulted in a 32-18 edge in free throw attempts.

The Celtics battled just as hard but they couldn't get any traction when they missed 15 of their first 20 shots. They were also mired in 14 turnovers and stumbled with just a 36-point output at the half.

Down by 19 points -- 55-36 -- early in the third quarter, the Celtics did try to mount a gallant comeback. But there was just too much Heat and too much Dwyane Wade.

Wade led all scorers with 38 points on 14 of 21 shooting. The 29-year old Marquette alum drilled 2-of-5 triples and sank 8-of-9 free throws. He also tallied five assists and three steals.

RUNNING MATE. As if things couldn't get any worse for the Celtics, LeBron James joined Wade in inflicting serious damage on both ends of the floor.

The 6-foot-9 James, who left Cleveland for Miami in a contentious preseason divorce, finished with 22 points, six rebounds and five assists. A six-time All-Star like Wade, James also had a pair of steals and blocked shots.

Ray Allen led the Celtics attack with 25 points, while Pierce finished with 19. Garnett struggled mightily with a mere six points on 3-of 9 field goals.

Even though their Big Three performed underwhelmingly, the Celtics still crawled to within 82-72 early in the fourth quarter.

But the flickering light of an unlikely come-from-behind victory died for good when Pierce was ejected after he was called for his second technical foul of the game.

Pierce angrily reacted to a hard foul by James Jones and was whistled for a technical foul in the 7:00 mark of regulation. Some 59 seconds later, Pierce received another T, this time for "verbally taunting" Wade as explained by lead referee Dan Crawford.

Whatever momentum the Celtics had gathered at that point vanished along with Pierce's exit.

GAME 2 of this series will also be played at the American Airlines Arena in Miami on Wednesday night.

This time, expect the Celtics to come out swinging. And when the going gets rough and tough, the hope is that Pierce will keep his poise and stay on the floor for the entrie duration of the contest. (Homer D. Sayson)

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