for this game

Celtics use early blitz to torch Heat

Mar 31, 2008 - 2:01 AM By Mike Petraglia PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

BOSTON (Ticker) -- The Boston Celtics never gave the shorthanded Miami Heat any hope of an upset.

Leon Powe had 17 points and 13 rebounds off the bench to lead a balanced attack as the Celtics raced out to a 23-point lead and never looked back, winning their third straight, 88-62, over the Heat on Sunday in a record-setting defensive performance at TD Banknorth Garden.

Kevin Garnett added 12 for the Celtics, who held the Heat to 17 field goals, the fewest ever in the shot-clock era. The previous low was 18 by the Chicago Bulls in an 82-49 loss to Miami on April 10, 1999.

"The only thing I just want us to keep working on is execution," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "I thought we got a little bit away from that. But I thought overall, just the defensive effort was good throughout the game. So I'm happy. It was a win, and we'll take it."

The Celtics never trailed and finished their four-game homestand 3-1.

Former Celtic Ricky Davis and Chris Quinn each scored 14 to pace Miami, which lost its third straight on a four-game road trip.

The Celtics (58-15) took advantage of ice-cold shooting by Miami to race out to the 23-point lead in the first quarter. Kendrick Perkins' slam dunk with 1:44 remaining in the first put Boston up, 27-4.

"Man I am going to tell you the truth," Celtics captain Paul Pierce said. "You got (Kasib) Powell, (Earl) Barron, (Stephane) Lasme, (Blake) Ahearn, we're supposed to do that. They got D-Leaguers out there so I think we just handled our business. I mean they put about four or five guys from the D-League in and we did our business, we're supposed to do that.

"We knew this was a game we were supposed to win and we just focused from the jump and went out and did it."

Pierce's former teammate didn't argue with his analysis.

"There's just not a lot of stuff we can run with the new guys, and they just took out everything we tried to run," Davis said. "They were just on the same page defensively. Everybody is talking to each other, helping each other, kind of like they were on a string out there. It is one of the best defensive teams in the league."

Boston also closed in on clinching home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference, increasing their lead to 6 1/2 games over the idle Detroit Pistons, with nine games remaining.

Miami (13-60) missed 13 of their first 14 shots from the floor and made just 3-of-17 in the opening 12 minutes. While the Celtics improved upon NBA's best mark, the Heat became the first team to 60 losses - just two seasons after winning the only NBA title in franchise history.

"Very difficult," interim coach Ron Rothstein said. "It was pretty obvious. We did shoot 29 free throws. We tried pretty much what we could with what we had. What happens with them, they're such a good defensive team, they wear on you and they take your legs out.

"Even when you have a wide open shot, you're a little jumpy. We did have some decent looks and we didn't knock any of those down."

Boston shot 14-of-23 shots in the first quarter and outscored Miami, 22-2, in the paint in the first half.

With Garnett, Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo on the bench, the Heat showed some life by responding with a 15-5 spurt, cutting the lead to 32-19, on Kasib Powell's two free throws with 8:16 remaining in the second quarter.

But Boston's starters came back in midway through the second and built the lead back to 23 on Pierce's layup with 2:23 remaining before halftime.

"We came in knowing they were a good team," Powell said. "We just wanted to come in and play our game and limit their easy buckets because they're such a good team, if they get easy buckets, they could just start blowing us out. They really jumped out to us early and it was hard coming back from that."

Pierce hit a long 3-pointer from the right wing with 4:35 remaining in the third to put Boston up, 64-40.

The Celtics' reserves started to pour it on at the beginning of the fourth, building the lead to 75-48 in the opening two minutes. Boston led by as many as 31 (88-57) late in the fourth.

Powe registed his first double-double since February 19 as every Celtics player in uniform scored in the rout.

"He's been playing great," Rivers said of Powe. "He really has been. The offensive part I really could care less about, even though I'll take his 17. But he's getting it from setting picks and doing the little things, and then we're finding him. And that's how he should play."

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