The Miami Heat cruised past the Boston Celtics Monday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Dwyane Wade grabbed a rebound, turned and fired a 90-foot pass to LeBron James to set up one of the easiest scores the Miami Heat had all night.
Yes, James and Wade are clicking — at the perfect time.
James scored 32 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, Wade scored 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter and the Heat beat the Boston Celtics 93-79 on Monday night. The stars were stars, and the role players more than did their parts as well, with the Heat enjoying a 48-33 edge in rebounds, blocking 11 shots and never trailing.
"One down. And they still have an opportunity in Game 2 to accomplish what they want to," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, referring to how Boston can still grab home-court advantage by winning Game 2. "At times it was a strange game. Some good runs, both teams. We felt we could have played better and I'm sure they felt the same thing."
Shane Battier had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Heat, who wasted an early 11-point first-half lead, then gave up 35 second-quarter points before running away to break a halftime tie — getting going with a 9-2 run early in the third, that Wade-to-James touchdown pass part of the flurry.
"We didn't play our best game," James said. "And we want to just try to continue to get better throughout the series."
Kevin Garnett had 23 points and 10 rebounds for Boston, which got 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists from Rajon Rondo and 12 points from Paul Pierce. Ray Allen shot just 1 for 7 from the floor for Boston, which was outscored by 10 in the first quarter and 11 in the third.
"On the road, you can't have two quarters of lulls," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.
Game 2 is Wednesday night in Miami.
And while both sides would say there's a long way to go in this series, Game 1 winners have a decided edge in any best-of-seven series, the conference final being no exception. In the 10 most recent postseasons, teams with 1-0 leads in conference finals have advanced 15 out of 20 times.
"They're home, they're comfortable and when you're comfortable you do things like that," Garnett said, suggesting Miami was showboating at times down the stretch. "We have to show them to take them out of their comfort zone. We've got to fight a lot harder."
James had 13 points in the first quarter — two more than the entire Celtics roster — and Miami ran out to a 21-11 lead. Garnett made three of his four shots in the quarter, while everyone else in Boston green was 2 for 16 from the floor.
"I thought they were ready to play," Rivers said. "I'm talking about Miami. I thought we kind of joined the game."
Boston scored 35 in the second quarter, erasing what was an 11-point deficit early in the period by scoring 27 points in the final 8:46 of the half to pull into a 46-all tie. Rondo, Garnett and Pierce combined to score 23 points in the quarter, looking absolutely vintage, near-perfect offensive execution getting to Miami time and time again.
And the Celtics' comeback happened even while they got hit with three technical fouls in the second quarter, plus Ray Allen missing four first-half free throws — matching his career-worst for an entire game.
"We may never see that again," Rivers said.
In the end, it went down as merely a one-quarter lapse for Miami.
Another technical foul, this one on Rondo, came in the third quarter, likely born from frustration as the Heat started to roll again.
With the game tied at 50, Rondo missed three shots in a 31-second span early in the third, the last of those getting blocked by Battier — who hit a 3-pointer 11 seconds later. That's when Miami got going, and by the end of the third, the Heat lead was 72-61.
"I think we believe we can beat them," Pierce said. "It's all about making adjustments. LeBron and Wade are great players. We've got to do a better job of slowing them down. As a group we believe we can win this series."
Rondo echoed Pierce's thoughts.
"We kept fighting," Rondo said. "It wasn't pretty. We missed four or five layups, a bunch of free throws. That being said, we were tied at halftime but we just didn't come out with the right mindset in the second half."
Miami did and takes a 1-0 lead into Game 2 as its reward. But James said he knows Boston is far from done.
"I look at them as a top opponent, as a top contender and a competitive group ... a championship-caliber team," James said.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.