Rajon Rondo hit like a heavyweight on Wednesday but the Miami Heat are still standing.
The Eastern Conference Finals shift to Boston on Friday night for Game 3, with Rondo and his Celtics staring glumly at an 0-2 hole after a 115-111 overtime loss in Game 2.
Rondo, quoted after Game 1 as saying the Heat "have to hit the deck," stepped up with a career-high 44 points on a scintillating 16-of-24 shooting performance in Game 2. He scored all 12 Celtics' points in the extra frame and also dished out 10 assists and grabbed eight rebounds while playing 53 minutes.
"He was absolutely phenomenal. He put the whole team on his shoulders," Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said of his point guard. "It's tough to have him play that way and not win the game. He basically did everything right."
The Heat did a little more, however.
Dwyane Wade hit the deck in overtime, but not before he withstood Kevin Garnett's hard foul and converted a critical three- point play that carried Miami to victory.
The Heat, who trailed by as many as 15 in the first half, recovered with nine straight points in OT to take control, three coming on the aforementioned hoop and free throw from Wade, who scored 21 of his 23 points after halftime.
LeBron James logged 34 points on 7-of-20 shooting to go with 10 rebounds and seven assists, while Mario Chalmers chipped in 22 points to help the Heat jump out to a 2-0 series lead. James, though, missed a pair of shots in the waning seconds of regulation that forced the extra frame.
"A lot of contributions from different guys, particularly from the bench," said Erik Spoelstra, head coach of the Heat, whose reserves outscored Boston's thin bench, 25-7. "Tonight was tough. ... We focused on grinding that overtime and had to do it the tough way."
Garnett totaled 18 points and eight rebounds, while Paul Pierce added 21 points for Celtics before fouling out late in regulation. Ray Allen, playing with a painful right ankle injury, scored 13 points in 43 minutes.
The Celtics led 105-103 midway through OT before the Heat's game-sealing nine- point run. James started the rally with a tip-in, then fed Udonis Haslem for a dunk after Rondo missed a runner in the lane.
Following a Garnett turnover, Wade attacked the basket and absorbed Garnett's right forearm to his shoulder and stayed in the air long enough to get his shot to fall.
Garnett airballed a three-pointer from the left corner at the other end, and the Heat made enough free throws down the stretch to secure the win.
Boston now hopes a change in scenery can get them back in the series. However, only 14 teams in NBA history have come back from an 0-2 deficit to win a seven-game series and the Celtics haven't done it since 1969.
"We still know we have to play better," Rivers said Thursday. "But I think our guys know now that we can play (with Miami). And I don't know if they did know it or not, but after Game 1, it was such a bad loss for us, I think we needed to have that type of game last night. Obviously, we'd have rather won it. But I think our guys are very confident going into Game 3."
Already an aged team coming in to the playoffs, the Celtics have been hurt by the season-ending shoulder injury to their best perimeter defender, Avery Bradley, as well as the ankle problem that had rendered Allen ineffective for much of the time. Despite all that, Spoelstra is trying to keep his heavily- favored team grounded.
"We don't buy any of that. All the labels that people are trying to throw on this team, forget about them," Spoelstra said. "This is a championship team. They've proven themselves. And so the DNA that they have inside of them, that's why they're where they are right now."
Boston had some success against the Heat in the regular season, winning three of four, including both meetings in Beantown.
This is the third straight season that the Heat and Celtics are meeting in the playoffs. Boston won in five games in 2010 in the first round and the Heat won in five last year in the semifinals.
Game 4 of the set is scheduled for Sunday in Boston.