BOSTON - LeBron James and the Miami Heat couldn't win in Boston in the regular season. And now they might have to do it in the playoffs.
Rajon Rondo had a triple-double, and James missed a crucial free throw with 12.5 seconds remaining in the Celtics’ 85-82 victory over Miami on Sunday.
Boston is 3-0 against the Heat this season, taking back the top spot in the East and clinching the potential tiebreaker for home-court advantage in the playoffs.
The teams will play again in Miami on April 10.
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“They are the defending Eastern Conference champions. You have to go through them, and they ain’t going to make it easy,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We understand that this isn’t going to be an easy ride for us, and that’s where we’re at our best.”
The Heat eliminated most of a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit and trailed 83-81 with 19 seconds left when they brought the ball in from a timeout and got it to James at the top of the key. He drove on Paul Pierce and drew the foul but missed the first shot, then made the second.
On the ensuing inbound pass, James went into the stands for the ball but knocked it to Ray Allen; the Celtics got the ball downcourt to Glen Davis, who was fouled. Davis made both foul shots with 6.3 seconds to go, and Mike Miller missed a 3-point attempt in the final seconds that would have sent the game to overtime.
“They’re going to be a different team in March and April, the more important months, when we’ll probably have to see them again,” said Pierce, who was 0-for-10 from the floor and scored one point.
The Celtics have won 12 of the past 13 games against Miami, including a 4-1 series victory in the first round of last year’s playoffs; they then knocked James and the Cleveland Cavaliers out in the next round.
Chris Bosh scored 24 with 10 rebounds and James had 22 points for Miami, which had won eight in a row.
Rondo had 11 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds for the Celtics.