Celtics hold down Heat
Kevin Garnett had 15 points and nine rebounds and the Boston Celtics played Miami-style defense to beat the Heat, 85-76, in the opener of their playoff series Saturday night at Boston.
Trailing 44-41 at halftime, the Celtics held the Heat to 32 points in the second half, 10 in the fourth quarter. And with substitute guard Tony Allen shadowing Dwyane Wade, the Heat star scored 26 points after averaging 33.7 in three regular-season games against Boston.
Allen also scored a career playoff high 14 points, and Paul Pierce led Boston with 16. Quentin Richardson added 15 for Miami.
With 40 seconds left in the game, a scuffle near the Miami bench resulted in two technical fouls against Garnett, an automatic ejection, and one each to Boston’s Glen Davis and Miami’s Udonis Haslem and Richardson.
Garnett had a big game after missing last year’s playoffs because of a knee injury that required off-season surgery. Saturday’s playoff game was his first since Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals, a 131-92 win over the Lakers for Boston’s 17th NBA championship. In that finale, he had 26 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, three steals, a block and no turnovers.
Cleveland 96, Chicago 83: LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal, separated for a large chunk of the regular season, combined for 36 points and seven blocks as the Cavaliers opened the Eastern Conference playoffs with a victory at home.
James had 24 points and four blocks and a slimmed-down O’Neal, playing for the first time since Feb. 25, scored 12 in 24 minutes as the top-seeded Cavaliers won a testy opener.
Derrick Rose had 28 points and 10 assists for Chicago, which trimmed a 22-point deficit in the third quarter to seven in the fourth. But James converted a three-point play with 2:29 left and Mo Williams followed with a 3-pointer to put Cleveland up 94-81.
Williams added 19 points and 10 assists, and Antawn Jamison, acquired at the trading deadline, finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Cleveland blocked 12 shots — 10 in the second half.
O’Neal, who upon arriving in Cleveland promised to “win a ring for the King,” looked remarkably sharp despite missing the Cavaliers’ final 23 games after tearing a thumb ligament. He dropped 20 pounds while he was sidelined by watching his diet and swimming.
The teams traded unpleasantness on more than one occasion. Joakim Noah, who said the Bulls would “try to shock the world” in the series, exchanged words with Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao and was booed every time he touched the ball. James and Brad Miller were assessed technicals in the first half following a collision, and James and Luol Deng had a discussion after the halftime horn.
Atlanta 102, Milwaukee 92: Led by Joe Johnson’s 22 points and getting production from all their key players, the Hawks blitzed the Bucks early and survived a lackluster showing after halftime to hold on in their Eastern Conference opener at Atlanta.
The Hawks had mismatches all over the court, taking advantage of the gruesome injury that took out Milwaukee center Andrew Bogut late in the season. The home team never trailed, building a 20-point lead in the first quarter and going to halftime with a 62-40 edge.
The Bucks made a game of it led by Brandon Jennings, who scored 34 points in his playoff debut. Milwaukee was making its first playoff appearance since 2006, and that inexperience showed even though Jennings tried to take matters into his own hands. He took 25 shots, making 14 of them, and accounted for more than third of his team’s points.
That kind of formula doesn’t figure to work against the Hawks, who have a balanced lineup and perhaps the best sixth man in the league, Jamal Crawford. Mike Bibby added 19 and the other Atlanta starters also were in double figures. Crawford put up 17 points in the first postseason appearance of his 10-year career.
Denver 126, Utah 113: Carmelo Anthony had 42 points, his playoff career high, J.R. Smith scored 18 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and four other players scored in double figures for the No. 4-seeded Nuggets, who broke open the opening game of their Western Conference series by outscoring the fifth-seeded Jazz, 38-27, in the fourth quarter at Denver.
Deron Williams had 26 points for Utah, including a reverse layup that pulled the Jazz into a 90-90 tie in the first minute of the fourth quarter. But Smith made three three-point shots to fuel a 9-2 run over the next two minutes for a 99-92 Denver lead, and the Nuggets led by no fewer than four points the rest of the way.
Carlos Boozer, whose availability was in doubt because of a strained muscle in his rib cage, had 19 points for the Jazz. Williams added 11 assists for Utah, which is without injured forward Andrei Kirilenko in this series and lost center Mehmet Okur, who aggravated his left Achilles’ tendon injury in the first half.