MIAMI (AP) -- Accustomed to comebacks, the Miami Heat staged
their most improbable rally yet.
Dwyane Wade scored one basket in the first 22½ minutes but
finished with 30 points, helping the Heat erase a 25-point deficit
Thursday night to beat the Boston Celtics 107-104.
The comeback matched the largest in the NBA this season. Chicago
rallied from a 25-point deficit to beat Charlotte on Nov. 2.
"I don't give a darn if we go down 50," said Miami's Shaquille
O'Neal, who had 26 points and 11 rebounds. "There's a never a
point where we're out of it, because I know anything can happen.
I've been around too long and seen stuff happen."
Boston's Orien Greene was short with a 3-point attempt at the
buzzer that would have forced overtime.
The Heat fell behind 59-34 late in the second quarter, and as
usual, didn't panic. They trailed at halftime for the seventh time
in the past eight games, but they've lost only once during the
Coach Pat Riley is less than thrilled with the pattern.
"If you really want to be respected and take the step to the
next level, I don't think just winning is enough," he said. "You
can't be a Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde team."
Miami's only break in the rally routine of late: a 38-point win
Tuesday against Utah. The Heat climbed a season-best 22 games above
.500, winning for the 13th time in the past 14 games.
The stunning turnaround dropped the young Celtics to 0-3 against
the Heat this season.
"That's what we're trying to understand -- how to put teams
away," said Paul Pierce, who led Boston with 34 points. "It's a
learning experience for us."
O'Neal sank a hook with 4:23 left to put the Heat ahead for
good, 94-93. Two free throws by Jason Williams made it 105-101 with
14 seconds left, and after Pierce sank a 3-pointer, Williams made
two more free throws with six seconds remaining.
Greene then missed from the corner.
Wally Szczerbiak scored 30 points for the Celtics, his highest
total since joining them in late January. But the Heat won after
trailing at the half for the 13th time this season.
"We lost our aggressiveness," Boston's Delonte West said. "We
came out and thought they were going to roll over and die."
Miami began to show life early in the third period. O'Neal
blocked Pierce's shot on a drive, starting a fast break that led to
a layup by Williams. That cut Boston's lead to 71-59.
Wade had only five points in the first 30 minutes, then scored
eight consecutive points to spark a 16-4 Heat run that left them
trailing 79-75 after three periods. His three-point play put them
ahead 81-80, prompting the crowd to chant, "M-V-P! M-V-P!"
The first half went badly for Miami from the start: A dunk
attempt by O'Neal in the opening minute caromed off the back of the
rim to midcourt.
The Celtics sank 11 of their first 13 shots, including four
3-pointers, and led 27-17. They made their first four shots of the
second quarter to go up 45-26. Then came an 11-point run by the
Celtics for their biggest lead.
"They shot the ball well early," O'Neal said. "What comes out
of the microwave hot doesn't always stay hot. I know, because I eat
bagels in the morning."
Boston tied a season high for points in the first quarter,
leading 38-24. ... On one trip to the free-throw line, O'Neal
missed three consecutive attempts, one negated by a lane violation.
... Miami outscored Boston 10-9 in the second quarter with O'Neal
and Alonzo Mourning on the floor together. Riley began to
experiment with the tall tandem Sunday. ... Mourning has shot
23-for-28 in the past seven games.