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NBA: Heat clamp down on Celtics despite blowing early lead

By Tim Reynolds

Associated Press

Published: Monday, May 28 2012 11:04 p.m. MDT

MIAMI, FL - MAY 28: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat looks to move the ball in the post in the first quarter against Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 28, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Mike Ehrmann, Getty Images

MIAMI — A big early Miami lead was wasted. But once the Heat took control again, they simply ran away from the Boston Celtics.

And a second straight trip to the NBA finals are now three wins away for LeBron James and the Heat.

James scored 32 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, Dwyane Wade scored 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter and the Heat beat the Celtics 93-79 on Monday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Shane Battier, playing in the conference finals for the first time, scored 10 points and had 10 rebounds for the Heat, who wasted an early 11-point first-half lead before running away to break a halftime tie. Miami outrebounded the Celtics 48-33 and blocked 11 Boston shots.

It was those last two stats that had James lauding the night as a team effort.

"We get a lot of the press, we get a lot of the headlines," James said. "But our teammates, they do everything to help us win ball games."

Kevin Garnett scored 23 points and grabbed 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.

It's the third straight year the Heat and Celtics have met in the playoffs, the third straight year James has seen his postseason path go through Boston as well — the first of those matchups coming in 2010, his final run with Cleveland.

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, the conference final being no exception. In the most recent 10 postseasons, teams with 1-0 leads in conference finals have advanced 15 out of 20 times. One of the five instances of a team rallying from a one-game deficit was last year, when Miami ousted Chicago in five games.

Last season's Miami-Boston series ended with James scoring the final 10 points of Game 5, and the start of this year's matchup had him putting on another offensive display.

He had 13 points in the first quarter — two more than the entire Celtics roster — and Miami ran out to a 21-11 lead after the opening period.

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.

In the end, it went down as merely a one-quarter lapse.

Eastern Conference finals

Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics

Monday: Miami 93, Boston 79

Wednesday: Boston at Miami, 6:30 p.m.

Friday: Miami at Boston, 6:30 p.m.

Sunday: Miami at Boston, 6:30 p.m.

x-Tuesday, June 5: Boston at Miami, 6:30 p.m.

x-Thursday, June 7: Miami at Boston, 6:30 p.m.

x-Saturday, June 9: Boston at Miami, 6:30 p.m.

x - if necessary

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