MIAMI – Paul Pierce scored 18 of his 27 points in the first quarter, Kevin Garnett added 23 and the NBA-leading Boston Celtics wasted most of a 28-point lead before beating the Miami Heat 95-85 on Friday night.
Ray Allen scored 17 for the Celtics, who prevailed despite missing 12 of 13 shots over an 8 1/2-minute span late in the game — a drought that allowed Miami to make a huge comeback bid.
Boston forced 24 turnovers, which it turned into 33 points.
Jason Williams scored 22 points and hit three 3-pointers to spark a 24-3 run, one that drew the Heat within seven points with 3:56 left. But the margin didn’t get any smaller, and Miami lost for the 11th time in 15 games this season.
Udonis Haslem finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, Shaquille O’Neal had 13 points and 11 rebounds and Dwyane Wade managed only 10 points on 2-for-11 shooting for Miami, which opens a six-game road trip Sunday in Denver.
One night after beating the New York Knicks by 45, the Celtics had a slightly tougher time on the way to improving the league’s best record to 13-2.
They actually trailed for 2 minutes, 55 seconds of this one.
And even though Wade and O’Neal were virtually nonexistent offensively for long stretches, the Heat still had a chance down the stretch against the Boston juggernaut.
Late in the third quarter came perhaps the most telling stat: With 1:08 left in that period, Miami had 20 turnovers and 19 field goals. Little wonder why, at that point, the Heat were down 81-53.
Somehow, despite hearing another round of boos at home, Miami found a way to rally.
Williams hit a pair of 3-pointers to end the third quarter, then added another 11 seconds into the fourth, and the Heat were alive. Cook added another 3 in the early stages of the final period, and when Williams hit again from beyond the arc with 3:56 left, Miami pulled to 86-79.
“I can’t say we were playing bad,” Allen said. “We got a little passive and they took the momentum away.”
But Allen made a tough leaner — being well-covered by Wade — with 3:35 left to snuff out the Miami run, and the Celtics would hang on from there.
When the teams met two weeks ago in Boston, the Celtics wasted a 15-point lead in the final quarter before escaping with a one-point win.
They tried to put the Heat away much sooner this time.
Daequan Cook’s 3-pointer with 50.9 seconds left in the first quarter got Miami within two, 26-24. But the Heat went 5 1/2 minutes without another field goal, and Boston used a 14-2 run — fueled by two layups from former Miami forward James Posey and a 3-pointer from Eddie House — to go up 40-26 with 8:36 left in the half.
Boston hit 8 of 13 3-point tries in the half, with Pierce going 3-for-3 and House 3-for-5.
Boston led by 21 late in the half before going into intermission with a 59-41 lead — meaning, in a span of 25 hours and six quarters, the Celtics had outscored foes by a whopping 63 points.
The onslaught didn’t stop there, either.
Pierce hit 3-pointers on consecutive trips early in the third quarter, pushing the edge to 71-46. The margin grew to 28 late in the quarter, before the Heat came to life.
Garnett grabbed a miss by Posey and laid it in with 6:19 left — Boston’s first basket of the final quarter, but one good enough to restore a 14-point cushion.
Notes:@ Heat G Smush Parker was inactive again and not with the team, which is continuing to investigate an altercation he allegedly had with a valet parking attendant earlier in the week. … Boston had a three-on-none break during the first half, after a deflection, and Garnett got an easy dunk. … Celebrity sightings included tennis star Maria Sharapova, in town for a photo shoot, and actor Matt Damon. – AP