The best way for the Miami Heat to avoid the Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs is what happened Sunday at TD Garden.
No, not to this degree, a disturbing 91-72 loss when Erik Spoelstra’s team was reduced to jump shots and Death by Rondo, but by Boston winning enough in April to secure the Atlantic Division title and a top-four Eastern Conference playoff seed.
“This game was unacceptable,” Spoelstra said. “We will fix it together, collectively. We’re not happy about it.
“We will figure it out, somehow, somehow, this group, together, in that locker room. We will figure it out.”
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In the first of three games the teams will play in April, the Celtics humiliated the Heat, a pattern that has become the road norm for the Heat lately against top-tier competition.
“This was a good, old-fashioned you-know-what,” LeBron James said after going without an assist for only the second time in his career. “We’ve got to own it, and we’ve got to get better.
“We’ve got to figure it out before the playoffs. . . . We understand we have to fix this right now.”
The Heat are now 6-5 in their last 11 games overall and 3-7 in their last 10 road games.
“You’ve got to figure it out,” said guard Dwyane Wade, who was victimized by a humbling blocked shot by Celtics guard Avery Bradley and shot just 6 of 17. “We’ll figure it out. That’s what good teams do.”
Then there was power forward Chris Bosh, who shot 2 of 7, rarely playing with aggression.
“We have to fix it,” Bosh said. “We have to have a better sense of urgency.
“We still have some basketball left, not a lot, but some basketball to change it.”
On one hand, anything to keep the Heat away from the Celtics in the playoffs, at least in the first round, probably is a good thing.
On the other hand, the Heat hardly have the look of a team prepared for when the games will count the most starting at the end of the month.
For now, the road misery should subside for a while, if only because 10 of their next 13 are at home.
But this was a deeply distressing nationally televised afternoon, with Rajon Rondo toying with the Heat’s point guards and the Heat’s offensive threats largely reduced to outside shots, the Heat scoring only seven points from the foul line.
The Heat’s regular-season losing streak in Boston now stands at eight, their second longest against an opponent to their 10-game losing streak in Denver.
While James recorded his 11th consecutive 20-point game at TD Garden, with 23, the longest such streak by an opponent on the Celtics’ home court, he hardly was dynamic, his lone free-throw attempt over the first three periods coming on a Celtics first-quarter illegal-defense technical foul.
Wade wasn’t much better, despite not having to chase Celtics sharpshooter Ray Allen, who was sidelined by a sore ankle.