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Rondo took a kick-out pass from Paul Pierce and hit a pivotal jumper to extend Boston’s lead to five and stall Miami’s comeback with less than five minutes to play.
After Udonis Haslem’s baseline jumper capped a 9-0 run that put Miami ahead 98-94, Rondo countered with an assist to Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen nailed a three-pointer to tie with 34.3 seconds left.
The Celtics had squandered a 15-point lead. As has been the case throughout the playoffs, the Heat found its groove in the third quarter, scoring 35 points on a multitude of blazing sprints triggered by equally spectacular defense.
"You let them make a run now answer with a run," Rivers told his team in a timeout huddle.
Rondo, 26, has nine postseason triple-doubles in his career. He’s a good bet to surpass the superstar of versatility, Magic Johnson, who had 30.
"I wish we had the book on how to do it," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the strategy for stopping Rondo. "It was obviously an abomination in the first half."
In the second half, the Heat used Mario Chalmers less on Rondo and tried to confound Rondo with different defenders and swarming double teams. James got the initial assignment - and that resulted in Pierce beating Shane Battier for a dunk. James had defended every position during the playoffs and he might have to guard Tony Parker down the road.
But the Heat’s adjustments took their toll on Rondo, who couldn’t attack the way he had earlier. He was forced into two sloppy turnovers and failed to calm the reeling Celtics as Miami’s lead grew to eight.
"What it speaks to is his competitiveness," Spoelstra said. "Whatever that team needs, he’s able to do. Somehow we were able to withstand his incredible game."
Does Rondo have another one in him? If Boston’s Pierce, Garnett and Allen are to win another title, Rondo will have to keep playing beautiful music.
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