With their All-Star point guard out with a torn ACL, the Celtics were in a tough spot going up against the Eastern Conference-leading Miami Heat. But they fought through two overtime periods to earn the 100-98 win.
All the air went out of the TD Garden following LeBron James' game-tying three at the end of regulation, but the Celtics refused to go away.
Paul Pierce took over triple-double duties from Rondo and posted 17 points, 10 assists and 13 rebounds. Kevin Garnett was huge with 24 points, including six in the first overtime. Jason Terry and Jeff Green combined for 24 points off the bench.
The Celtics had to overcome 34 points and 16 rebounds out of LeBron, but in the end, the defense of Green and Avery Bradley really stalled LeBron and Dwyane Wade. Wade shot only 6-of-20, while James finished 14-of-31.
The win is bittersweet for the Celtics, who will now be without Rondo for the remainder of the season. For now, the team improves its record to 21-23. The Heat drop to 28-13, but remain in first place in the Eastern Conference.
Avery Bradley, BOS: B
This is a sight Boston Celtics fans are going to have to get used to: Avery Bradley sliding into the starting point guard role in Rajon Rondo's absence. With Rondo now out for the season, Bradley is going to be seeing more time running the offense.
While his offense is still growing, it is Bradley's defense that will continue to be his calling card as his health strengthens. He was stout against Wade and Mario Chalmers all night.
Bradley finished with nine points and four rebounds, but he helped to hold Chalmers to zero points and Wade to just 6-of-20 shooting. His defense was infectious as well, with both Courtney Lee and Jason Terry trying to match him.
Mario Chalmers, MIA: F
It is hard to remember Mario Chalmers even playing in Sunday afternoon's contest.
The Heat's starting point guard registered only 22 minutes and did not score a point.
Chalmers picked up just a pair of assists, but was 0-of-3 from the field and didn't see the floor during crunch time.
Dwyane Wade, MIA: C
Dwyane Wade came up with a late steal that led to Ray Allen's big three with under a minute to go. He almost swiped another, but sacrificed a foul on Jason Terry.
Those plays nearly made up for a mediocre offensive performance by the All-Star shooting guard.
Wade posted 17 points, but shot only 6-of-20, feeling the pressure of Boston's athletic backcourt. He was forced into six turnovers and missed all four of his three-point attempts.
He was hounded on the perimeter all night and seemingly wasn't an option late in the game. LeBron was looking for both Ray Allen and Shane Battier before taking a glance in his direction.
Courtney Lee, BOS: C
Courtney Lee was the beneficiary of Rondo's injury, earning the start opposite Wade.
Lee had a very solid first half, impressing with his defensive pressure on Wade and the rest of the Heat backcourt.
Unfortunately, as an overall outing, Lee was not up to the starting task. He finished just 1-of-7 for four points (all in the first half) and added a pair of assists.
LeBron James, MIA: A
LeBron James' three with seven seconds left forced the game into overtime, snatching a victory in regulation away from the home team.
That was undoubtedly James' biggest shot of the game, but he did wind up tallying 34 points on 14-of-31 shooting. He tied Chris Bosh with a game-high 16 rebounds, including four offensive.
He couldn't get it done on a few late possessions in overtime, though, making Jeff Green's defense look better than it probably was. LeBron also deferred quite a bit, passing off late possessions to Ray Allen and Shane Battier.
He scored seven points combined in the two overtime periods, but missed some open shots as well.
Still an outstanding game from James, though he couldn't carry his team over the final hump.
Paul Pierce, BOS: A
More than any other Celtics player, Paul Pierce's role increases with Rajon Rondo's absence.
This has pros and cons to Pierce's game. He put up some great all-around stats and eventually earned a triple-double in the second overtime period.
Pierce's 6-of-16 shooting doesn't mean a whole lot when he was so enormous in other areas.
Pierce racked up 10 assists and 13 rebounds on the night. He played 49 minutes, second only to James' 52, and was effective throughout. He even was responsible for icing the game with late free throws after grabbing an enormous rebound in traffic.
This isn't something Pierce is going to be replicating consistently, even with Rondo out. However, for one game Sunday night, he brought out some serious veteran fire in willing his team over the Heat.
Jared Sullinger, BOS: C
Jared Sullinger was finally promoted back into the starting lineup against the Miami Heat.
Eventually, this turned into the kind of game where his value was sapped. The starting power forward matchup didn't come to much fruition, with Udonis Haslem spending much of the game on the bench.
Sullinger saw only 22 minutes, and he wasn't used in the fourth quarter or overtimes. His time was well spent on the floor, though, with seven points, four rebounds and three steals.
Udonis Haslem, MIA: C-
Like Jared Sullinger, Udonis Haslem was used sparingly in Sunday's matchup.
Haslem played even less, only seeing 15 minutes against the Celtics. He was absent throughout the closing of the game.
He did, however, come up with six rebounds (three offensive) in his short time on the court and picked up two points.
Kevin Garnett, BOS: A-
Kevin Garnett looked like his old self offensively against the Heat.
He put up 18 points in regulation, dominating Chris Bosh at times. He finished off the double-double in overtime, ending the game with 11 rebounds and three blocked shots.
Unfortunately, those rebounds were not enough. Second-chance points once again plagued the Celtics, and Garnett is regularly the only rebounder on the floor.
He was the main offensive option for the Celtics in the extra period, posting six points in overtime, giving him 24 total.
Chris Bosh, MIA: B+
Chris Bosh was effective, but rarely dominant.
The All-Star center submitted 16 points, but never appeared to take over in crunch time. Bosh did not score in the fourth quarter or first overtime period, but he did finally break through with a dunk in the second overtime.
He had an incredible rebounding performance, grabbing 16 total boards, five offensively. He was often in the best position, beating out the Celtics again and again for rebounds.
Fortunately, with LeBron James' awesome offensive show, Bosh didn't need to do much more.
Ray Allen, MIA: B+
Ray Allen poured in 19 points during his first game against the Boston Celtics this season. His encore performance was nearly just as good.
Allen came away with some timely shots in the fourth quarter but finished just 7-of-17. He scored 21 points and continually battled back and forth with the home team during the fourth quarter.
Allen's three in the closing minute brought the Heat to within one. He did miss a game-tying attempt later, but the rebound went to LeBron James, who hit his try and forced overtime.
Jeff Green, BOS: B
Jeff Green played an important role in the beginning of the fourth quarter.
He has games where he is completely unheard from, and then there are times where he throws down a thunderous dunk and hits a couple of threes. Those games, when Green is making athletic plays and is fully involved in the offense, are why he is so critical to the success of the Celtics this season.
Green had a big dunk and drilled a three on his way to 11 points and four rebounds. In the fourth quarter, he posted seven points.
His defense on LeBron wasn't anything to write home about, but he did keep James from totally dominating for much of the game. James tried to go at him on a potential game-winning drive, but missed the floater with Green right up on him.
On the few possessions that he was guarding Ray Allen or someone else, he was highly effective and caused turnovers.
Boston Celtics Bench: B
Leandro Barbosa loves playing the Miami Heat. He scored 16 points against them in the season opener and was called into service off the bench against Sunday afternoon. The reserve guard stepped into the rotation and was effective, going for nine points and four assists.
Jason Terry didn't put up great stats, but he keyed an offensive charge early in the fourth quarter to give Boston a slim lead. He ran the offense a lot more than normal and made some smart decisions with the basketball in transition.
Terry was also used for nearly the entirety of the overtime periods. He tallied four points in the second overtime while the Celtics offense was sputtering in other areas. He scored 13 points when all was said and done.
Miami Heat Bench: D
Outside of Ray Allen's performance, this was a light game from the Miami Heat bench.
Shane Battier had a weak showing defensively and didn't contribute to the offensive game. He played 36 minutes, but didn't do a whole lot besides foul while trying to keep up with the Celtics frontcourt. He finished with only two points and missed the final game-winning three attempt.
Norris Cole was the only other contributor, with six points off the bench.