In the face of extreme adversity, the Miami Heat's win streak forged on to 23 straight games.
The Boston Celtics led for much of this contest, but back-to-back hoops by LeBron James gave Miami a slight edge and a 105-103 final.
The win gave Miami sole possession of the second-longest streak in NBA history, but it wasn't easy. In another rematch of last season's Eastern Conference finals, the Heat and Celtics put on quite a show at TD Garden in Boston.
James finished with an impressive line of 39 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds, and the Heat also got 21 from Mario Chalmers. James was dominant in every aspect, wrestling for position in the paint, as well as finding open men all over the floor.
Perhaps more impressive was Jeff Green. Not a regular starter for the Celtics, Green took the spot of Kevin Garnett for this game and more than filled in. Green posted a game-high 43 points, getting almost any shot he wanted. He was held scoreless for the final nine minutes of the contest, allowing the Heat to slowly overtake the lead.
Paul Pierce joined Green as a Boston standout, going for 17 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
The win pushed Miami to 52-14 on the season and put the Heat 10 victories shy of the NBA record for consecutive wins. The game was more meaningful for Boston, which is fighting for seeding. They fell to 36-30 and, barring late games, out of a tie for the No. 5 spot in the conference.
Avery Bradley, BOS PG: B-
Avery Bradley's night was about tone-setting more than anything else.
All-in-all, Bradley didn't have that impressive of a night. What he did do, was set the table defensively for the rest of the Celtics. With Kevin Garnett out for the night, that was incredibly important for him to do.
The standout play was a block on Norris Cole's breakaway dunk attempt. Bradley covered an amazing amount of ground to get back and swat the ball out of Cole's hands at the very last second. That play set the stage for a lot of strong defensive stands by the Celtics, including the one that led to a shot-clock violation in the final minute.
Offensively, the night was forgettable for Bradley. He hit a big trey from the corner in the fourth quarter, but finished just 3-of-11 for seven points.
Mario Chalmers, MIA PG: A-
Mario Chalmers was feeling it from outside.
His three with 2:40 remaining gave Miami its first lead of the fourth quarter. Chalmers finished 4-of-5 from beyond the arc, going for 21 points.
Chalmers was one of the many recipients of LeBron James' distribution. He moved well without the ball, getting some nice looks going at the basket, as well as open looks outside.
Outside of scoring, Chalmers did little offensively or defensively. However, 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting against the Celtics' backcourt is no easy task.
Courtney Lee, BOS SG: B
Lee showed some of his great explosiveness in the first half, aiding Jeff Green in the Celtics big run. Lee showed an ability to take his man to the rim and get creative with his finishes, while maintaining control of his body.
Defensively, Lee had a major impact on the contest, taking cues from Avery Bradley on the perimeter. Numerous times Lee was in the right position to cause a deflection.
Lee hit 6-of-10 shots for 13 points, most of which came in the first half. He did come away with three steals, illustrating just how important he was defensively.
Dwyane Wade, MIA SG: B
Wade was moving splendidly without the ball, cutting along the baseline and down the lane. Both Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley are excellent on-ball defenders, so to nullify their effect, Wade played off-ball for much of the game.
Wade did find it difficult to get into a rhythm offensively, consistently battling with Bradley. Wade managed 16 points, but they weren't easy, taking 15 shots to get there. He scored just a single basket in the fourth quarter.
All around, Wade tallied six assists and six boards, to go along with those 16 points. Good numbers, but not Dwyane Wade numbers.
LeBron James, MIA SF: A
This is about as hard as LeBron James has had to work for his points during the Miami Heat's winning streak.
James was bumping and bruising in the paint with Paul Pierce and a host of Celtics all night. He got his, but it wasn't easy. All the faces he saw down low provided him an opportunity to really distribute, which he did expertly. He found Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers especially, for a bunch of open looks.
That ball control led to a night of 37 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds. With the Celtics leading by two, James scored the final two baskets of the game, giving Miami its 23rd straight win.
One negative note was that James was not a factor at the rim for much of the game. He picked up a pair of blocks, but Jeff Green, Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley found ways around the usually intimidating Heat frontcourt.
Paul Pierce, BOS SF: B+
Paul Pierce played a very professional game. He forced LeBron James to work for every inch he gained, and at the other end, Pierce refused to force up shots. A lot of players with a status similar to Pierce, will try and match James, shot for shot. Pierce took what was given to him, hitting shots when his team needed him to.
Although he didn't force up shots, he was often caught in double-teams and compromising positions on the perimeter. A turnover increase is justifiable when controlling the ball as much as pierce, but his seven giveaways were harmful.
The beneficial results of all that ball-handling were his eight assists and eight rebounds. Coupled with Pierce's 17 points on 11 shots, it was an effective night. Unfortunately, the captain didn't have enough legs under him on the final three-point attempt.
Jeff Green, BOS PF: A
Jeff Green was spectacular.
There was literally nothing Miami could do to stop him from getting to the rim. Even when they were able to stop Green's body, his length was able to get the ball on the glass. He earned a handful of three-point plays and tough layups.
Fierce drives weren't the only part of Green's offensive explosion, though. He nailed five three-pointers, four coming from the corners. He finished an impressive 14-of-21 for 43 points. He also grabbed seven boards and blocked four shots.
Green was a very responsible defender. On top of putting in his time bumping LeBron James, Green closed out quickly and effectively on Miami's host of outside shooters.
Udonis Haslem, MIA PF: D+
Udonis Haslem's duty in this game was to make things difficult for the Celtics to score in the paint.
One of the side effects of that is obviously foul trouble. Haslem tried to set himself up to take a whole bunch of charges. He got a few calls but also found himself on the bad end of some blocking whistles.
Haslem is a pretty stationary defender, which put him at a supreme disadvantage when trying to stop Jeff Green. Green and some other cutters were able to maneuver around Haslem and get to the rim with great consistency.
Haslem finished with four points and five rebounds in 17 minutes.
Chris Bosh, MIA C: B-
When Kevin Garnett was ruled out of this contest, it actually limited the effectiveness of Chris Bosh.
With no Garnett to matchup with, things were thrown out of whack for Bosh. He had to spend time matching up with Brandon Bass and Jeff Green, who provided a more athletic and unpredictable exam.
The result was a quiet night from Bosh. It never really felt like he had a handle on the game, or knew what his role was. Still, he slowly mounted up his stats, grabbing easy baskets wherever they were.
He managed to get to 13 points and five rebounds but wasn't a factor in any of the major plays in the game.
Brandon Bass, BOS C: C+
Brandon Bass did most of his work in the first half, after which his playing time was cut a bit, allowing for a bit more size in Chris Wilcox off the bench.
What Bass deserves credit for is throwing a wrench into the game of Chris Bosh. By playing his game, only out of position, he threw Bosh a curveball that he couldn't recover from.
Depending how you view it, Bass took a drive to the basket with 30 seconds remaining and the game tied. In that situation, I doubt Bass is the one the Celtics want taking the shot. Even though it was unsuccessful, he had a good idea and a lane to operate in.
Bass hit a couple of big shots toward the start of the game, finishing with six points and five rebounds in 30 minutes.
Jason Terry, BOS SG: C+
Jason Terry picked up a quick four points and two assists to open the fourth quarter. That helped the Celtics maintain their sizable lead through the first half of the frame.
Terry's greatest accomplishment of the night was that the Celtics' defensive intensity did not lapse when he entered the game. He was every bit as active as starters Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley on that end. He denied Ray Allen open looks from beyond the arc and continued to pressure the ball all over the court.
His leadership is massively important for the second unit. With Jordan Crawford running around as if it's a pickup game sometimes, Terry is responsible for reeling him in.
Terry picked up nine points and four assists but did not hit a three-pointer.
Ray Allen, MIA SG: D
It isn't often that Ray Allen is held without three-pointer in a game.
Against the Celtics he was 0-of-3 from beyond the arc. He was fairly silent all night long, finding it difficult to match up with the athleticism of the Celtics backcourt.
Allen finished with six points and five rebounds in 30 minutes.
Boston Celtics Bench: C+
Chris Wilcox was pretty much the Celtics' lone player with real size in the game. Unfortunately, he got lost a few times defensively, either allowing a layup or committing a foul. Wilcox did not score in 18 minutes.
Jordan Crawford came up with some solid offensive output, but like it always does, it came with a handful of negatives. Crawford suffered a few turnovers in the fourth quarter, giving the Heat great opportunities to close the gap. He did finished with eight points and three assists in 17 minutes.
Miami Heat Bench: D-
The bench really held back the Heat in this game.
On top of Ray Allen's light output, they didn't get a whole lot from the rest of the second unit.
Shane Battier finished with six points but was no match for anything Jeff Green was doing. He was routinely beaten to spots by Green. Norris Cole finished 1-of-6 from the field.
Chris Andersen was irresponsible in his 11 minutes. He picked up a pair of unnecessary offensive fouls and did little positive on either end.