Fans immediately reacted angrily.
But by day’s end, that hit would seem like a mere love tap. And already, the Miami-Boston series is boiling over with emotion.
Dwyane Wade scored 38 points on 14-of-21 shooting, James Jones set a Miami postseason record with 25 points off the bench, and beat the 99-90 on Sunday to open their Eastern Conference semifinal series in a game marked by five technical fouls, one flagrant foul and the ejection of Boston’s Paul Pierce with 7 minutes remaining.
“We’re going to have to fight for every inch, every game we get,” Wade said. “Right now, we won Game 1. We’re supposed to. We’ll go back and focus on winning Game 2. We’re at home, we have home-court advantage. They’re just trying to come in and steal one like they’ve done in the past. So it’s our job to come out with the same mentality in the next one.”
Game 2 is Tuesday.
Within minutes of Sunday’s game ending, workers began turning AmericanAirlines Arena from a basketball facility into one that’ll get used Monday night for a professional wrestling card.
Seemed fitting after Sunday’s show.
There was plenty of hitting and jawing, even a spectacular leap from by one of the stars into the seats — yes, Wade dove headfirst into a sea of Heat fans behind the baseline in the final minutes, an attempt to save a ridiculously overthrown pass by Mario Chalmers.
Pierce wasn’t around to see that play.
He got a pair of technicals 59 seconds apart for taking too much exception to fouls by Jones and Wade, and pulled his jersey over his head on the way to the Boston locker room.
“We can’t worry about other players and if they want to throw dirty shots or anything like that,” Celtics forward Glen Davis said. “Yeah, we want to protect ourselves, stand up for ourselves, but at the same time we have to keep our composure and play the way we need to play.”
That didn’t happen with Pierce.
Jones fouled him hard — his arm ended up around Pierce’s neck — with 7:59 left, and Pierce got a technical for making contact with him after play had been stopped, crew chief Dan Crawford said. On Pierce’s second technical, he set a screen for Wade — who collided with him at nearly a full sprint.
Wade stepped toward Pierce, who Crawford said was guilty of a verbal taunt. That merited the second technical and ejection.
“James Jones was a clear flagrant,” Celtics coach said. “He went right for the head and grabbed. And I thought Dwyane Wade’s was an absolute flagrant. He had no intentions … he was just trying to run through Paul. I told Paul, ‘You still don’t react.'”
Ray Allen scored 25 points for Boston, which lost for the first time in five games this postseason. Pierce scored 19 and Delonte West finished with 10 for the Celtics, while Rondo and were held to a combined 14 points on 6-for-19 shooting.
“There’s so many things we need to do to get better,” Allen said. “I think everybody in that locker room knows that, just from a small conversation we just had.”
Pierce did not speak with reporters postgame.
After he departed, the Celtics tried to rally. Allen made a 3-pointer to get within 90-82, but Chris Bosh and Wade had Miami’s next two baskets, restoring a double-digit lead that wasn’t again seriously threatened.
“Every game is going to go like this,” Wade said. “We look forward to the challenge.”
Wade averaged 12.8 points on 28 percent shooting against the Celtics in four regular-season matchups, his worst numbers in both categories against any opponent this season.
Whatever wasn’t working then, well, it was fixed for Game 1.
He had nine field goals and 23 points by halftime — while the entire Boston starting five combined for eight field goals and 21 points in the first 24 minutes. He had a steal to set up Mario Chalmers’ layup with 0.1 seconds left in the first quarter that put Miami up 20-14, and added a more spectacular buzzer-beater near halftime.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra wanted a 20-second timeout to set up the final possession of the half, only to get overruled — surely without complaint, either. Wade waved it off, then kept waving his arm to clear his teammates away, setting up a drive past West for a bank shot with 0.8 ticks remaining that put Miami ahead 51-36 at the break.
Boston was completely out of sorts, perhaps rusty from sitting around for a week after sweeping the , and partly because Miami’s defense bottled up everything the Celtics tried. Rondo was on the bench with three fouls for the final 11 minutes of the half, and the Celtics missed 20 of their first 26 shots from the field.
“Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is beat the Boston Celtics in basketball, the game of basketball, four times,” Spoelstra said. “We have one of them right now.”
Jones drew Rondo’s third foul on a play where he ended up sprawled out under the Boston basket, grabbing his lower back and writhing in pain. Jones inflicted hurt the rest of the quarter, shooting 4 for 5 from 3-point range in the second period alone.
The previous scoring record off the Heat bench in a playoff game was 22, set by Grant Long in 1994 and matched two years ago by Michael Beasley.
“JJ probably had the best game of anybody,” James said.
Jones took down Pierce and Allen in the 3-point shootout at All-Star weekend — and some of that same form returned Sunday.
“Someone had to step up,” Jones said. “I got some good looks. All of our playmakers got me good looks and I was able to knock them down with confidence because these guys trust me in the big moments.”