C's Beat Heat and Pat Riley for First Time in 3 Years

February 10, 1999

C's Beat Heat and Pat Riley for First Time in 3 Years

  MIAMI - The cameras were on Antoine Walker, Paul Pierce, and Rick Pitino. They were saying some nice things about their 108-101 win over the Heat at Miami Arena last night. They were measured in their remarks. Kenny Anderson was not. "Hey, man," the point guard announced near the entrance of the locker room, "this is a new era for the Celtics. This is the Pitino Era. We're about to play some ball here." The point guard was just getting started.

He had heard that the Celtics hadn't defeated the Heat since February 1996. Walker and Pierce were in college then. Pitino was coaching Walker at the University of Kentucky. And the Celtics were, well, a joke. "That's the past, man," Anderson said. "I hope teams understand they are playing the Boston Celtics. We are not the rebuilding Boston Celtics. When we're on our game, we can do some damage. Look at the Pitino Era. We're not going to be blown out by teams. Do teams know that? If they don't, they better ask somebody."

 Well, if teams don't know, they can ask Pat Riley. The Miami coach was not in a good mood before the game. He stood against a wall and spoke in a near whisper when discussing the status of starting small forward Jamal Mashburn. Mashburn did not play last night. Neither did Voshon Lenard. The Heat have major problems and the Celtics made them feel worse. "It's been 2 1/2 years since we've had this kind of a feeling and doubt," Riley said of his team. It's also been that long since the Celtics walked into this arena and beat the Heat. They had lost nine consecutive games against Miami. But then, this is the first time the Heat had to look at the trio of Walker, Pierce, and Anderson. Walker was dominant, scoring 31 points and securing 10 rebounds. Pierce had his third 19-point game of the season, excited the crowd of 15,200 with two terrific dunks, rejected a Dan Majerle attempt off the backboard to begin a fast break, and had 7 rebounds. And while Anderson made only 4 of 14 shots, he was perfect from the line (14 for 14), managed 22 points, and had 7 assists.

"I haven't done a thing yet," the veteran said. "We got some guys here. We've got the Rook [ Pierce] . We've got a young star in Antoine. Popeye Jones. Dana [ Barros] off the bench . . . " Every pro basketball fan in South Florida knows that now. They know because the Celtics would not go away, even after shooting 25 percent in the first quarter and 33 percent in the first half. They trailed only 46-45 after all that missing, not a good sign for the Heat. Many teams understand that when you are playing a Riley team of the 1990s, you don't necessarily have to shoot well to win. All you have to do is be willing to take bruises and deliver some of your own.

So take a look at the box score this morning. You will notice that the Celtics shot 41 percent and won. From the start, this matchup was destined for a close finish. Never mind that the Celtics went ahead, 80-70, on a Pierce dunk in the fourth quarter. Anyone in tune with the game's flow could sense that neither team would be able to shake the other. There was plenty of drama, too. Both coaches were upset with the uneven calls of Ronnie Nunn. And the man responsible for blowing the horn at the official scorer's table seemed to have something against the home team. Twice he blew the horn as Heat players were taking free throws. The last time he did it, Alonzo Mourning (14 points, 9 rebounds) turned to the table and yelled, "Would you stop that [ expletive] ?" The Celtics' night was full of quirks, too. They went through an awful 4 1/2-minute stretch in the third quarter in which they were outscored, 14-0. You would think that drought would have lost the game for them, but they ended the quarter ahead, 71-66. When they struggled with their offense midway through the fourth quarter, they got a 3-pointer from Bruce Bowen - known for his defense - to put them up, 85-78. They also survived a second-quarter scare in which Walker asked out of the game. He was experiencing back pain. "Just some spasms," Walker said.

"I'm not about to let that keep me out of a game. This win was just so big for us. We've got a long break coming up, so you don't want to go into that with a 1-3 record. Now we're .500 and have some time to get our guys [ Ron Mercer, Walter McCarty] back." Pitino said he wasn't necessarily excited about beating Miami. "We're not looking at who we beat, we're looking at the victory." That's what he said. But you could sense this was something special for Pitino. It was his first win over Miami. And it is the first time in years that if Miami looks at the Atlantic Division standings, it sees itself below Boston.

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