MIAMI - Maybe Paul Pierce should have taken the night off, too, just for kicks.
Without Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, the Celtics blew out the Heat, 117-87, last night at American Airlines Arena. While the Celtics are known for having the "Big Three," on this night they had a surprising big scoring foursome in Rajon Rondo (23), Tony Allen (20), Leon Powe (25), and Eddie House (20), who combined for 88 points.
"To have 117 points when Paul Pierce only had 7 and Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen didn't play is something that we didn't expect before the game," coach Doc Rivers said.
The Celtics, who lost at Orlando last Sunday, are now 8-1 in games following a loss. They improved to an NBA-best 35-8 record - 16-4 on the road - and are 3-0 against the hapless Heat (9-34).
Players not named Pierce, Garnett, or Ray Allen combined for 110 points on 38-of-69 shooting. Rondo tied his career high in points, and Powe set a career high while adding a game-high 11 rebounds.
"Everybody took it as a challenge with those guys out," Tony Allen said. "And we went out and played team basketball."
Said Powe, "We believe in each other. We didn't come here for the loss. We came here for the win."
It was the first time this season that the Celtics were missing both Allen and Garnett. Allen was out with the flu (the fourth game he's missed this season), and Garnett missed his second straight game with an abdominal strain. Allen stayed at the team hotel to get rest while Garnett stayed in the locker room and didn't talk to the media afterward.
Pierce, who was averaging a team-best 20.4 points per game, had only 2 in the first half and finished with 7 on 2-of-9 shooting, including 1-of-4 from 3-point range.
"People are realizing this year that we have other guys that can step up," Pierce said. "We had [four] 20-point scorers on the Celtics. If you had anyone take a guess on the four, I'm sure they would have said if they watched the game that I was one of them. But it wasn't me."
The Heat, meanwhile, were without Shaquille O'Neal for the third straight game because of acute inflammation of the left hip and quadriceps. Veteran center Alonzo Mourning is also out for the season with torn right patella and quadriceps tendons. Forward Udonis Haslem didn't return after halftime because of a sprained right ankle. And Dwyane Wade, also troubled by the flu, left after the third quarter with 7 points on 1-of-9 shooting and 4 turnovers.
While the Heat succumbed to their injuries, the Celtics overcame theirs.
"I still have to go play," said Heat center Mark Blount, an ex-Celtic. "There are still guys out there that have work to do."
The Celtics were up as many as 31 points before settling for a 64-42 halftime lead. Rondo (15), Powe (14), and Allen (10) all were in double digits for the half. Boston shot 52.2 percent from the field, nailing 5 of 10 3-pointers, and scored 32 points in the paint by intermission. Pierce, though, was only 1 for 5.
"Right before the half, we had a 28-point lead and they cut it to 22," Rivers said. "And I thought the last three minutes before the half we went back into the cool mode that allows teams to get back into games. And then we came out in the third quarter and played, and played hard."
The Heat had only 14 points in the first quarter, tying the season low for a Boston opponent; they were 3 for 23 from the field. In the first half, Miami shot 34.1 percent, missing 7 of 8 3-pointers, and had 9 turnovers.
"We just didn't bring it," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "I am embarrassed by the effort. I am just embarrassed by our effort. Usually I'm not."
The Celtics outscored Miami, 30-19, in the third quarter, shooting 53.3 percent, to take a 91-64 lead. With Pierce watching in the fourth quarter, Boston went ahead, 100-62, on a House 3-pointer with 10:35 remaining.
After several reserves got their time to shine, disgusted Heat fans left in droves, while Riley just sat and watched. When the buzzer sounded, the Celtics had posted the largest margin of victory in the 79-game series between the clubs.
Considering the manpower situation, Rivers said this was one of his proudest moments of the season.
"One of the things we talked about before the game was no one was going to be Ray Allen, no one of them was going to be Kevin Garnett," Rivers said. "But all of them could do a little bit extra and pitch in. And they did that."