MIAMI - Temperatures here were in the 80s yesterday. And inside air-conditioned American Airlines Arena, it got even hotter for the Celtics last night when they cooled off in the fourth quarter.
After leading by as many as 25 points, the Celtics overcame a cold spell before holding on for a 95-85 win over the Miami Heat. Boston entered the fourth with a 83-61 lead. The Heat, however, sliced the lead to 7, before succumbing.
After opening the season 8-0, the Celtics finished November 13-2, becoming the 10th team in franchise history with two or fewer losses in the month. Boston also improved to 4-0 in the second of back-to-back games and 3-0 in home-road back-to-backs. Paul Pierce scored a game-high 27 points, while Kevin Garnett added 23 points and nine rebounds.
Celtics forward James Posey played for the Heat the last two seasons and won a title with them in 2006. Last night marked his first game in Miami since his departure.
"The fans were great when I was there," Posey said before the game. "It was just the nature of the business overall. It will be special for me always because we won a championship there."
Said Miami coach Pat Riley, "He's been playing great for them. I'm not surprised at all. He's shooting  percent from 3-point range. I don't think he's got warmed up yet."
Posey hoped for a warm reception but was uncertain. With the score tied at 16, he entered the game. But the public address announcer was so busy identifying the three Heat players who came in at the same time that he didn't mention Posey.
The Celtics' key players didn't have to play big minutes Thursday night as they hammered the visiting Knicks, 104-59. While that helped make playing on back-to-back nights easier, traveling was still tough as the Celtics didn't get to their hotel rooms until after 4 a.m. The Heat had not played since Tuesday.
Despite the imperfect conditions, Pierce was ready to go.
"I feel pretty fresh today," he said before the game. "I didn't have to grind it out yesterday."
Pierce definitely looked fresh in the first half. He scored 18 points on 5-of-6 shooting, made all five free throw attempts, and nailed all three 3-pointers.
Two Pierce free throws with 2.6 seconds left in the first quarter gave Boston a 31-25 lead. The Heat shot 57.9 percent in the quarter, while the Celtics shot 56.3.
A Posey reverse lay-in with 9:46 left in the second gave Boston a 35-26 lead. Two Ray Allen free throws gave the Celtics a 56-36 advantage with 2:04 left before the break. Shortly after that, Heat fans began booing. Boston cruised into halftime with a 59-41 lead.
The Celtics shot 48.6 percent from the field in the first half and nailed eight 3-pointers. Allen abetted Pierce with 12 points, and Eddie House added 9 off the bench. Heat star Dwyane Wade had 7 points on 1-of-4 shooting.
The Celtics opened the third quarter with a 12-5 run, with Pierce and Garnett splitting the points, to take a 71-46 lead on a Pierce trey. Garnett's jumper with 2:24 left in the quarter pushed Boston ahead, 78-53.
Rajon Rondo added some excitement by catching a Pierce miss with his right hand and dunking it with 1:49 left in the third as the Heat fell behind, 80-53. But before the Celtics could get comfortable, two straight 3-pointers by Miami's Jason Williams sliced Boston's lead to 83-61 with 20.8 seconds left in the quarter.
The fourth straight 3-pointer by the Heat made it 83-67 with 11:14 remaining. Soon after, Garnett and Pierce were back in the game, as were the Heat.
The Celtics scored their first point of the fourth as Pierce made 1 of 2 free throws with 9:40 remaining that pushed the lead to 84-70. Remember Rondo's dunk? Well, that was the Celtics' last field goal until a Garnett putback with 6:22 left gave Boston an 86-72 lead.
Another 3-pointer by Williams trimmed Boston's lead to 86-79 with 3:56 left. Two Allen free throws calmed the Celtics' nerves and made it 90-81 with 2:14 left. Posey sealed the game with two free throws with 51.4 seconds for a 93-83 lead.