The Miami Heat, out on the road for much of the last month or two, have been a bit up and down lately. Never, though, have they been quite as down as they were on Sunday afternoon in Boston. Rajon Rondo and the Celtics came out from the tip-off with incisive offense and disruptive defense and, save for a run in the second quarter, the Heat looked in no shape to handle either. Boston struck early, then landed its finishing blow pretty early in the second half, striding to a 91-72 win over a Heat team that hadn't been beaten that badly this whole season.
The Celtics got valuable contributions from a number of players -- Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett included -- almost all of which could be traced to the hands of Rajon Rondo. Rondo's performance was masterful -- a triple-double of 16 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds-- and came at the expense of a Miami defense that just couldn't keep up with his antics. To begin the game, Rondo was at his most headstrong, turning corners and accelerating all the way to the rim for finishes behind Heat defenders. In the second half, Rondo engaged his passing instincts, tossing eight of his 14 dimes in the third period alone. He sped up the court in transition to penetrate and either pass through open channels or create channels of his own, hitting teammates in stride for easy baskets.
A number of those easy third quarter baskets were finished by Avery Bradley, Boston's starting shooting guard/Wade-stopper in Ray Allen's stead. Bradley crept backdoor and got clean looks around the basket to score eight of his 13 points in that period. As a team, the Celtics thumped Miami in the third and blew the game way open, merging their sharpest offense with their tightest defense to win the quarter 31-12. After that, it was just a matter of time (and occasional defense) before Boston handed Miami its worst loss of the year.
Perhaps more alarming than the sizable margin of defeat was that the Heat dropped their 12th road game of the year, finishing an incredibly road-heavy stretched that began well before the All-Star break. After playing their third game in fourth days, the Heat get just one day of rest before another busy stretch (albeit a homestand) that ends with a Celtics rematch. They'll have something to prove in that one, because Rondo and friends shredded them on Sunday.
For all of Sunday's NBA box scores, check out SI.com's NBA scoreboard.