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Rondo powers Celtics over the Heat

BOSTON -- Rajon Rondo got his pregame orders from Doc Rivers. The Celtics' coach wanted his point guard to concentrate on scoring.

Rondo did that -- and so much more.

He finished with 16 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds, and Boston handed Miami its biggest loss of the season, pulling away with a dominant third quarter for a 91-72 win over the Heat on Sunday.

Rondo had eight assists in that period when the Celtics outscored the Heat, 31-12, turning a 49-44 halftime lead into an 80-56 advantage. They stayed ahead by at least 19 the rest of the way for their fifth straight win.

He also had 10 points in the first quarter. Not bad for a sometimes shaky shooter who hadn't scored more than seven points in any of his previous five games.

"We told Rondo that we needed him to be a scorer. Not a playmaker, a scorer," Rivers said. "He set the tone at the beginning of the game by doing that and I thought that loosened it up for everybody."

He reached the triple-double mark for the fifth time this season with 8 1/2 minutes to play. It was his 13th consecutive game with at least 10 assists and another outstanding performance in a marquee game on national television, a scenario in which he seems to thrive.

"Four or five guys came up to me [Sunday] and told me to be aggressive and show them what a great point guard (I am)," Rondo said. "So I just try to go out there and be great."

The Heat were far from that, making just 34.8 percent of their shots. And LeBron James failed to get an assist for just the second time in his career.

"We didn't make any shots," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "You don't get assists off of missed field goals."

The loss continued a couple of disturbing trends for the Heat -- seven losses in their last 10 road games and three consecutive setbacks of at least 15 points. Their previous worst defeat of the season came just one week earlier, 103-87 at Oklahoma City, and their last loss of more than 19 points came March 4, 2011, at San Antonio, 125-95.

Miami has the fewest home losses in the league at 21-2 but is only 16-12 on the road.

"It's definitely a string of issues on the road," James said. "We've got to be more mentally tough."

The Heat, playing their third game in four days, were led by James with 23 points and Dwyane Wade with 15. Chris Bosh, the other member of Miami's "Big 3," scored the Heat's first four points but didn't score again.

The Celtics, combining tenacious defense with outstanding play in transition, increased their Atlantic Division lead to one game over idle Philadelphia.

Paul Pierce scored 23 points, and Brandon Bass added 16 points and 10 rebounds for Boston.

"We know we can play with the best," Pierce said. "It feels great. The crowd is behind you. You're executing. You're not turning the ball over. You're rebounding. That's the type of game we have to play."

Does such a dominant performance against one of the NBA's best teams boost the Celtics' confidence?

"I don't know if it does anything for our confidence," Rivers said. "Our guys are a pretty confident group. They feel they can play with anyone."

Miami scored two of the first three baskets of the third quarter, cutting the lead to 51-48. Then the Celtics outscored the Heat, 29-8, the rest of the period.

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