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Heat pull away from Celtics in opener Miami has big advantage in second-half play

A big early Miami lead was wasted. Once the Heat took control again, they simply ran away from the Boston Celtics.

And the NBA finals are now three wins away for LeBron James and the Heat.

James scored 32 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, Dwyane Wade scored 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter and the Heat beat the Celtics, 93-79, on Monday night in Game One of the Eastern Conference finals.

Shane Battier, playing in the conference finals for the first time, scored 10 points and had 10 rebounds for the Heat, who wasted an early 11-point first-half lead before running away to break a halftime tie. Miami outrebounded the Celtics, 48-33, and blocked 11 Boston shots.

It was those last two stats that had James lauding the night as a team effort.

"We get a lot of the press, we get a lot of the headlines," James said. "But our teammates, they do everything to help us win ball games."

Kevin Garnett scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Boston, which got 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists from Rajon Rondo and 12 points from Paul Pierce. Ray Allen shot just 1 for 7 from the floor for Boston, which was outscored by 10 in the first quarter and 11 in the third.

"On the road, you can't have two quarters of lulls," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.

Game Two is Wednesday night in Miami.

And while both sides would say there's a long way to go in this series, Game One winners have a decided edge in any best-of-seven, the conference final being no exception. In the most recent 10 postseasons, teams with 1-0 leads in conference finals have advanced 15 out of 20 times.

The start of the series saw James put on an offensive display. He had 13 points in the first quarter -- two more than the entire Celtics roster -- and Miami ran out to a 21-11 lead after the opening period. Garnett made three of his four shots in the quarter, while everyone else in Boston green was 2 for 16 from the floor.

The Celtics' response was even better.

Boston scored 35 in the second quarter, erasing what was an 11-point deficit early in the period by scoring 27 points in the final 8:46 of the half to pull into a 46-all tie. Rondo, Garnett and Pierce combined to score 23 points in the quarter, looking absolutely vintage, near-perfect offensive execution getting to Miami time and time again. And the Celtics' comeback happened even while they got hit with three technical fouls in the second quarter, plus Allen missing four first-half free throws -- matching his career-worst for an entire game.

In the end, it went down as merely a one-quarter lapse for Miami.

Miami led by as many as 13 late in the third, before taking a 72-61 lead into the fourth. Boston went cold again, shooting just 27 percent in the period, and Wade's pass into the lane set up Joel Anthony for a dunk that pushed the Heat lead to 15 with 10:13 remaining.

"We'll go back and see what we can do better," Rivers said.