MIAMI — The Boston Celtics have bigger issues than being upset about a perceived slight.
Yes, LeBron James dribbled behind his back. Then between his legs, five times. Then threw a behind-the-back pass. And after grabbing an offensive rebound while getting fouled by Kevin Garnett, he smiled and shouted “Yeah” three times while holding the ball out for referee Jason Phillips to collect.
All that came on one possession in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics called it showboating.
They’re probably right. But that’s not the problem.
The Heat got 19 layups and dunks in Game 1 on Monday night, with James and Dwyane Wade fueling what became a 93-79 win. And if Boston’s defensive issues weren’t enough cause to concern the Celtics, Ray Allen said his ailing right ankle is getting to be even more problematic — something that’s bound to be a factor again when the matchup resumes in Miami on Wednesday night.
“You can tell they believe by their anger after the game,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday, asked how his team is handling the emotions of a Game 1 loss. “There wasn’t a lot of happy guys in our locker room yesterday or in film today when we start out by showing 19 straight layups. Who wants to watch that? I didn’t. I watched it four or five times.”
Along the same lines, the Heat said there were elements of the game film that they didn’t like either.
James and Wade did their part in Game 1, combining for 54 points. The rest of the Heat added 39 points, 32 rebounds, seven assists and six blocked shots, but there were a slew of missed shots and one second-quarter defensive lull that had Miami addressing some issues on the practice court Tuesday.
“I think we all felt that we could have played better,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We weren’t as sharp as we had been, particularly in the three games before that. But that’s the playoffs. You have to find a way to survive and win, even if you have to do it when you’re not playing your best, like last night.”
There are some predictable elements that seem to pop up after the opening game of a playoff series, with the team that lost Game 1 saying it had to get more physical and the winning team saying that a 1-0 lead doesn’t mean anything. And both apply in this case as well, with Boston guard Rajon Rondo among the Celtics’ voices saying things had to be made tougher for Miami.
James and Wade responded to that with shrugs, insisting that’s typical for any series.
“I already think that’s going to happen in every game,” James said. “So I don’t have to prepare for it.”
Talking points like that can be dismissed. The Allen situation, however, doesn’t seem like it’s going away.
Allen has been dealing with pain in his right ankle for several weeks, and missed all but one of his seven field-goal attempts in Boston’s Game 1 loss. He even missed four free throws, just the third time in his career that he’s done that. He’s shooting only 39 percent in the postseason, 27 percent from 3-point range and 60 percent from the foul line — way off his usual career numbers in all those departments.
“I don’t even like talking about it,” Allen said. “It’s just part of what I’m dealing with.”
Allen said he did not work out Tuesday, which is a rarity.
“In my predicament, I’m only going to do myself further damage,” Allen said.
Rivers said the Celtics will stick with Allen, making it sound like the decision was made partly out of respect to the veteran guard — who made it clear that he wants to play — and made partly because Boston simply doesn’t have many more options. The Celtics put Allen back in the starting lineup midway through the second round against Philadelphia because Avery Bradley went down for the season with a shoulder injury.
“Ray is Ray, and we’re going to keep rolling him out there and see what we can get,” Rivers said. “If we feel he can’t give it to us, we’ll go with someone else. But I think right now you have to give Ray a fighting chance every time.”
Miami was in trouble against Indiana about a week ago, trailing 2-1 in the series and losing at halftime of Game 4 in Indianapolis. Since then, Wade and James have been brilliant, and the trend continued in Game 1 against the Celtics.
“For us, we’re playing great team ball, especially in the fourth quarter,” Wade said. “We’re not playing as much hero ball that we played last year. We’re getting off the ball. We’re penetrating. We’re trusting each other a lot more. It comes with time. In the fourth quarter we believe in each other, and that’s been a success for us.”
Said James: “Everything we’re getting has been coming out of the offense. We’re not forcing.”
The Celtics sounded like they want to make the Heat start forcing things soon, getting Miami out of its current rhythm. Otherwise, the Heat could find themselves halfway to another East title banner by the close of business on Wednesday night.
“It’s got to get more physical from our part,” Celtics forward Paul Pierce said. “We’ve got to show better resistance. We thought it was way too easy for them in Game 1. They got very comfortable. Hopefully in Game 2, we can make it a little bit more uncomfortable for them.”