WALTHAM, Mass. (AP) — You guard Dwyane Wade too closely and he drives to the basket. Give him some room and he sinks a 3-pointer.
What are the Boston Celtics to do?
“It’s a tricky situation,” Ray Allen said.
Allen has the unenviable task of being the Celtic assigned to defend the Miami Heat star most of the time — his next chance comes Tuesday night in Game 5 — although Allen’s teammates are supposed to help. None of them did well enough on Sunday.
Wade raced in for layups and soared high for long-range jumpers. His 46 points, a franchise playoff record, helped keep the Heat’s season alive. They won 101-92 at home, cutting the Celtics lead to 3-1 and forcing the best-of-seven series back to Boston.
“We’re not easy opponents,” Wade said. “They’re going to make some runs. We’ve got to be able to be tough and not say ‘Well, guys, it’s been a good year.’ “
That’s just what Paul Pierce would like to hear from the Heat. His jumper at the buzzer gave the Celtics a 100-98 win in Game 3, setting up the possibility of a sweep.
That didn’t happen and now he’s eager to wrap the series up in front of his home fans.
“There’s a lot of urgency,” Pierce said. “Next time I go to Miami, hopefully I’ll be on vacation.”
First he and his teammates have a tough work day. And it’s not just Wade who causes trouble. On Sunday, Quentin Richardson scored 20 points, Udonis Haslem grabbed 11 rebounds and Michael Beasley converted a key offensive rebound late in the game.
“Wade is going to have the ball most of the time,” Pierce said. “You’ve got to expect him to have big numbers because of that, but it’s the other guys that we have to shut down and I’m a big part of that when I’m the guy guarding Quentin Richardson.”
A win by Miami would send the series back there for a sixth game on Thursday night.
The Celtics spent about an hour watching film on Monday, a session coach Doc Rivers thought would take 20 minutes. Then they practiced for about an hour.
Rivers doesn’t expect major adjustments in the Celtics defense. He does want them to play it more intensely.
“Dwyane Wade’s a great player. Give him that. But we’re going to defend him and it’s going to be tough,” Rivers said. “If I can find a guy in the league that can just keep Dwyane Wade in front of him whenever he wants to, we’re signing him.”
Wade has increased his scoring in each game from 26 to 29 to 34 to 46. He’s hit 52 of his 86 shots (60.5 percent) and 13 of 30 of his 3-pointers (43.3 percent). He was at his most accurate on Sunday, hitting 16 of 24 shots and five of seven 3-pointers.
“Shooting 67 percent is the bigger number for us,” Rivers said. “The 46 we could live with if it was 25 percent.”
And don’t forget his average of five rebounds and six assists in the series. But his personal numbers aren’t Wade’s main focus.
“I don’t know if I’m going to score 40 again. I don’t know if I’m going to score 14,” he said. “My job is to do whatever I can to make sure we win the ballgame.”
The Heat dropped the first two in Boston — 85-76 and 106-77 — when they lost their composure for key stretches. They led the opener by 14 points midway through the third quarter. In Game 2, they allowed a 44-8 surge that turned a 29-25 lead into a 69-37 deficit.
Miami is 1-6 against the Celtics this season but had a solid chance in five of those losses.
“We’ve shown we’re capable of beating them. We just had to go ahead, go out there and finish, complete it,” Richardson said. “And now we need to do it again.”
He left Sunday’s game with a bruised left hand and will play Tuesday night after an MRI showed it wasn’t broken.
“We’ve been measured there mentally more than anything, and, at some point, they’ve gotten us to break,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They’ve been able to control the games, particularly in the fourth quarters. And (Tuesday), we’re looking for our breakthrough. It’s got to be different.”
Boston’s Allen hopes it is — at least from the free throw line. He struggled there Sunday despite shooting 91 percent this season.
He hit one free throw with 2:36 left, cutting Miami’s lead to 96-92. Then he missed his next three, only the 10th time he’s missed that many in his 1,103 games in the regular season and playoffs.
So he did some extra free throw shooting Monday.
“I took about 150. I missed five of them,” he said.
If he had made those three on Sunday, or if Wade had missed a few more shots, the series might already be over.
If Miami wins Tuesday, it will continue.
“The world is all about ‘what ifs,’ ” Allen said. “We don’t want to be in ‘what if’ forever. We want to control our destiny.”