After Ilgauskus leveled Rondo with a screen, Garnett knocked Miami swingman Mike Miller on his back with a blindside pick. Wade responded by trying to box Garnett clean out of the paint. The referees arrived to break up the skirmish, and Miami attempted to regroup with an impromptu meeting on the court. That's when Rivers noticed Wade and James shoving Rondo out of their huddle.
"Rondo is nuts in that way," said Rivers. "He was saying he didn't have to get out of the huddle because it wasn't a timeout. It was pretty funny—when it was over."
Rondo's teammates also showed no respect for the Heat, whose Big Three have yet to grasp how to break down Boston's swarming defense. The win vaulted the Celtics ahead of Miami in the Eastern Conference standings. "I have the same feeling right now as I had when I was in my third and fourth year and we played Detroit," said James of his seven seasons with Cleveland. "We just could not get over the hump. Regular season and playoffs, we couldn't get over the hump. It took us a long time to finally get over."
The 10 days affirmed the Lakers as the team to beat—their length will create problems for San Antonio in a seven-game series—while the Celtics, for all of their fragility, showed themselves to be the East's toughest out, thanks to their stubbornness as much as to their diversity of options. In the meantime the Heat will look to gain confidence from a final rematch with Boston on April 10 in Miami. "All it takes is one game," said coach Erik Spoelstra of the breakthrough his team is seeking.
The games also showed a fighting spirit during the February doldrums, an exhausting part of the season when there is every excuse to let things slide and say, We'll get 'em next time. "The playoffs will be more physical," Rivers said late Sunday afternoon. "It will be better play, the execution will be better." With the snow piled high in Boston, these 10 days left a scent of spring in the air.