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Heat falter once again to the Celtics 85-82, lose top spot in East

Pat Riley can't be happy about this. The Heat just can't beat the Celtics.

With little time left before the trading deadline and the crucial final stretch of the season coming very soon, the Heat must look within themselves and figure this out quickly. Even still, Riley would be wise to address why they don't match up well with the Celtics and figure out what exactly they want to do with their PG position. Chalmers was exposed and Arroyo has been benched for the fifth time in the last 7 games.

Dwyane Wade continues to underwhelm against Boston. The Celtics built a double-digit lead at the outset of the second quarter while LeBron sat and Wade led the team's offense and it was marred by sloppy ball-handling, indecisiveness, and several times leaving his feet before making a pass. Both LeBron and Wade couldn't stop telegraphing their passes either. While Bosh started slow, he did pick up his intensity and didn't shy away from attacking the paint instead of settling for jumpers and he was steady on defense. Having said that, he was easily boxed out many times in the paint going for rebounds and he gave up on the play where Big Baby Davis couldn't jump high enough to put the ball through the rim uncontested. (Some nice comic relief in an otherwise tense game.)

Rajon Rondo continues to do whatever he wants when he plays against the Heat as they continue to employ the strategy of giving him a few feet of distance to work with, knowing full well he's not a threat from outside. That's all well and good in theory but it gives him way to much freedom to conduct the offense without a need for shaking free of his defender in the perimeter. His triple-double was a testament to just how many heads-up, smart plays he consistently makes (such as out-jumping Chris Bosh for an offensive rebound).

I avoid talking much about the refereeing of the game but the officials were truly atrocious, making one bad call after another and usually in Boston's favor. (Even TrueHoop Network's Celtics Hub agrees with me!) I particularly liked the moment where Garnett apparently didn't appreciate Big Z's screen the play before so he took down Mike Miller in retaliation. I suppose it was technically not a foul because his feet were set but you could see it in his eyes and how he stuck out his right elbow that there was an intent to knock him down. That's not a flagrant or a technical foul according to the refs. Yet when Garnett flops wildly after Wade reacts and shoves Garnett while fighting for position as both were going for the rebound, it's a flagrant foul? Those are too many points given away in what would turn out to be a tight game. Inexcusable. (And what was up with Rondo annoyingly trying to be a pest during the ensuing Heat huddle? Where's Jamaal Magloire when you really need him?) Also, Garnett should have also been called for his sixth and final foul on a drive by LeBron down the stretch and almost to make up for how many calls the refs screwed up they started making bad calls against the Celtics almost as if to make up for it.

With a game that ended with a three-point margin of defeat, it's not every day where Mike Miller, Eddie House and James Jones all struggle from beyond the arc. As a result, the Heat bench contributing little in the way of scoring. Just as frustrating where the abundance of unforced errors. The Celtics played well in the second half but were mediocre through patches of the first and second quarter. The fact that the Heat couldn't take advantage of it in a game where Paul Pierce scores one more point than you did is certainly a cause for concern.

At this point the Heat must forge ahead and worry instead about getting the top seed at all costs. With home-court advantage in a presumed playoff series with Boston and some luck that they continue to be hobbled with injuries there's a possibility the Heat could win the series. There's no way Jermaine O'Neal makes it to the playoffs healthy for example but keep in mind that plenty of important pieces have all been hobbled at one point or another this season. Thirty more hard fought games and it's a big question mark how many minutes Doc Rivers will give his aging core. For the Heat, injuries have been huge this season as well but the expected addition of Udonis Haslem in time for the playoffs is a huge boost, much like Kendrick Perkins return to the lineup has helped the Celtics. But a change or two in the roster has to be considered and the Big 3 need to collectively step it up no matter what happens.

Bottom line, the loss has to hurt the Heat and their fans. There will be more chances for the Heat, hopefully when it really counts. Three months ago, the Heat were an unorganized mess. They've come a long way since then and are neck-and-neck with the Celtics for the top seed. It remains to be be seen what kind of team the Heat will be in three months time.