The Miami Heat didn't change much this past offseason. Except for Jamal Mashburn's role.
Mashburn, who entered the game second on the team in scoring with a 19.9 average, scored eight of his 23 points during a key second half spurt as the Heat beat the Boston Celtics, 110-92 Saturday night.
"We worked all summer on my game, especially offensively," said Mashburn, whose style is better suited to the more open game dictated by this year's rule changes. "My first few years here, they tried to make me a back-down, inside player. This year's tempo benefits me."
Miami coach Pat Riley, whose team is off to a franchise best 8-2 start of the season, agreed that a new approach has produced dramatic results in Mashburn.
"He's not the power player I tried to make him," Riley said. "His game is running, slashing, and driving the basketball."
Mashburn, who has been hampered by injuries the last two seasons, credits the rules changes as a factor in his emergence.
"This is how basketball should be played," he said. "It had become a bully game, an ugly game. It should be a skill game and if you can't touch anybody, it's tough to stop players that like to create."
Boston coach Rick Pitino, who coached Mashburn in college at Kentucky, also praised his former player.
"Jamal Mashburn is a great basketball player," Pitino said. "He's one of the best small forwards in the league."
After Boston cut a 9-point third quarter deficit to four, Mashburn score eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers, during a 18-6 run that put Miami up, 85-69, with 10:56 left in the game.
Dan Majerle helped spark the rally with two assists, one on a Mashburn 3-pointer, a pair of steals and a dunk with .4 seconds left in the third period.
Miami maintained a comfortable lead the rest of the way, thanks in part to 13 points over the final 3:12 by Voshon Lenard, including three 3-pointers.
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