Down 0-2 the Boston Celtics found themselves returning to the comforts of the TD Banknorth Garden trying to avoid the kiss of death that would be a 3-0 deficit. Kevin Garnett was quoted as saying “We’ve used up all our lifelines.” in reference to the dire situation the team had put itself in. Despite being without a lifeline, Boston still phoned a familiar friend in Shaquille O’neal who played for the first time in this series. The Celtics tapped into that familiar “Unbuntu” spirit and provided their own lifeline with a 97-81 victory. Garnett was the key to the win with his 28 points, and 18 rebounds on 13-20 from the floor, followed by Pierce who added 27. Dwayne Wade led Miami with 23 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds.
The Boston Celtics began as expected, hot and focused. Shooting a blistering 63% in the first quarter and jumping out to an 11 point lead, Boston finally looked like the team that beat the Heat 3 out of 4 times in the regular season. It would be short lived. The Miami Heat waited out the Boston storm like a passing storm on South Beach and found themselves with a 46-44 lead at halftime behind Dwayne Wade’s 14 points. The first half turned when the Miami bench entered and continued to dominate any Boston reserve not named Delonte West. The Celtics continued to make Joel Anthony look like a “MVP” as he garnished 10 points and 7 rebounds (4 offensive) in the first half. The effort of Anthony has far surpassed the effort of anybody on the Boston roster and has been a major factor throughout the series. Despite inspired play from Paul Pierce, Garnett, and the return of O’neal the Celtics were bested in the first 24 minutes.
The Celtics opened the 3rd quarter with a 16-4 run in what had to seem like deja vu of the opening minutes for Miami. However, this storm would not be as fleeting. At the 7:02 mark in the 3rd quarter the hearts of the Boston faithful skipped a beat when Rajon Rondo left the game with a frightening elbow injury. Rondo poked the ball away from Wade and as the ball trickled away, Wade attempted to shield Rondo from making a further play on the ball. The two players got entangled and the larger Wade fell back on Rondo whose arm slipped awkwardly as he attempted to brace his fall. Rondo immediately went to the locker room after writhing in pain for several minutes.
The injury to Rondo seemed to spark Boston providing a reason to amp up their focus and brace themselves for another Miami run. Delonte West entered and finished out the quarter, but It was Pierce and Garnett that did the heavy lifting as Boston outscored Miami 28-15 in the 3rd quarter to take a 72-61 lead into the 4th quarter.
With the game still in the balance, Rondo emerged from the locker room much to the delight of the Boston crowd. Doc Rivers looked stunned to see his All-Star point guard seated at the end of the bench. Rondo could barely lift his left arm to clap as his teammates extended the lead in his absence. As if his presence alone wasn’t enough to lift the Celtics collective hearts, Rondo reentered the game in the 4th quarter, literally finishing the game with one arm. Boston’s lead ballooned to as many as 18 while Miami struggled to get shots off against a stingy Celtic defense. The final buzzer sounded leaving Boston with a chance to tie the series in Game 4.
The Celtics defense returned to form and finally kept the Miami version of the “Big Three” off balance most of the night. Jeff Green provided big minutes off the bench in a defensive role helping to hold LeBron James to just 15 points on 6-16 from the floor. Bosh was just 1-6 and Wade was 8-19. Rivers finally got the effort he knew the Celtics were capable of giving against the Miami stars.
Boston is not out of the woods and a loss Monday night would leave them with the daunting task of winning 3 straight games with two of them being in Miami. The status of Rondo is still unclear despite his ability to finish this game. Delonte West injured his shoulder and Rivers didn’t sound confident in the post game presser about the status of West. Shaq played 8 minutes on one leg and the Celtics continue to be a mash unit of championship pride hoping to pull off what many doubt they can. Boston will look to even the series on Monday night in Boston.
About the Author
Written by Warren Shaw
I am an avid Basketball fan who has worked for the New York Knicks, Alonzo Mourning Charities and various other sports organizations. Having covered many NBA and various professional sporting events has given me the opportunity to provide insight with an unbiased but flavor driven view. I look forward to providing NBA content and interacting with knowledgeable fans and readers. Follow me on Twitter @shawsports or Email your questions to me at Warrenshaw@prosportsblogging.com