Sometimes the game of basketball just takes a few tweaks. Minor adjustments if you will.
With their backs against the wall after a demoralizing loss in Game 2, the Celtics rebounded and held off a furious Miami Heat comeback attempt to win Game 3 101-91.
The final score is somewhat misleading because Boston held a 22 point lead entering the 4th quarter but Miami went small with LeBron James at center and mounted a 28-16 quarter to make things interesting. If nothing else that late run forced the Celtics starters into extra minutes they shouldn’t have played.
Kevin Garnett lead the C’s with 24 points and 10 rebounds while Rajon Rondo played another all-around game with 21 points, 10 assists, and 6 rebounds. Those two combined for a super efficient 19-32 from the floor
Paul Pierce gave Boston a third 20 point scorer with 23 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists.
Boston finally did an amazing job of getting KG the ball in the post especially in the 2nd quarter. Establishing Garnett led to an eventual 58-46 advantage in the points in the paint battle for the Celtics. KG set up a tent near the rim all game long to the point where the Heat bench screamed “3 seconds” on multiple Boston possessions.
Doc Rivers commented on the Celtics game plan after the game “I told the guys there is nobody taller than Kevin on the floor. Throw the ball up to Kevin (in the post)”.
Of Garnett’s 16 shots only 4 of them were taken outside of the paint and only 1 from beyond 12 feet. The Heat probably could have used more Joel Anthony who only played 12 minutes in the contest, all in the first half.
Miami was again lead by the MVP play of James who was “white hot” for much of the game finishing with 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists. He carried the Heat while Dwyane Wade and the glue guys struggled to make a difference. Wade again joined the party late to finish with 18 points but he was held without a free throw attempt in a playoff game for the first time since his rookie season.
The Celtics game plan to double team Wade seemed to work more effectively and they didn’t stray from it too early like they did in Game 2.
The Heat started the game like sprinting gazelles, racing up the floor on both makes and misses trying to test the rickety legs of the Celtics. That plan seemed to be working but they gave up on the strategy in 2nd quarter with LeBron on the bench and didn’t return to it until the 4th quarter.
Coach Spoelstra may want to address that.
A few key points of note that allowed Boston to take the victory:
Celtics Bench Production: Keyon Dooling and Marquis Daniels were absolutely immense off the Boston bench. Dooling’s ball pressure on the Heat guards and Daniels versatility defensively keyed the 2nd quarter Celtics run. They also combined for 16 points and 9 rebounds. Boston’s entire bench combined for totals of 21 points and 9 rebounds in the previous 2 games.
Officials and Free Throw Shooting: The officiating in this series has been brutal but it took a turn towards the favor of the Celtics in Game 3. The Heat took just 20 free throws compared to the Celtics 26 in Game 3. LeBron was only awarded 5 trips to the charity stripe down from the 24 he received in Game 2. This is not a trend the Celtics should count on to continue.
The Celtics will need those things and the rebounding disparity to repeat themselves if they want to even the series on Sunday in Game 4.
In the post-game presser Rondo was asked how the Celtics would gain some consistency after not being able to string together 2 wins in a row in the Philadelphia series. Rondo ever defiant quickly blurted back “We didn’t lose back to back games either (in the Philly series)…it’s a different series…we are going to go out and defend our home court”.
A loss and the Celtics will be facing elimination in Miami on Tuesday. I am sure Boston doesn’t want Sunday to be the last time they see their home crowd. For them its always about Celtics pride.
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