After a gut wrenching loss that saw the road team lose a 15 point lead at one point and blow a phenomenal performance from Rajon Rondo, the Celtics came into TD Gardens Friday night with their backs against the wall. It’s hard to imagine a better recent playoff performance in a loss than Rondo’s 16-24 for 44 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds and 3 steals including 10-12 from shots 16 feet or farther out and 10-12 from the line. Lebron James and the Heat knew they could have a stranglehold on the series with a game 3 win and conversely Boston knows a loss means a situation that no team has ever comeback from in a 3-0 deficit.
The first quarter was an fast paced affair, something unexpected from two defensive-oriented teams. Lebron took over early with 16 points on 7-12 shooting and multiple And-1 opportunities but Boston took a 30-28 lead after the first quarter thanks to opportunistic turnovers forced and turned into easy transition points.
In the second quarter, the Celtics pulled away and stretched the lead to as much as 15 points in the first half. Miami went 12 straight possessions spanning the 1st and 2nd quarters without a score while the Celtics went on a 15-0 run. Boston lived in the paint in the first half with 32 points there, which was more than they had in all 53 minutes of Game 2. The Celtics looked crisper and a step quicker, which has to be a worry for the Heat going forward, and held a 55-42 halftime advantage.
The third quarter was more of the same, as things began to go way downhill for Miami. The lead was 24 by the early parts of the 4th quarter. However a fire was lit under the Heat and they went on a 14-2 run that included 2 big 3’s by Mike Miller. Most interesting was the extremely small lineup Erik Spoelstra utilized with Lebron James at the center. Lebron had not played at the 5 all season long according to 82games.com. Shane Battier and Mike Miller were spot up, longrange shooting forwards and Mario Chalmers fed Dwyane Wade for cuts to the hole in that group that played most of the fourth.
Miami was able to bring the game to within 8 a couple of times. However, a key drive by Rajon Rondo with 1:38 and a spot up jumpshot by Garnett with 56 seconds left stretched the lead to 12 and put the game out of reach.
The game was predictably chippy with many fouls and LeBron James supposedly talking trash to courtside Boston fans. The unsung player of the game was Marquis Daniels. He had the task of guarding Wade and James for stretches but also contributed on the offensive end.
This game proved the importance of Chris Bosh in this series. The Celtics were one of the worst rebounding teams all season long but had 44 boards to Miami’s 32 as well as the large discrepancy in points in the paint in their favor. The road team also shot a poor 10-20 from the line and can’t be happy with the lackadaisical play they brought for the first 3 quarters. Game 4 is another shot for them to take complete control of the series but there is no knowing if they’ll have the killer mentality most expect Sunday. Final score Celtics 101, Miami 91.
Miami Leads Series 2-1.