After losing the first two games in Miami, the Celtics defended their home court for the first time in the Eastern Conference Finals Friday night. Big night for LeBron James who had 34 points and grabbed 8 rebounds, but wasn't enough as Garnett lead the Celtics to their first win in the series.
Kevin Garnett had 24 points and 11 rebounds, Paul Pierce scored 23 points and Rajon Rondo added another 21 points and 10 assists for the Celtics to help avoid a 3-0 series deficit. LeBron James had yet another big performance, dropping 16 points in the first quarter, but all the NBA MVP could do is keep the Heat competitive throughout the contest, as Miami went on a 7-minute scoreless stretch in the first half.
Dwyane Wade added another 18 points, helping close the deficit in the fourth quarter, but it was a little late for Miami to come back. Mario Chalmers had 14 points and six assists for Miami. Shane Battier was scoreless, missing all six shots.
Miami came small to this game with Chris Bosh still out with an abdominal strain and Garnett found the way to turn his height advantage into points and rebounds. The Celtics made 58 points in the painted area after averaging only 32 in the first two games and out-rebounded the Heat 44-32.
The game went off to a quick start in the first quarter as the tempo was fast and the ball kept going back and forth on the court. LeBron James was red-hot in the first minutes while Dwayne Wade started slow, just as he did in Game 2. Miami then went scoreless for 7 minutes late in the first and early in the second quarter and Boston took advantage of that, making a 15-0 run and turning a six-point deficit to a nine-point lead. Boston outscored Miami to 25-14 in the second quarter.
There were some terrific individual defensive plays from both teams in the first half. The ball kept moving around fast and this resulted to some nice blocks. The Celtics had a 13-point, 42-55 lead at halftime.
They never looked back after that.
The Celtics extended their lead in the third quarter, taking a 24-point lead into the fourth. Miami then came back to make it an 8-point deficit with the help of Mike Miller, who scored three 3-pointers. The Heat lost the hope of a comeback though after James turning it over and missing a 3-pointer in the last 2 minutes of the game. Then Wade missed, Ray Allen grabbed the rebound and passed it to Rajon Rondo, who drove it to the basket on a fast break to make it 99-89. Rondo came off a terrific effort in Game 2, where he had 44 points, played all 53 minutes of the game and had 9-16 field goals.
Doc Rivers didn’t have much to tell to Rondo after that game. "I'm like a pitcher throwing a no-hitter: You stay away from that joker," Rivers said. "The guy scored 44 points; what can I possibly tell him?"
The only advice the coach gave Rondo was to pass the ball low to Garnett. Most of Garnett’s baskets came from a lob passes under the rim. This one of the keys for Boston to unlock Miami defense and win the first series game they played at their home, TD Garden.
Coming up next for the Eastern Conference Finals it’s Game 4 in Boston Sunday, June 3rd.