The Celtics built a big lead early and held on late to beat the Miami Heat, 101-91 in Game 3, and cut their deficit in the Eastern Conference Finals to 2-1.
Rajon Rondo didn't score 44 points like he did in Game 2, but he was in just as much control. While it may not have been a better performance, it was more of a Rondo performance. The Celtics point guard finished with 21 points, 10 assists, and 6 assists. Just as in Game 2, he was efficient, hitting 9 of 16 shots from the floor. Ye He was 7 of 10 in the second half.
The Celtics also got huge games from Kevin Garnett (24 points, 11 rebounds) and Paul Pierce (23 points), while Ray Allen chipped in with 10. Two other factors were Boston's bench, which added 19 points, and their rebounding edge, which was 44-32. Marquis Daniels led the reserves with nine points. At the 6:00 mark in the third quarter, Daniels had more points than Miami's Dwyane Wade. The Celtics bench scored 8 points in first quarter after scoring only 7 in all of Game 2.
The Celtics shot 60 percent in the first quarter, committed just one turnover, and did not allow an offensive rebound, but they led by just two after the first. The Heat shot 61 percent from the field themselves, with James leading the way with 16 points.
The second and third quarters were where the Celtics really turned it on, outscoring Miami by a combined 20 points.
James finished with 34 points, while Wade added 18. Game 4 is Sunday night at 8:30 p.m. at TD Garden.
Final: Celtics 101, Heat 91
56.1 seconds 4th quarter, Celtics 101-89: Garnett with the dagger, a 20-footer from the corner. Sasha Pavlovic in for defense.
1:39 4th quarter, Celtics 99-89: Big play by Rondo, who drives to the hoop and scoops for two. The Heat were laying off him and getting out to Boston's shooters, but they gave him way too much space.
3:09 4th quarter, Celtics 95-87: Chalmers gets the 3-point play. Heat are dangerously close.
4:29 4th quarter, Celtics 95-82: Makeup call for the Celtics? Rondo runs into Battier and gets the blocking call.
5:17 4th quarter, Celtics 93-82: Heat are making this interesting. Garnett called for a technical foul swinging his elbow in the direction of Chalmers. Wade dunks on the next possession, but Pierce finds Garnett for a dunk on the other end. The Heat have responded. The Celtics need to answer.
7:37 4th quarter, Celtics 89-77: Mike Miller hits a 3-pointer to make it more interesting.
10:59 4th quarter, Celtics 89-66: When Mickael Pietrus gets an offensive rebound and Ray Allen takes it to the hole and dunks, you know things are going well.
End 3d quarter, Celtics 85-63: Pierce ends the quarter with a 3-pointer. He's got 21 points. Big momentum shot in a quarter where the Celtics not only held onto the momentum from the first half but extended it. Celtics outscore the Heat, 30-21 in the period.
2:42 3d quarter, Celtics 76-57: Rondo intercepts a James pass like a linebacker jumping up and picking off a pass at the line of scrimmage. Drives and gets fouled by Chalmers on the other end. Both teams have taken 15 free throws.
4:11 3d quarter, Celtics 75-56: The Celtics are still shooting 55 percent from the floor. Rondo and Allen both hit little runners in the lane. This sure doesn't look like a team that so often has trouble scoring.
8:14 3d quarter, Celtics 62-44: Pierce is playing like the guy we saw take over Finals games in 2008 and out-duel LeBron in those same playoffs.
9:54 3d quarter, Celtics 59-44: Garnett's got 16 points.
Halftime, Celtics 55-42: Great half for the Celtics. They shoot 51 percent and score 55 points. Ray Allen has two 3-pointers. Kevin Garnett has 12 points and 5 rebounds. Pierce has 15 points. Rondo has 6 points, a far cry from 44, but has 7 assists. The Celtics will take that.
43.5 seconds, Celtics 50-42: James picks up his third personal foul. Quite a turn from Game 2.
5:16 2d quarter, Celtics 41-34:The bench is doing exactly what Doc Rivers wanted: stepping up the defense. They were plus-12 with Daniels on the floor.
7:44 2d quarter, Celtics 39-30: Great run here by the Celtics. Daniels finishes off an offensive rebound with a putback plus one.
8:58 2d quarter, Celtics 32-28: Daniels is giving them big minutes. He just found Garnett with a beautiful lob pass.
On the next possession, Haslem gave Garnett a hard foul. KG stayed down on the floor for a second, then rolled over and did some pushups for the crowd.
End 1st quarter, Celtics 30-28: Marquis Daniels and Keyon Dooling are giving the Celtics valuable minutes as Boston leads after the first quarter. The Celtics are shooting 60 percent, which would be spectacular if the Heat weren't shooting 61 percent.
2:05 1st quarter, Heat 28-25: LeBron is on fire. He's got 16 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists.
4:26 1st quarter, Celtics 20-19: The offense has been good, but Rondo just air-balled a 3-pointer. Might not see 44 points out of him tonight.
5:48 1st quarter, Celtics 17-16: Rondo looks like he got hit on one end, but no call. That leads to a fast break for Miami, and Garnett intentionally wraps up James.
8:11 1st quarter, Celtics 10-7: Brandon Bass picks up his second foul. Celtics are 4 of 7 out of the gate.
11:28 1st quarter, Celtics 2-0: Huge cheer as a foul is called on LeBron James.
Pregame: Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he needs more from his bench, particularly on defense.
"I'd love our bench to give us a couple more minutes," said Rivers. "We are what we are. We're not going to change. It's not going to change. Our defense from our second unit has to be great. The offense is whatever happens ... We don't have a guy that's coming off our bench who's going to give us 30 a night. I kind of knew that going into it. What we have to do is stop the other team from doing that."
The Celtics are down 2-0, so this is essentially a must-win game. Should be a great crowd here at TD Garden. Let's get it.