On Friday night, the proud Celtics wouldn’t say die, and behind 24 points from Kevin Garnett and 23 points from Paul Pierce, Boston held off a late Miami charge to secure a 101-91 victory to get on the board in the Eastern Conference Finals. They now trail two games to one, with Game 4 set for Sunday night at 8:30 P.M. Eastern.
The Celtics led by only two points (30-28) after the first quarter, but gradually cranked it up, taking a 13-point lead into the locker room and then stretching the lead to 22 after three quarters at 85-63. Miami tried to close the gap in the fourth, but could get no closer than eight points.
Garnett and Pierce, the two proud veterans, led the way for Boston, and Rajon Rondo, who scored 44 points in the Game 2 loss and played all 53 minutes, scored 21 points on an efficient 9-of-16 shooting, while handing out ten assists against just two turnovers. The Celtics also got a solid scoring punch from their bench, with Marquis Daniels scoring nine points and Keyon Dooling adding seven.
LeBron James led Miami with 34 points, while Dwyane Wade scored 18, and Mario Chalmers added 14. Mike Miller, who has struggled with his shot at times this season, hit three three-pointers off the bench en route to 11 points.
The Boston Celtics entered the playoffs as the fourth seed and eliminated fifth-seeded Atlanta in six games before outlasting their division rivals, the 76ers, in a seven-game series that saw the two teams alternate wins.
The Celtics then dropped the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Miami Heat and, after suffering an excruciating overtime loss in Game 2, it looked like Miami was going to ride the momentum from that victory to a quick series victory before resting up for the NBA Finals.
Had they not emerged victorious, Game 3 might have been the penultimate contest in the Allen-Garnett-Pierce Era. Garnett and Allen are set to be free agents. The three players who revitalized Celtics basketball in 2008 and brought the team its 17th championship — most in NBA history and the team’s first since 1986 — instead continue to fight on.
Will the Celtics come out strong again with the support of the home crowd and tie this series? Or, in keeping with last year’s playoff series, will Miami steal Game 4 and fly back to South Beach with a 3-1 series lead?