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NBA Playoffs: Celtics bounce back, shut down the Heat

May 7, 2011, 10:53 PM EDT

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics - Game Three Getty Images

It looks like the Miami-Boston series might just live up to the hype after all. After looking sluggish and over-matched in the first two games of the series, the Celtics were able to get a convincing 97-81 win over the Heat by doing what they do best: spreading the ball around on offense and playing lock-down defense.

The Celtics were able to get out to an early lead against the Heat’s Bibby/Wade/James/Bosh/Ilgauskas starting lineup, which has been an unmitigated disaster throughout the playoffs; the Heat were outscored by 15 points during Ilgauskas’ eight minutes of floor time. The Heat were able to get back into the game thanks to the spark provided off the bench by Joel Anthony, and actually went into the half with a two-point lead.

At the beginning of the third quarter, the Celtics were once again able to abuse the Heat’s starting lineup, and this time the Heat weren’t unable to dig themselves out of the hole their starters put them in.

Boston’s defense was absolutely stifling. LeBron James had a performance that evoked memories of his abysmal performances against the Celtics in the final games of the 2010 conference semifinals. He shot 6-16 from the floor, and spent most of his time dribbling in no-mans land, either trying to force drives through lanes that weren’t there or tossing up floaters that had little hope of going in. For his part, Chris Bosh was completely invisible, and Bibby and Ilgauskas combined to score a grand total of two points.

Mario Chalmers and Dwyane Wade were able to hit some shots, and Joel Anthony had one of his best offensive games of the season, but that wasn’t nearly enough to make up for the Heat’s big three going a combined 13-38 from the field against a dialed-in Boston defense.

Offensively, Boston was able to move the ball and shoot from the outside with accuracy, but everything ran through Kevin Garnett. Garnett is often the fourth option on offense for the Celtics, but it wasn’t that long ago that he was the league MVP, and Garnett had a throwback performance on Saturday night. The Celtics tossed the ball to Garnett in the post time and time again, and he was able to score over whoever was guarding him with ease.

Rajon Rondo‘s performance was another huge key for the Celtics — his final line was pedestrian, but he gave his team a huge energy boost when he played all-out on one arm after dislocating his left elbow early in the third quarter.

But as good as Garnett and Rondo were, the story of the night was the Celtics’ defense. They completely broke down one of the best offensive teams in the league, and held the “Big Three” to their lowest point total of the season. This is the relentless, swarming, physical brand of defense that the Celtics have been built on ever since they traded for Kevin Garnett and became title contenders, and it’s the type of defense they will need to continue to play if they want to even up this series and send LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to an early vacation for the second year in a row.

As for the Heat, they may need to change up their starting lineup, and they will need to get back to containing Garnett and moving the ball they way they did in Games 1 and 2 — Miami may still have a 1-game lead and home-court advantage, but Boston is too experienced, too talented, too hungry, and too dangerous to be given chances to get back in the series.

  1. nfl25 - May 7, 2011 at 11:10 PM

    is the media not allowed to talk about the fact that dwade did that intentionally? he didnt mean to dislocate his arm but he without a doubt put his legs behind rondo’s legs and pulled him down the ground. that was the biggest b$tch move i have ever seen in pro sports. i used to like dwade but i got no respect for him after watching that.

    • me04015 - May 7, 2011 at 11:33 PM

      Completey agree, I lost all respect for Wade tonight. After intentionally pulling Rondo to the floor Wade had a Disgusted look on his face like he though he drew contact for a fowl. I thought for sure it was a season ending injury.

    • borderline1988 - May 8, 2011 at 1:08 AM

      “Biggest b$tch move in pro sports”

      How 2 years ago (playoffs) when Rondo threw Heinrich into the scorer’s table?

  2. thebigwhitecat - May 7, 2011 at 11:17 PM

    And the final score was?

  3. andyhr17 - May 7, 2011 at 11:24 PM

    The foul was intentional, but it’s not like Wade was thinking to himself he’s gonna snap Rondo’s arm. Maybe in the next game the Celtics will send out Troy Murphy and he will “accidentally” slam Wade into the floor.

  4. jm9ulose - May 7, 2011 at 11:26 PM

    Bottom line as a Heat fan I was tremendously disappointed throughout the second half. Garnett completely dominated Bosh, Pierce outplayed LeBron and Boston’s defense locked the Heat down in the second half. Boston and especially Rondo showed tremendous heart. The only people to show up tonight were Chalmers, Anthony, and to some extent Wade. Bosh has to play more aggressively, period. He played Garnett even in games 1 and 2 but was thoroughly outplayed in game 3. This is now a series…as I thought it would be. But here’s hoping Miami shows more resiliency in game 4. Oh and Rondo is one tough S.O.B. I was impressed.

  5. borderline1988 - May 8, 2011 at 12:12 AM

    Gotta give credit to Rondo.

    Anyone else think Pierce rolling around in pain after nicking the edge of his shoe on a camera amusing?
    His teammate made him look like a 5 year old.

    • andyhr17 - May 8, 2011 at 12:06 PM

      You land awkwardly and have your leg cramp up and see what you look like. He got some work done on the bench and came right back in. Why is it that every time Pierce gets hurt for a second it’s a big deal to people but when ANYONE else cramps up it’s a non-issue/non-joke.

  6. nicosamuelson2 - May 8, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    The biggest bitch move he’s ever seen in pro sports! That is hilarious.

    • nfl25 - May 8, 2011 at 6:56 PM

      is it?

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