Rapid Reaction: C's 101, Heat 91 (Game 3)

David Butler II/US Presswire

The Celtics were ready to play from the opening tip in Game 3.BOSTON -- Rapid reaction after the Boston Celtics defeated the Miami Heat 101-91 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on Friday night at TD Garden (Miami leads the series, 2-1).


Kevin Garnett scored a team-high 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting and added 11 rebounds as the Celtics made an effort to establish him around the basket early and it aided them in building as much as a 24-point lead. Rajon Rondo added 21 points, 10 assists and 6 rebounds, while Paul Pierce kicked in 23 points despite just 7-of-21 shooting over 40 minutes. Boston shot 50 percent (38-of-76) from the floor and dominated on the glass, outrebounding Miami 42-32. LeBron James scored a game-high 34 points on 16-of-26 shooting, but was a bit quiet after a big first quarter. Dwyane Wade chipped in 18 points on 9-of-20 shooting.


A James jumper with 2:15 to play in the first quarter had the Heat out front by six at 28-22, but the Heat would go scoreless for the next 6:47 spanning into the second frame. A 15-0 burst had the Celtics out front 37-28 after a Garnett layup. Despite shooting a mere 27.8 percent (5-of-18) in the second quarter, the Heat stuck around a bit before a 3-pointer by Ray Allen right before the half pushed Boston's lead to a first-half high 13 points (55-42) and prevented Miami from stealing away any momentum. Boston extended its lead in the third quarter with Garnett on the floor, then held on for dear life as Miami trimmed that 24-point cushion to single digits late in the fourth quarter.


Who would have thought that Marquis Daniels would be trending on Twitter midway through Game 3? But after some pregame chatter from Celtics coach Doc Rivers about how Boston could certainly use more from its bench in this series, Daniels responded by chipping in 9 points on 4-of-6 shooting over an inspired 17:19. Daniels gave the team a rare but much-needed bench burst -- with help from Keyon Dooling -- in the first half.


Looking eager to upstage Rondo on the heels of his 44-10-8 effort in Game 2, James came out firing. Not only did he put up 12 shots, but he connected on seven as part of a 16-point first-quarter outburst. It could have been worse; he missed 3 of 4 free throws. The Heat shot 61.1 percent (11-of-18) in the first quarter, but Boston hung around at 60 percent shooting (12-of-20) and actually led 30-28 after the first 12 minutes.


After all the hoopla about the officials during the first two games of the series, the Garden crowd erupted when James drew an early whistle while fouling Rondo just 32 seconds in. James got tagged with three fouls in the first half, falling for the crafty Pierce up-fake late in the half and spending the final 43.5 seconds on the pine.


Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge gave up his usual seat behind the basket near the Boston bench so that Avery Bradley, recovering from left shoulder surgery, could sit in that spot. Bradley, wearing a sling over his left shoulder, got a JumboTron salute with Ozzy Osbourne's "Iron Man" playing to season highlights. It ended with the message: "All Grit. No Quit. Thanks for the effort, Avery." He received a monster ovation and waved at the crowd.


After spilling hard to the ground following a foul under the Boston basket early in the second quarter, Garnett took a minute to collect himself, then rolled over and did a series of eight knuckle push-ups to show he was OK. The fact that Garnett was 5-of-6 shooting for 12 first-half points proved that fact as well. Garnett was the difference in the game, as the Celtics again thrived when he was on the floor and struggled when he wasn't.


The Patriots were well-represented with the likes of Patrick Chung, Stevan Ridley, Kyle Arrington and Devin McCourty in attendance. But Ross Ventrone might have stolen the show, showing up with a four-man entourage all decked out in Greg Stiemsma's No. 54 jerseys. Celtics legends were also in attendance, including John Havlicek and the recently-turned-80-years-old KC Jones. Chris Rock was back in his spot next to Steve Pagliuca.


First off: Exhale (Miami certainly made things interesting). Now put away the brooms and book those return trips to South Beach. The Celtics just made things interesting -- at least for the rest of the weekend. The Celtics came out inspired, and despite taking their foot off the accelerator in the fourth (as usual), they hung on down the stretch. Given Garnett's dominance, it makes you wonder if the Heat will be a little quicker dusting off Chris Bosh if the Celtics come out with another solid effort in Game 4; you can certainly make the case that Boston probably should have won Game 2 and this series might not have been as lopsided as the 2-0 deficit appeared. Now it's 2-1 and Boston has some much-needed confidence with Game 4 looming back here Sunday. The Heat will be left kicking themselves about 10 missed free throws. In a game in which the stats were nearly identical in a lot of categories, those 10 misses defined a 10-point loss.