The Boston Celtics aren’t going to go quietly in the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals. Following in the mold of Oklahoma City out West, the Celtics responded to the home crowd by delivering a strong effort in a must-win spot over Miami and took Game 3 101-91 and cut the Heat’s series lead to 2-1.
Boston’s not been known for it’s rebounding, but they beat Miami to the glass consistently on Friday night, with a 44-32 advantage. Kevin Garnett owned the paint with 24 points/11 rebounds, while Paul Pierce stepped up with 23 of this own. As far as the Heat were concerned, LeBron James might has well have made the trip himself. LeBron dropped 34 and grabbed eight rebounds, but Dwayne Wade had a pedestrian (for him) 18 points and Shane Battier, Rony Turiaf and Joel Anthony managed to get through the game without anyone noticing them. This game was, in essence, Miami’s give-back of Game 1, when a tired Celtics team played flat for every quarter but one and the Heat won easily. This is no small thing—if you believe that close games will mostly balance themselves out, to give back a blowout is a big concession in a short series.
Oklahoma City looks to go from “back on the radar” to “firmly in the hunt to win the series” when they host San Antonio in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals tonight. If the Spurs are going to bounce back they absolutely must get Tim Duncan back in the flow of the offense and Duncan must get himself back to controlling the glass. In an ideal world, San Antonio would also tighten up defensively, but that’s been a spotty area throughout the playoffs. For their part, OkC shouldn’t count on forcing 21 turnovers like they did in Game 3. The Thunder need a big game from Kevin Durant, who hasn’t gone off in this series the way he did at key points against Dallas and the LA Lakers in earlier rounds. And to continue the ideal world theme, they could use a big game offensively from Russell Westbrook, but what’s more important is they need Westbrook to focus on distribution and defense if his shot is not falling.