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NBA PLAYOFFS

Celtics get back in series with 101-91 victory over Heat

Kevin Garnett scores 24 points and Boston cuts its deficit in Eastern Conference finals to 2-1. LeBron James scores 34 points for Miami.

June 01, 2012|By Ira Winderman
  • Boston forward Kevin Garnett, left, and Miami forward LeBron James battle for position under the basket during the Celtics' 101-91 victory in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on Friday.
Boston forward Kevin Garnett, left, and Miami forward LeBron James battle… (C.J. Gunther / EPA )

BOSTON — This time neither the third quarter nor LeBron James could save the Miami Heat.

This time Dwyane Wade started slow and never fully found his stride.

This time the Boston Celtics got something from their bench, an equitable share of foul calls and something they seemingly always get against the Heat, a homecourt victory.

Shaking off Wednesday's overtime loss at AmericanAirlines Arena and surviving a Heat rally from 24 down in the fourth quarter, the Celtics returned to TD Garden and held on for a 101-91 victory Friday night to close the gap in these best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals to 2-1.

"They got us tonight," Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We still have a golden opportunity and we know that."

With James scoring 34 points but receiving little support through the first three quarters, the Heat went cold midway through the first half and never could fully recover from a 15-0 Boston burst that bridged the opening two periods.

"The difference was our defensive energy," Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said.

And the Heat's miserable foul shooting, this time 10 for 20 from the line, with Wade failing to get to the line in the playoffs for the first time since he was a rookie in 2004.

"We'll be more aggressive," Spoelstra said of James and Wade combining for a single point from the foul line Friday.

Unlike the previous games in the five-game winning streak the Heat carried into the night, there was no double-digit third-quarter dominance. Instead, up 55-42 at halftime, the Celtics extended their lead to 84-63 going into the fourth quarter.

Wade, limited to two points in Tuesday's first half, this time scored only six over the opening two periods, often forced to ballhandle east-west instead of being able to gain a head of steam to the rim. He closed with 18, the first time in 13 playoff games he failed to score 20 or more against the Celtics.

"They've been very aggressive trying to get the ball out of his hands," Spoelstra said.

This time there were no complaints about an inequity in foul calls, because there wasn't one, with 24 fouls on each team.

The upshot was the Heat's 14th loss in its last 15 visits to the Garden, counting regular season and postseason. The lone breakthrough during that run was during last season's playoffs, something the Heat hope to emulate Sunday in Game 4.

"We feel we can win on the road," Spoelstra said. "We know this is a tough place to play."

The Celtics entered aware that no team has overcome an 0-3 deficit to win a best-of-seven NBA playoff series.

The Celtics are now 7-1 at home in the postseason.

For the Celtics, not only were there 24 points from center Kevin Garnett and 23 from forward Paul Pierce, but enough of a boost from the bench to push to an early lead. The Celtics got eight points off their bench in the first quarter after getting seven in all of Wednesday's overtime loss. The insertion of forward Marquis Daniels into their rotation made a tangible difference.

"There was great energy all night," Rivers said. "Now we've got to come back and do it again."

With sufficient scoring support, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo not only got the opportunity to rest during the game, after playing all 53 minutes in Game 3, but was able to switch his focus to playmaking after scoring 44 points in Game 2. This time he closed with 21 points and 10 assists.

Down 24 early in the fourth quarter, the Heat finally found its stride, with the second of consecutive Mike Miller three-point shots drawing the Heat within 91-80 with seven minutes to play. The surge came with James at center.

iwinderman@tribune.com

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