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Celtics Punch Back

The Miami Heat withstood an early Boston Celtics run to take a 46-44 lead into halftime. Throughout the second half, the Celtic players thumped their chests and yelled for the crowd to make noise. Boston beat Miami 97-81 to cut Miami’s series lead to just 2-1 and get right back in the series.

The Celtics won this game in the third quarter, when Boston took momentum and ran with it. Paul Pierce made a 3-pointer to give the Celtics a 58-50 lead early in the second half, prompting Erik Spoelstra to call a timeout. Pierce guarded LeBron James right from the in-bounds pass, forcing him into an offensive foul. Kevin Garnett made a hook shot on Boston’s subsequent possession, extending the lead to double digits. The Celtics never looked back from there, even with Rajon Rondo suffering a dislocated left shoulder. Of course, he came back in the fourth and toyed with the Heat defense with just one good arm.

Who should take the blame for the loss? Is it Spoelstra, who continues to roll out Mike Bibby and Zydrunas Ilgauskas as starters when Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony are better options? Is it Chris Bosh, who looked like a lost puppy out there, shooting 1-of-6 from the field and grabbing five rebounds in 30 minutes? Is it LeBron James, whose stat line tonight resembled his often-maligned performance in Game 5 of the Cavaliers/Celtics series a year ago?

Photo by Elsa/Getty ImagesEveryone should get shared amounts of credit and blame. Bosh cannot let Garnett obliterate him in the power forward match-up; the 2004 NBA MVP turned back the clock to record 28 points on 13-of-20 shooting from the field and 18 rebounds. On numerous plays, Garnett received the ball close to the basket, backed down his man – whether it was Bosh or Anthony – and made a turnaround hook. Bosh needs to do more of that, and part of the blame has to go to Bosh’s teammates for seemingly forgetting about him on multiple possessions. The Heat’s slender power forward should draw comparisons to Garnett, not Pau Gasol. Spoelstra’s move to bench Bosh in the latter stages of the game was the right move.

Chalmers and Anthony both played very well. The third-year point guard out of Kansas had 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field, and Anthony made his first six shots to finish with 12 points and 11 rebounds. It’s time for Spoelstra to change the lineup. During one sequence in the third quarter, Mike Bibby passed up an open 3-point shot to pass it to Wade on the 3-point line. If Bibby makes those kinds of plays, why is he even on the court?

And as for Ilgauskas, the Heat could play Jamaal Magloire or Erick Dampier at the five and it woudn’t make much of a difference. The 35-year-old center cannot knock down those 17-footers he hit earlier in the year. Spoelstra should start Anthony and then go small and use Bosh at the five when Anthony needs rest.

It’s disappointing to see the Heat play so badly on a night that could have taken the spirit out of the Celtics. Instead, Boston now has a ton a confidence going into Game 4 Monday night. The Heat still have a chance to steal one in Boston, but Miami may be in for a long series now.