Celtics' plan to go to Garnett pays off

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Celtics' plan to go to Garnett pays off

BOSTON The Boston Celtics were intent on getting the ball into the hands of Kevin Garnett a lot.

Why?

Because from what they had seen through the first two games, there wasn't a whole lot Miami could do with Garnett once he had the ball in the post.

Garnett had his way around the basket for most of the night as the Celtics climbed back into this Eastern Conference finals series with a 101-91 victory.

They now trail the Heat 2-1 in the best-of-seven series with Game 4 in Boston on Sunday and Game 5 at Miami on Tuesday.

Garnett had another strong game with 24 points and 11 rebounds.

More impressive than the scoring, was where the majority of his points came from.

Of Garnett's 10 made baskets, seven came within a couple feet of the rim, as clear an indicator as to where the Celtics wanted to go - down low to Garnett, a lot.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers had stressed to his players to get the ball to Garnett as much as possible in the post.

"Nobody can jump as high as Kevin," said C's point guard Rajon Rondo, with a number of his game-high 10 assists being passes to Garnett.

And it didn't seem to matter who the Heat put on Garnett.

Ronny Turiaf. Joel Anthony. Udonis Haslem. Even LeBron James.

It was pointless.

None of them could stop Garnett from controlling the action around the basket which factored heavily into Boston outscoring the Heat, 58-46, on points in the paint.

"He played great," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "They established him deep in the paint."

There was at least one Heat player who didn't seem all that impressed with Garnett's scoring.

"I don't really think he killed us one-on-one," said Haslem. "I think it was free throws and a couple of late shots down the stretch. I don't really think we had bad defense on KG. As a team, we just didn't defend well and they knocked down shots; and we gave them shots we wouldn't normally give them."

Garnett's strong game was due in part to the predicament that the C's came into the game facing.

After having lost the first two games in Miami, Garnett understands just how important Game 3 was for the C's to have any shot at rallying back to win this series.

"Desperation game, to be honest," Garnett said. "And we played like it, too. You don't want to be down 3-0 to a team like this. Very, very good team, very talented team, well coached team. I feel like we played desperation basketball."

As dominant as Garnett was, he did take his share of bumps and bruises.

At one point in the game, Garnett took a hard foul from Udonis Haslem. Moments later while still on the floor, Garnett began to do push-ups on his knuckles.

"As an athlete, you have to get yourself going, especially when you get knocked down, you don't want your opponent to see you vulnerable," said C's guard Keyon Dooling. "So that was his opportunity to show them that they can keep hitting him. He loves it. he plays a lot of mental games with himself, and with others."

There were other instances where Garnett got tangled up with Heat players who suspected Garnett was trying to get under their skin whether it be trash talking or physical play.

"That's his game," said Heat guard Mario Chalmers. "We (have) to stick to our plan, not worry about him or let him get in our heads; which we didn't."

Maybe so, but he certainly got into the heads - and hearts - of Celtics Nation who seem to feed off his energy and intensity.

But in Game Three, the roles in many ways were reversed as the boisterous crowd seemed to provide even more energy - if that's even possible - to Garnett.

"We're playing at home, we have to give it our all out and it will be all-out," Garnett said. "The jungle was rocking' tonight. I want to thank all the fans who came out. (Expletive) jungle was rockin' tonight! I loved it. (Expletive) loved it."

WATCH: Celtics vs. Rockets

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Rockets

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics play the Rockets in Houston. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by McDonald's on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game Preview: Get ready for 3-point showdown

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Celtics-Rockets preview: Get ready for 3-point showdown

Celtics-Rockets preview: Get ready for 3-point showdown

Earlier this month the Boston Celtics took a season-high 42 three-pointers in a game which raised a few eyebrows. 

And you know what?

No one would be surprised if the Celtics (12-8) surpassed that total tonight when they face the Houston Rockets who have set the pace when it comes to launching 3-point bombs in the NBA this season with 37.0 attempts per game. 

The Celtics aren’t too far behind, averaging 30.8 three-pointers which ranks fifth in the NBA.

But what makes these two teams so unique is that in addition to taking a lot of 3s, they also rank among the NBA’s leaders when it comes to knocking them down. 

The Rockets (13-7) make an NBA-high 14.0 three-pointers per game while the Celtics are fifth in the league with 11.1 made 3s per game. 

And the key to that stat is that both teams shoot a surprisingly high percentage from 3-point range as well. 

Houston’s 37.8 percent from 3-point range is the fifth-best mark in the NBA while the Celtics shoot 36.0 percent on 3's which ranks 10th in the league. 

So what does all this 3-ball shooting mean? 

It means get your popcorn ready for what should be one of the more exciting, high-scoring games on the Boston Celtics’ schedule this season.

Here are some other key stats to keep tabs on during tonight’s game. 

 

FIRST QUARTER SCORING

There is no team in the NBA better at jumping on you from the outset, then Houston. They lead the NBA in first-quarter scoring with 31.2 points per game while shooting 51.9 percent in the quarter which is also tops in the NBA. But there’s a downside to their first quarter success. Houston’s first quarter defense is pretty bad, ranking 27th in the league in first-quarter points allowed (28.5) while allowing teams to shoot a league-worst 52.3 percent from the field in the game’s first 12 minutes. 

 

FOURTH QUARTER SCORING

As impressive as Houston is to start games, the Boston Celtics are just as dominant offensively in the fourth quarter. Boston averages a league-best 29.1 points per game in the fourth compared to the Rockets whose 24.4 points in the fourth ranks 21st in the NBA. Boston’s strong finish to games is aided by a defense that seems to save its best work for the fourth quarter. Opponents are shooting just 40.6 percent against the Celtics in the fourth which ranks as the third-best fourth quarter defense in the NBA.

 

OFFENSIVE REBOUND PERCENTAGE

Boston’s struggles on the boards are well documented which includes - but is certainly not limited to - offensive rebounding. The Rockets will present a major problem to Boston when it comes to trying to avoid Houston getting second and third-shot opportunities. The Rockets rank fifth in the NBA in second-chance points (15.3) per game while the Celtics’ defense allows 15.2 second-chance points which ranks 27th in the league. And Boston’s offensive rebounding percentage for opponents ranks dead-last in the NBA at .265.

 

BALL MOVEMENT

Both teams rank among the league leaders in assists per game with Boston’s 24.4 assists per game average No. 2 in the NBA and Houston’s 24.3 assists ranks fourth. But more telling is how the Celtics rely more heavily on keeping the ball moving, more so than the Rockets. You see this in Boston averaging 329.2 passes per game which ranks third in the NBA while the Rockets’ 273.5 passes per game average is 29th in the league. Still, Houston’s passing game is to be respected especially when you consider the lofty assists numbers they’ve racked up in addition to them getting 59.2 points created via the assist according to nba.com/stats

 

TURNOVERS

These two are at opposite ends of the basketball world when it comes to turnovers. Boston commits 12.3 per game which is the fourth-fewest committed in the NBA while the Rockets are turning the ball over 16.1 times per game and that ranks 27th in the league. And these two remain widely far apart in the fourth quarter which is when the Celtics turn the ball over a league-low 2.2 times per game in the fourth while Houston turns the ball more than twice as much (4.5) which ranks 29th in the league.