Celtics turn down Heat with Game 3 win, 101-91

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Celtics turn down Heat with Game 3 win, 101-91

BOSTON It wasn't an elimination game, but a loss on Friday would have put the Boston Celtics in the kind of playoff purgatory no team has ever emerged from.

No worries, folks.

The Celtics' offense was free-flowing once again, and the sometimes-stingy defense was unleashed for most of the night on a Miami Heat team that for a change, looked out of synch for most of the game.

Boston's strong play and Miami's struggles ended with the C's emerging with a much-needed 101-91 win.

The Celtics now trail 2-1 in the best-of-seven series with the Heat, with Game 4 in Boston on Sunday and Game 5 back in Miami on Tuesday.

Boston led by as many as 23 points in the fourth, before a flurry of 3's by Mike Miller cut the Celtics lead to 11 points, and a driving dunk by Dwyane Wade made it a single digit game with less than six minutes to play.

A dunk by Kevin Garnett put the Celtics back on top by double figures, but with more than five minutes to play, what seemed like a C's blowout was now all of a sudden a game once again.

But down the stretch, there was too much Kevin Garnett (24 points, 11 rebounds) and too much Rondo (21 points, 10 assists, six rebounds) for the Heat to handle as the C's improved their home record to 7-1 in the playoffs.

Boston's Game 3 win came on the heels of a Game 2 overtime loss that on many levels, the Celtics felt they should have won.

Regardless, this is now officially a series with the C's looking to do what only one Celtics team (the 1969 squad) in franchise history has ever done - come back and win a series after losing the first two games.

The C's have a ways to go before such talk can become realistic chatter.

For now, they are focused on looking to replicate the many good things they did in Friday's Game Three win.

Boston got an unexpected spark off the bench late in the first quarter when Doc Rivers called upon the seldom-used Marquis Daniels.

He only scored two points, but his activity on defense and all-around hustle seemed to be just the spark the Celtics were desperately needing.

And defensively, he was actually able to do something none of his teammates have done up to this point in the series - slow down LeBron James.

After making seven of his first nine shots, Daniels' defense was instrumental in James missing three of his next four shots.

That enabled the Celtics to go on a 15-0 run with their lead peaking at nine on multiple occasions in the first half.

Maybe the most telling sign of Daniels' impact was when he wasn't on the floor. Daniels was replaced by Paul Pierce at the 6:08 mark.

Eleven seconds later, James scored on a driving lay-up.

It would be one of the few easy baskets for James, who had a respectable 20 points in the first half and yet, clearly he wasn't the biggest difference-maker in the game. He led all players with 34 points.

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.

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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.