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.