Big Three carry Celtics in Game 3


Big Three carry Celtics in Game 3

By A. Sherrod Blakely

BOSTON Every now and then, the Boston Celtics' Big Three teaches us all a lesson on how when the C's are on their game, they're pretty tough to beat.

Consider Saturday's 97-81 win over the Miami Heat in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semi-final matchup a refresher course.

It was a game in which the Celtics got strong play from just about every player who suited up.

But that strong play was fueled by the play of their starters; specifically the Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

The trio combined to score 70 points on Saturday compared to just 44 for the Heat's Big Three.

Leading the C's three-man charge was the man who has led the Celtics' 15-man squad - Paul Pierce.

He had 21 points, but scored eight of Boston's first 10 points against the Heat.

In the first, the C's opened with an 18-7 run with all 18 points scored by backups.

"Paul Pierce set the tone, at the beginning of the game," said coach Doc Rivers. "Just the force that he was playing with."

He wasn't the only Celtic playing with force.

Whether it was Chris Bosh or Joel Anthony, Garnett was unstoppable on Saturday.

Rivers was pleased with most of Garnett's shots coming from spots he is most comfortable with.

"That was nice to see," Rivers said.

Garnett being more assertive stemmed from his belief that in order for the Celtics to be successful, he has to at times take upon a greater role offensively.

"I felt like I've been non-existent pretty much offensively in this series," Garnett said. "Tonight was a little more focused on offense versus defense. I thought I did a good job of balancing out, to be honest."

Garnett was especially effective in the third quarter, which is when he scored 14 of his game-high 28 points.

In the third, Garnett wound up playing the entire quarter - something Celtics head coach Doc Rivers rarely does.

With Game 3 being a must-win game and Glen Davis continuing to struggle offensively, Rivers had little choice but to ride the hot hand of Garnett.

"Only place we could go," was how Rivers described his decision to go with a steady diet of Garnett.

It was clear that Garnett was having one of those hot-shooting nights when very little went against him.

"I won't call it a zone," Garnett said. "I've been in a zone and that wasn't it. I had a nice rhythm going. Guys looked for me. I've got to continue to be aggressive. It gives us force and another source for scoring."

And with Allen contributing a solid 15 points which included a couple of huge 3s, the Celtics gave us all a refresher course on why the Celtics' Big Three is still a force to be reckoned with.

"This is a championship team, they (Celtics) play with that championship DNA that they have," said Miami's Dwyane Wade. "We can learn a lot from that effort that they put forward tonight."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Celtics force overtime, come up short in 127-123 loss to Blazers

Celtics force overtime, come up short in 127-123 loss to Blazers

BOSTON – For the second time in as many games, the Boston Celtics ran into a team that played with a greater sense of desperation.

And the result was yet another defeat as the Portland Trail Blazers, playing their second game in less than 24 hours, were able to get off their losing skid with a 127-123 overtime win over the Celtics.

Boston (26-17) has now lost back-to-back games at home, while the Blazers (19-27) snapped a four-game losing streak.

In the extra session, Portland jumped out to a 117-113 lead only for Boston’s Al Horford scoring on a bank-shot in the paint and Thomas draining a go-ahead 3-pointer for Boston.

Portland regained the lead when Al-Farouq Aminu made a pair of free throws with 59.3 seconds to play to make it a 119-118 game.

Boston soon fell behind 122-118, but a pair of Thomas free throws with 44.8 seconds to play made it a two-point game.

Mason Plumlee scored with 24 seconds to play in overtime, and an Al Horford miss – rebounded by Plumlee who was then fouled by Horford – essentially put the game away with 13.5 seconds to play.

Boston found themselves down late in the fourth quarter and seemingly headed towards defeat, only to get an unexpected lift in the final seconds from Terry Rozier.

Trailing by three points late in the fourth, Boston had one last chance to force overtime so who did they turn to?

If you were thinking Thomas which is what the Blazers and most fans were thinking, you would have been dead wrong.

The fourth quarter may be Thomas’ time to shine, but at that point in the game it was Rozier’s moment as he drained a 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds left that ultimately forced overtime. He finished with 15 points, three rebounds and three assists off the bench.

The Blazers came into the game with the kind of potent scoring punch in the backcourt that strikes the fear into the heart of any defense, let alone one that has been as up and down as the Boston Celtics this season.

For most of the game, Portland’s 1-2 punch of Damian Lillard (28 points) and C.J. McCollum (35 points) lived up to the lofty billing as they combined for 63 points.

McCollum and Lillard both did their share of damage down the stretch, but it was their bench – specifically Meyers Leonard – whose play kept Portland in the game early on.

He finished with 17 points off the bench.

Boston led 65-56 at the half, but soon found itself in a 67-all game after McCollum made the second of two free throws.

But Boston countered with a put-back basket by Kelly Olynyk and a 3-pointer from Isaiah Thomas to push Boston’s lead to 72-67.

Once again the Blazers fought back and eventually took the lead 74-72 on a powerful put-back dunk by Haverill (Mass.) native Noah Vonleh.

Brad Stevens had seen enough of his team getting pushed around, as he called a time-out with 5:31 to play in the quarter.

It didn’t help as Portland continued to bully their way around the rim for second and third-shot opportunities with their lead peaking at 78-72 following a put-back basket by  Plumlee.

But the Celtics responded with a 7-2 spurt capped off by an end-to-end, driving lay-up by Rozier that cut Portland’s lead to 80-79 with 2:44 to play in the quarter. Boston continued to be within striking distance as the third quarter ended with the Celtics trailing 88-86.