David Butler II/US Presswire
Dwyane Wade looks for room to move against Rajon Rondo during Game 3.The Boston Celtics will look to tie up the Eastern Conference finals when they host the Miami Heat in Game 4 on Sunday night at TD Garden (8:30 p.m., ESPN). To preview the matchup, we play a game of 3-on-3 with ESPN Boston's Greg Payne and CelticsHub's Brian Robb:
1. Beyond force-feeding KG in the post, what was most important aspect of Boston's Game 3 win?
Payne: Reserve help. In Games 1 and 2, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade put up their usual numbers, but it was guys like Mike Miller, Shane Battier, and Udonis Haslem who really helped to sink Boston, while the C's didn't get that same production from the non-Big Four. But in Game 3, Marquis Daniels and Keyon Dooling stepped up in a big way and look at the impact it had on the game as a whole. They helped to swing the momentum on both sides of the ball in Boston's favor, and it took pressure off of guys like Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, who obviously have difficult matchups in this series.
Robb: Boston winning the battle of the boards. After Miami burned the Celts with numerous second-chance opportunities that provided them with pivotal points in Games 1 and 2, Boston responded with more urgency on the glass in Game 3. Despite playing the majority of the game with a smaller lineup, the C's were able to dominate down low, outrebounding Miami 44-32 for the contest. Perhaps more importantly, Boston limited the Heat to just six offensive rebounds and seven second-chance points, while helping themselves to 12 second-chance points of their own.
Forsberg: There's an awful lot to like, including Boston limiting its turnovers (12 for a mere nine points) and not allowing a lot of easy points at the rim. Oh sure, Miami scored 48 points in the paint, but Wade and James combined for a mere five free throws (all James, and he missed four of them), so the Celtics didn't 1) Allow the superstar duo to get near the rim and 2) Didn't just hack away at them when they did. You can't allow the supporting cast to go crazy (as Payne points out), but if others are getting a few hard-earned paint points at the expense of forcing Wade and James to shoot jumpers all game, the Celtics will take it.
2. What else will you be focused on in Game 4?
Payne: I'll still be watching Rajon Rondo. His performances in Game 2 and 3 were clearly different from one another, yet both were so instrumental in Boston's overall efforts for those outings. Everyone needs to contribute in this series, and even when Kevin Garnett has the sense to wreak havoc in the post, Rondo still needs to run the show and find the right balance of producing for himself and keeping everyone else involved.
Robb: Rajon Rondo. He's the one player the Heat still do not have an answer for and his play over the past two games has been phenomenal. In order for Boston to win this series, Rondo needs to be a consistent scoring threat and stay in attack mode so he can open up the floor for his teammates. Miami undoubtedly will try to make some adjustments to limit the All-Star point guard in Game 4, but another top-notch performance from the 25-year-old means the C's will likely tie up this series.
Forsberg: Garnett. You might remember how KG went off for 28 points and 18 rebounds in a Game 3 victory a year ago against the Heat. That made it 2-1 and Boston had a chance to even things up on its home court. What happened? Garnett went 1 for 10 from the floor in Game 4 and the Celtics endured an overtime loss. By now we know the secret for Boston's success: When KG has a big game, Boston wins. It's that simple and no one else can say that. The Celtics need him to continue to be a force around the basket and exploit the Chris Bosh-less Heat (who might not be Bosh-less for very long if Garnett goes off again).
3. Fact or fiction: If Boston wins Game 4, it wins this series.
Payne: Fiction. Even if this series gets locked up at two games apiece, nothing is guaranteed for the Celtics. They have to win at least one game on the road to make it to the next round, and until they do that, they won't have proven a whole lot in this series. If they take Games 4 and 5, then, yes, the series is theirs.
Robb: Fact. After a slow start in Game 1, the Celtics appear to have gained increased confidence in each of their past two contests against the Heat. Doc Rivers has made terrific adjustments by highlighting Boston's strengths against a shorthanded Miami frontline. Plus, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce continue to look healthier, and Rondo is showing the kind of consistency he needs to for the Celts to be successful. On a team that has overcome so much turmoil during this season, Boston overcoming the odds from being in a 2-0 hole against Miami would almost be fitting. I picked the Celtics in 7 before the series began, and if the C's win Game 4, that's what I'm sticking with.
Forsberg: Fiction. Though I say that with a whole lot less conviction than I expected. You can make a strong case that the Celtics are the ones that should be up 2-1 at this point if they don't kick away Game 2. If Boston finds a way to tie this series up on Sunday, the Celtics are going to have a whole lot of momentum going back to South Beach. But they still gotta win one on the road -- no small task. Game 3 was a nice win; I need to see it again before I'm convinced the Celtics are back in this series (and have a chance to win it overall). Nothing has come easy for the Celtics this season, but they've been pretty good on not making things very easy on their opponents as well.