Reporting Tim Kephart
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BOSTON (CBSMiami) – It’s not a Game 7, but for the Boston Celtics, Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat may be just as big. The Celtics know they need to leave it all on the floor and pull out a win Friday or else the series is likely over.
The Celtics have had their epitaph written many times before this series. Each time, they came back and made everyone a believer. But, the odds are definitely stacked against Boston heading into Game 3.
Only 14 teams in NBA history have rallied from a 0-2 deficit in a best-of-seven series to win the series. Boston hasn’t pulled off the feat since 1969.
“We still know we have to play better,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “But I think our guys know now that we can play (with Miami). I think our guys are very confident going into Game 3.”
Boston does have the Big Four in point guard Rajon Rondo, forward Paul Pierce, guard Ray Allen, and forward Kevin Garnett. Combined, the group scored 96 points in Game 2, which was a record for any game they’ve played together. Forty-four of those points came from Rondo alone.
Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra admitted the team has no idea how to fully stop Rondo, but said there are things the Heat can try. Spoelstra said, though, that Rondo will not be completely shut down.
For the Celtics, they have to get a similar performance out of Rondo and get better shooting from Pierce and Allen. Boston is also expected to try to force the ball inside to Garnett, who the Heat have had trouble trying to stop in Games 1 & 2.
Miami’s formula is simple: put one part LeBron James, one part Dwyane Wade into a pot and stir in productive play from the Heat’s role players. LeBron and Wade have been playing at another level since Chris Bosh went down to injury and the Heat will need that again in Game 3.
Speaking of Bosh, he is traveling with the team to continue treatment on his strained lower abdominal muscle. Bosh did light work with the team and went through the tea’s walkthrough. The Heat are also scheduled to practice Saturday, when Bosh could get more work with the team.
Wade and LeBron James don’t need to be reminded that a two-game lead in a series – while it usually means good things – doesn’t guarantee much of anything. Wade led a Heat comeback from a 2-0 series deficit against Dallas in the 2006 NBA finals. James rallied his Cleveland team from two games down to win the Eastern Conference crown a year later against Detroit.
“All we did was win two at home,” Wade said. “That’s a very good team over there that we know is going to give us everything – their all – come the next four days when they get two at home in Boston.”
Rivers knows there are tons of questions about the future of the Celtics, especially if they lose a one-sided series to Miami for the second straight year. The Heat needed five games to oust Boston in last season’s East semifinals.
He dismissed all the what-happens-next talk, saying that if the Heat fall in this series, they’ll likely see some major roster turnover as well. For now, he’s locked in on just taking the memory of Game 2 and trying to get back on track in Game 3.