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Sunday, May 8, 2011

This series is not over, hell Gumby Rondo came back from the dead

I knew that the Boston Celtics had way too much pride to get swept or go down in flames as badly as they looked in Games 1-2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Miami Heat.

Last night, in Game 3 at TD Garden, the Celts won 97-81 to cut the Heat's series lead to 2-1.

The crazy part was that Boston seemed to be doomed when Rajon Rondo (11 assists) went down with a dislocated elbow in the third quarter after an awkward fall with Dwyane Wade (23 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds). After Rondo was scraped off the parquet, you could feel the crowd and team collectively think "I can't believe this is how it's going to end."

This is the NBA though which loves the drama and Rondo somehow returned to action after the Celtics trainers popped his elbow back in place in the locker room. Paul Pierce's (27 points) wheelchair from the 2008 NBA Finals wasn't even needed.

With Game 4 tomorrow night, it'll be interesting to see how Rondo is feeling after the adrenaline wore off. That elbow is going to be really sore; after he came back last night he was basically playing with one arm (truly bonkers stuff).

Last night will always be remembered for Rondo's truly heroic (I try to never overuse that word either) performance but it also served as Kevin Garenett's resurrection. After playing terrible in Game 1 and o.k. in Game 2, KG (game-high 28 points, 18 rebounds) just eviscerated Chris Bosh (6 points, 5 rebounds) in a matchup that Boston has to win to get by the Heat.

Given the stakes of the contest, it will go down as one of Garnett's best games ever for the Celtics. Similarly, the Celtics defense really stepped up after they looked old and slow in Miami.

LeBron James was basically a non-factor, which is almost impossible to do. He had 15 points, seven rebounds, five blocks and four assists. Mario Chalmers (17 points) and Joel Anthony (12 points, 11 rebounds) actually had the best games for the Heat which is good for those two but not a positive sign for Miami as a whole.

It was the Garnett and Pierce show with a great supporting role by Rondo but Ray Allen also added 15 points. Delonte West played well off the bench with 11 points. Shaquille O'Neal even had a basket in his return after missing over a month of action.

The Celtics got off to a quick start and led 27-21 after the first quarter. The Heat responded with a strong second quarter (25-17) and a 46-44 halftime advantage. Boston played their best quarter of the series (28-15) in the third and kept the lead in double-digits in the fourth (25-20).

For the game, Boston shot 50.0% to 42.5% for Miami. The Celtics hit four more 3-pointers (9-5) and grabbed three more rebounds (39-36). Thanks to Rondo, the Cs had seven more assists (27-20) while the Heat had two more steals (9-7) and five more blocks (9-4). The underrated key to the game was the fact that Boston had a 13-point (18-5) advantage in fast break points. Miami turned into a jump-shooting team and when that happens, they're very beatable.

Game 4 is also a must-win for the Celtics. They need to get the job done again and put all the pressure back on the Heat (who are front-runners as far as we know). Hopefully Rondo can give Boston something since his presence alone makes such a difference for the team.

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