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Paul Pierce scored 32 points, including a buzzer-beating 21-foot jumper, helping the Boston Celtics defeat the Miami Heat 100-98 at America Airlines Arena in Miami on Friday night.
Through the first three quarters of the game, it was a familiar re-run episode of Celtics vs. Heat. Boston’s “Big Three” and Rajon Rondo, all in double-figures, fueled a balanced offensive attack, while Heat superstar Dwayne Wade hit big three-pointers, slammed home fast-break dunks, got to the free-throw line by attacking the rim, and did everything but a triple back-flip to keep his team in the game up until the very end.
Then, the fourth quarter came, and Paul Pierce put his mark on the game. The Heat decided they’d had enough of Ray Allen making wide-open three-pointers, and focused on shutting down the Celtic’s three-point assassin down the stretch. Pierce immediately took advantage, nailing a 25-footer with 1.7 seconds remaining in the third quarter to cap off an 11-2 Boston run.
With less than two minutes remaining in the game, Pierce connected from beyond the arc, but his shot was answered by Dorell Wright, who hit a three-pointer of his own with 1:18 remaining tying the game 98-98. Both teams failed to convert on their ensuing possessions, allowing the Celtics to take the last shot of regulation.
“That’s a shot I hit a number of times in playoffs and regular season,” Pierce said after getting mobbed by teammates in an on-court melee. “I told the coaches, `Give me the ball on the right side.’ I got to my sweet spot, made sure there wasn’t any time left and drained it.”
Celtics coach Doc Rivers called a timeout, and the Celtics went to their bread and butter, a Paul Pierce 21-foot fade away jump-shot, just beyond the right elbow. Pierce dribbled until just two seconds remained on the clock, pulled up at his favorite spot, and nailed the game-winning shot in Dorell Wright’s face.
Paul Pierce and Dwayne Wade were playing a game within a game on Friday night. The two All-Stars accounted for 66 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. Unfortunately for the Heat, Wade’s night ended early when he hurt his left-calf after missing a three-pointer with 14 seconds left.
Pierce was the last man standing, and Wade could only watch from the bench as the Celtic’s forward hit what may prove to be, the defining shot of the series.
“Great player made a great shot,” Wade said. “I couldn’t really see it too much. But I did see the ball go in the basket.”
The Celtics know they will need balanced production from The Big Three and Rajon Rondo if they’re going to make a serious run at the title, and that’s exactly what they got on Friday night.
Pierce led the way with 32 points and 8 rebounds; Allen scored 25; Kevin Garnett finished with 16; and Rondo chipped in 17. Thus, The four Celtics starters accounted for 90 of the Celtic’s 100 points.
The Game 3 victory has the Celtics up 3-0 in this Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series, and they have to be thinking sweep.
Let’s be honest. The Miami Heat needed Game 3 a lot more than the Celtics did. The Heat were playing at home, with their backs against the wall in what was all but a must-win game, and they still couldn’t overcome Boston.
Pierce’s game-winning shot sent a message to anyone who thought the Heat had a chance of upsetting the Celtics in this series. They don’t. No NBA team has ever rallied from an 0-3 deficit to win a series, and the Heat don’t appear poised to buck the trend, especially not without Dwayne Wade.
With a possible second-round meeting with either the Orlando Magic or Cleveland Cavaliers looming, the C’s would be wise to finish the series on Sunday afternoon. They’ll need all the rest they can get with the prospect matching up against the likes of Dwight Howard or LeBron James.
The series continues with Game 4 from Miami on Sunday at 1 pm.
Tags: Boston Celtics, Chris Johnson, Cleveland Cavaliers, David Stern, Doc Rivers, Dwayne Wade, Dwight Howard, Jermaine O'Neal, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Rick Pitino