The Boston Celtics bounced back from a crushing Game 2 loss with a 101-91 victory in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat.
Rajon Rondo (21 points, 10 assists, six rebounds) and Kevin Garnett (24 points, 11 rebounds, 10-16 shooting) were both stellar, as they have been for most of the postseason. But with the Celtics reeling early from a LeBron James outburst, a crew of role players gave Boston a boost.
Per Evans Clinchy of CelticsBlog:
LeBron James was a man possessed in the first quarter of Game 3, blasting the Celtics for 16 points in a span of seven minutes to give Miami a 28-22 lead late in the first. The Heat had all the momentum, and the C's were in desperate need of a jolt.
That's right about when Marquis Daniels, Keyon Dooling and Mickael Pietrus entered the game and immediately made their presence felt, on the defensive end of the floor especially. Whereas LeBron and Dwyane Wade had dominated early by running the floor and getting easy buckets in transition -- even after made baskets on the Celtics' end! -- Daniels gave them an athletic body that could get back and hinder the Heat's aerial attack. Dooling gave the Celtics a ball-hawking guard in the mold of Avery Bradley, admirably filling the void left by the injured second-year star. Pietrus quickly established his presence as a physical wing defender, forcing LeBron and Wade to meet a little resistance when they chose to attack the basket.
The Celtics' bench scored seven combined points in Game 3, but pitched in 19 points Friday night. Daniels had played just two minutes in the series entering Game 3, but finished with nine points, five rebounds and one trip to the podium for a press conference.
The Celtics' stars are expected to be great, or at least good. But when they receive so many contributions from the fringe players, they are tough to beat.