If Paul Pierce is indeed acting, he earned himself an Oscar tonight for Best Delivery of a Punch to the Stomach. Pierce sent the Miami Heat home losers for the third time in three games by scoring 32 points, highlighted by his game-winning jumper as time expired. His heroics gave the Celtics the 100-98 win and a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.
Pierce had his best game of the series, scoring 11 of his 32 in the fourth quarter (and 22 points after halftime). Of the Celtics eight fourth-quarter field goals, Pierce had four of them, including a pair of three pointers.
It was a competitive game throughout, with Miami leading by two after one quarter and one at the half. But Boston seized control near the end of the third quarter, finishing the quarter on an 11-2 run to lead 80-72 after three. The Celtics built their largest lead of nine points with 9:57 remaining in the fourth, but the Heat did not fade away. Miami battled back to eventually pull ahead 92-91 with 3:46 left in the game on a pair of Dorrell Wright free throws.
The game would see-saw back and forth from that point on.
Pierce made one of two free throws.
Udonis Haslem knocked down a jump shot.
Ray Allen (25 points) and Pierce each hit three-pointers, sandwiched around a Haslem free throw. But Wright, who had just four points in Games One and Two combined but added 15 in Game Three, hit a three to tie the game at 98 with 1:29 remaining. That was the 14th tie of the game. Pierce, Allen, and Dwyane Wade (34 points) would all miss three pointers in the game’s final minute, keeping the score locked at 98.
Following Wade’s miss with thirteen seconds left, it was time for the final scene.
Celtics ball. Thirteen seconds left. Time for Paul Pierce to deliver one of his patented soliloquies.
Pierce said immediately after the game that he told Doc Rivers to get him the ball and clear out the right side. That is exactly what happened. Pierce worked the clock down, took a few dribbles to his right, and pulled up from what he called his “sweet spot,” just inside the three-point line, and delivered the game’s 16th, and final, lead change by knocking down the game-winning jump shot as the game-clock hit zero.
The 32 points by Pierce represented the most points he had scored in a playoff game since Game Five of the 2008 Finals against the Lakers when he had 38. It was the first time he had scored 30 or more points since he had 35 against Atlanta on January 39, and it was just his third 30-point game of the season.
The Game One star for the Celtics was Tony Allen who provided much needed energy and defense that sparked Boston to the win. Game Two was about Glen Davis and Ray Allen. Game Three was Pierce’s turn to shine.
He had been quiet this series, totaling only 19 points in the first two games, to go with being called out publicly by that renowned theater critic Quentin Richardson. Since his public criticism of Pierce, Richardson has backed up his tough talk by scoring just five points in both Game Two and Three, rendering himself a complete non-factor in the series.
With the win, Boston is all but assured of moving on to the next round. In case no one writes it, I will – no team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in an NBA playoff series.
Does anyone ever remember any team in any sport coming back from trailing three games to none? Seems like an impossible feet. Oh, that’s right. The Red Sox did it against the Yankees. It just feels good to write that sometimes.
Back to the Celtics. Who saw this coming? Boston looked tired and uninterested for the final four months of the regular season, and they appeared incapable of coming together. Whatever clicked for this team midway through the third quarter of Game One, when Boston trailed by 14, certainly has worked.
The Cleveland Cavaliers do not have a 3-0 lead. Neither do the Los Angeles Lakers. But, the Boston Celtics do.
It is almost completely unexpected. The last two seasons, where Boston looked far more formidable, where Boston entered the playoffs in both seasons after winning over 60 games in the regular season, the Celtics needed to go seven games just to get out of the first round. Now this season, where all looked so wrong for so long, they find themselves up three games to none.
Boston finds themselves in this position after having relied on a number of players stepping up at different times. Tonight, Rajon Rondo had 17 points, eight assists, and five rebounds. Kevin Garnett returned from suspension to score 16, and Ray Allen had another hot-shooting night, scoring 25.
But ultimately, the Celtics won the game because of the Captain.
If Quentin Richardson was right, and Pierce, and Garnett, are just acting out there, let us hope that Sunday is their final performance in this Celtics-Heat scene.