Celtics 100, Heat 98
Tonight's Game 3 between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat was the type of game neither team deserved to lose, but the truth of the matter is that one team did, and Paul Pierce made sure it was not the Celtics.
With the game tied at 98-98 and only 11.7 seconds remaining in regulation, Doc Rivers called a timeout after Dwyane Wade missed a possible go-ahead 3-pointer. Rivers was likely planning to draw up a play for the final shot of the game, but he didn't need to do much drawing -- he just listened to his captain's request.
"That's a shot I hit a number of times in playoffs and regular season," Pierce told ESPN on the court after the game. "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."
It's as simple as that.
Pierce, who had single-handedly carried the Celtics to an 80-72 lead heading into the fourth quarter, had an up-and-down performance in the final stanza, but that didn't prevent him from making that final demand to his coach.
Out of the timeout, Pierce eyed the clock from center court while everyone looking on expected the Heat to use their foul to give about five seconds after the inbound pass. If the Heat had done so, they would have forced Boston to score the winning basket in about five or six seconds, rather than the original 11.7 seconds. But when Miami allowed the clock to tick down under five seconds, they no longer had that option. Pierce was in control, and he knew it.
Boston's captain slowly dribbled from near half court toward the top of the key, knowing full-well where he wanted to wind up. As the clock approached the final buzzer, he a couple of moves to create space. When he finally found his opening, the crafty veteran was standing right on his sweet spot -- the right elbow area -- just in time to take the final shot of the game.
As the ball left his fingertips just before the final buzzer sounded, there was no doubt about where it was going. Pierce's 21-foot jumper swished through the basket as the buzzer sounded, and with that, the celebration was on. The play wound up being reviewed, but the C's knew it was good all along.
Pierce's game-winner put the Celtics ahead 3-0 in the series, and they now have an opportunity to close out a sweep of the Heat at 1 p.m. Sunday afternoon in Miami.
Key Box Score Line
Pierce carried the Celtics in the second half, scoring 22 of his team-high 32 points over the final two quarters. He scored Boston's final nine points of the third period, giving the C's an 80-72 lead after three. He also scored 11 points in the fourth, including the game-winning buzzer-beater from just outside the right elbow. He chipped in eight rebounds and three assists, too, while helping Boston grab a 3-0 lead in the series
Box Score Nuggets
- Four of Boston's starters scoredd at least 16 points (Paul Pierce with 32, Ray Allen with 25, Rajon Rondo with 17 and Kevin Garnett with 16).
- The Celtics outrebounded the Heat again, this time by a count of 38-34.
- The Celtics outscored Miami 21-11 in fast break points.
- Miami outscored Boston 42-28 in the paint.
- Dwyane Wade scored a game-high 34 points to go along with five rebounds and eight assists.
- Wade finally got some help on offense, with 16 points coming from Michael Beasley, 15 from Dorell Wright, and 10 apiece from Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem.
- Rajon Rondo tied with Wade for the game-high in assists with eight.
- Kendrick Perkins scored zero points, but he pulled in a game-high 12 rebounds.
- Perkins also tied with Wade for the game-high in turnovers with five.
- Miami shot 50.6 percent in the game, while Boston shot 46.8 percent.
- Ray Allen shot 4-of-11 from downtown.
- Boston committed two more fouls (23) than Miami (21), but the Celtics took six more free-throw attempts (23) than the Heat (17).
- Jermaine O'Neal struggled again offensively, scoring only two points on 1-of-7 shooting.
- Boston's bench was outscored 39-10.
- Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo each played 44 minutes.
Quote of the Night
Paul Pierce on the final play of the game: "I just saw him backing up and they didn't come in. I got to my sweet spot on the right side and got a good look at the rim."