Final: Celtics 94, Heat 79. In one of the most impressive performances of the Big Three era, the Celtics have fought their way to victory over the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. This is a series again, people.
Rajon Rondo plays through a dislocated elbow. Kevin Garnett finishes with 28 points and 18 rebounds. Paul Pierce shoots the lights out and finishes with 27. Even Shaquille O'Neal returns. This is the game of the year for the Celtics, who have cut Miami's lead in this series to 2-1 in unbelievable fashion.
Dwyane Wade finishes with 23 points, seven assists and six rebounds for the Heat. This time, it's not enough. The Celtics' team effort shines through.
The C's will be back on the floor Monday night, hosting the Heat in Game 4 of this series. They've got a chance to get even.
Fourth quarter, 2:01, Celtics 92-77: Paul Pierce drills a 3. It's over, folks. All over.
The Celtics are back in this series. Believe it.
Fourth quarter, 5:02, Celtics 85-72: This thing isn't over yet, but it's mighty close. The Celtics are a couple of stops away from wrapping this thing up.
Rajon Rondo's performance tonight, playing despite a dislocated elbow, has been absolutely astounding. But he's running on adrenaline right now. The scary question is how much he'll have left tomorrow.
Bear in mind, people: Winning one game is nice, but the Celtics' goals are far greater than that.
The long haul is going to be tough.
Fourth quarter, 7:36, Celtics 83-65: Jeff Green just put the exclamation point on the Celtics' victory, throwing down a monstrosity of a dunk. The C's lead by 18.
Boston has outscored Miami 39-19 in this second half. What an incredible message — it doesn't matter what you throw this team's way, they're just going to keep on fighting.
Fourth quarter, 9:33, Celtics 79-63: Ray Allen just hit a huge, huge 3 off an offensive rebound from Glen Davis. Go home, folks. That's it. It's over.
The C's now lead by 16. They can see from here to a 2-1 series.
What an incredible display of resolve from this Celtics team. Just incredible.
Fourth quarter, 10:52, Celtics 74-62: File under "Are You Kidding Me?" — Rajon Rondo has dislocated his left elbow. He's back on the floor and playing anyway.
No one can ever again question that kid's will to win. He just earned a lifetime pass.
Let's see if he and the Celtics can close this thing out.
End of third quarter, Celtics 72-61: The Celtics have rallied in the absence of Rajon Rondo, building a double-digit lead over the visiting Heat behind an absolutely fantastic effort from their two best players left. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have taken over.
Garnett has 26 points and 13 rebounds. Pierce has 21 points, four assists and three boards. Those two guys are carrying the Celtics to victory all by themselves. It's 2008 all over again, people.
The C's are 12 minutes away from being back in this series. Let's see if they can finish the deal.
Third quarter, 3:38, Celtics 65-54: The Celtics are without their floor leader in Rajon Rondo, but they're going full speed ahead. They're banged up and they're angry, but they have a double-digit lead in the third quarter.
Paul Pierce came up limping a moment ago, but he responded simply by going to the free-throw line, hitting a shot, and then getting back on D. Nothing will shake his confidence now.
The Celtics are determined to win this thing. They're not letting anything stop them.
Third quarter, 7:02, Celtics 60-50: The worst has happened to the Celtics: Rajon Rondo is hurt, and it looks bad. He got tangled up in the lane with Dwyane Wade, and he fell to the ground clutching his left arm.
It's unclear whether Rondo has injured his elbow, wrist or forearm somehow. But in any event, he's back in the locker room, being attended to by Brian McKeon, Ed Lacerte and Danny Ainge.
This could be bad for the Celtics. Very bad.
Third quarter, 7:50, Celtics 58-50: LeBron James stuffs Rajon Rondo's attempt at a transition layup, but Kevin Garnett corrals the offensive rebound, swings the ball around to Paul Pierce at the top of the key, and just like Wade, Pierce doesn't hesitate. Bam. He knocks down the 3.
You're now looking at a 14-4 run for the Celtics to open this second half. They're fired up, and their fans are too.
Third quarter, 8:50, Celtics 53-50: The Celtics open the third quarter on a 9-1 run, but maybe they got a wee bit complacent from there. Dwyane Wade just got a wide-open 3 and knocked it down without hesitation.
The C's need to stay locked in on the defensive end. Even with a lead, they can't let up for a second.
Third quarter, 10:38, Celtics 48-46: The Celtics start the second half strong. Kevin Garnett gets back-to-back buckets, and then LeBron James goes to the line and misses back-to-back free throws.
This building is loud. The Celtics' fans clearly still believe in this team. With good reason, too.
This is anyone's game.
Halftime, Heat 46-44: The Celtics can no longer fall back on the "We haven't played our best basketball yet" excuse. They're giving everything they've got right now, and it's not enough. They're just losing.
Kevin Garnett has 12 points and eight rebounds for the Celtics; Paul Pierce has 12 more with two boards and two assists. Delonte West came off the bench to supply 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting, including two 3s.
The C's have run into another monster performance from Dwyane Wade, who dropped nine points in the second quarter alone. He now has 14, four assists and three rebounds to lead the Heat to a two-point halftime lead.
It's going to take a heck of an effort from the Celtics in the second half to avoid falling behind 3-0.
Second quarter, 2:30, Celtics 41-40: The Heat just left Delonte West wide open on the wing, and Delonte made them pay. 3-ball. Swish.
The Celtics are in front again, and the Garden is rocking again.
But at the same time, recall that this team has worried this week about its inability to close quarters. A one-point lead at the moment is nothing to celebrate — they've got to finish strong.
Seven points now for Delonte, who's shot 3-for-3. Another solid, solid night for him.
Second quarter, 5:12, Heat 38-34: The Heat are on an 8-0 run despite the fact that LeBron James is scoreless in the second quarter. That's something you don't see every day.
Instead, the hero for the Heat is Joel Anthony, who's having a monster night with 10 points, six rebounds and a steal. He just scored again to push the Miami lead from two to four.
The Celtics haven't had much of a post presence tonight. Shaq's return has been underwhelming, and Glen Davis has given the C's nothing on either end. Kevin Garnett is playing his heart out, but even he can't do this himself.
The C's are back on their heels, trailing by four. Let's see how they respond.
Second quarter, 6:09, Heat 36-34: Ray Allen is out of the game with three fouls, and Delonte West will likely finish the half in his stead. Now the Heat make their run.
A Mario Chalmers 3 gives the Heat their first lead. The C's have it in them to battle back, but they need to regain their composure first. Right now, they're just steaming mad.
Second quarter, 8:57, Celtics 29-28: The biggest story of this game has nothing to do with Shaq — it's the simple fact that the C's have contained LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
The two superstars are on the bench right now, leaving Chris Bosh and Joel Anthony — yes, Joel Anthony! — to carry Miami's offense.
Anthony currently leads the Heat with six points so far. LeBron and Wade have done very little against the tenacious Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
Second quarter, 9:56, Celtics 27-26: It's a troubling start to the second quarter for Boston. Shaq is doing very little, the refs are tightening up and the Celtics aren't adjusting, and Miami is now on a 5-0 run.
The Celtics' second unit needs to play smarter and play better. And they need to get something out of Shaq besides just an intimidating presence.
End of first quarter, Celtics 27-21: Shaquille O'Neal is officially back, and he's officially scored his first two points of the 2011 postseason. He's also been taken out for the first time in the 2011 postseason.
Only two minutes for the big fella, who isn't moving too well but as Doc guaranteed, he is indeed big. His presence is a boon to these C's, no doubt, even if he can't play a ton of minutes.
The Celtics lead by six heading into the second quarter. Their play has been fantastic so far on both ends.
First quarter, 2:41, Celtics 23-17: Shaquille O'Neal was standing by the scorer's table for nearly two minutes, waiting for the clock to stop so he could check in. That moment never came.
For the moment, Shaq is back on the bench, and Doc Rivers is taking his usual late-first quarter timeout.
Are we about to see Shaq or not? We'll find out soon.
First quarter, 4:05, Celtics 21-13: Two items of good news for the Celtics — one, Ray Allen just drilled a 3 from the right elbow, pushing the Celtics' lead from five back to eight. And two, Shaquille O'Neal hs made his way over to the scorer's table. He's going in.
This has been a pretty spectacular first quarter for the Celtics. It's about to get even better.
First quarter, 6:53, Celtics 16-7: Paul Pierce is just dominating for the Celtics in this first quarter. He just came off a Jermaine O'Neal screen, got to the basket, missed and put his own rebound back.
That's 10 points, one rebound and one assist for Pierce.
The captain has yet to make the impact he wants to make in this series. Now he's back at full strength, and he's letting the Heat — and the world — know it.
First quarter, 9:37, Celtics 7-3: The Celtics couldn't ask for a better start. Rajon Rondo is attacking, Chris Bosh is shaken up, Kevin Garnett just dunked on Mike Bibby with authority, and now Paul Pierce is at the line shooting three.
Pierce makes all three.
The Celtics are taking it to the Heat early. They're locked in, they're physical and they're out for blood.
First quarter, 11:21, Celtics 2-0: The Celtics get a stop on the first possession, with Mike Bibby missing a 3. Paul Pierce comes right back down, gives and goes with Rajon Rondo, and knocks down the opening bucket of the ballgame.
Let's see if the C's keep the pressure on from here.
8:15 p.m.: This place is louder than it's been since last June. The Celtics' fans are discouraged being down 0-2, but they are far, far, far, far from dead.
Time to see if this team's got any fight left. There are 18,600 fans standing and shouting their opinions on the matter.
Tipoff is coming in just a moment.
7:30 p.m.: No surprise here — all the talk pregame is about Shaquille O'Neal, who is expected to make his return Saturday night against the Heat in Game 3.
Doc Rivers says Shaq is active, relegating Carlos Arroyo back to 13th man.
Erik Spoelstra says he's considering adjusting his rotation to account for Shaq's presence. That might mean more Erick Dampier, and less going small.
It's a whole new series with the big fella out there. Things are about to get real interesting, real fast.
5:30 p.m.: Welcome to the TD Garden, where Shaquille O'Neal is expected to make his return against his former team, the Miami Heat. At best, he's the C's savior, carrying them back from an 0-2 deficit; at worst, he's ineffective or (God forbid) doesn't play at all.
This will be an interesting night, to say the least.
Stay tuned right here for updates all night long.
8 a.m.: The Celtics are down 2-0 to the Miami Heat. If they can't pull this one, then forget about it. Their season, and perhaps their entire Big Three dynasty, is cooked.
Say what you will about the atmosphere in that locker room. Call the C's angry, call them frustrated, call them anxious. But the bottom line is this.
"We want to win," Glen Davis said. "That's all you can say. Think of whatever you would do, whatever you would feel if your back was against the wall. You would try to do anything to get off that wall, right? Think about all those emotions that you would have — frustrated, mad, want to help, want to be the hero, want to do this, want to do that. That's what everybody wants to do right now.
"Everybody wants to win. Point blank."
The Celtics had a rough go of it this past week down in Miami. Really rough. They landed in South Florida with great expectations for another playoff thumping of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but it didn't work out. They lost their composure late in Game 1, and the wheels came off. They had a shot in Game 2, tying it with seven minutes left, but LeBron took over and they had no answer.
Now we come to a Game 3 that the Celtics desperately need. No team has ever come back from down 3-0 to win a series, and the C's don't want to attempt being the first. They've got to get this one.
They're likely to get Shaquille O'Neal back, and they're likely to take the floor at the TD Garden with a relentless, never-say-die attitude. At this point, they have no other option.
The C's may be down, but there's no doubt they still want this thing.
"If there's no motivation," Ray Allen said, "then we wouldn't be here."
The C's and Heat tip off at 8 p.m. Saturday.