Despite Rondo’s Game 2 explosion and the Celtics offensive efficiency (they shot nearly 50% from the field), it was clear that coming back home they needed to get back to their roots. Defense. Game 3 was a different Celtics team thanks to a surge in defensive intensity, better bench contribution, and the way they controlled the boards.
3 votes – Kevin Garnett. It was obvious coming into this series that Boston needed to exploit the absence of Chris Bosh, but they hadn’t been able to do this partly thanks to Wade and LeBron’s brilliance, and partly due to Haslem’s terrific Game 2 in which he had more rebounds in 30 minutes than KG had in 45. For that reason I knew KG was going to come out fired up in this one, and he did.
This was arguably KG’s best game of the entire post season, and it’s his shot-chart that tells the story for me. No one would deny KG the right to take 15-20 footers the way he’s been shooting this season, but it was so key that he owned the paint in this game, and he made a conscious effort to score inside again and again and again. Without Bosh the Heat really do have no answer for him, which is kind of why they had to resort to cheap tactics and almost ripped KG’s head off early in the second quarter. It didn’t phase Big Kev of course, and he continued to systematically dismantle the Heat defense throughout the night. The most telling stat? His phenomenal +27 points differential (next best Celtic was Marquis Daniels with +14) proving that when KG was manning the middle the Celtics were unstoppable on this night.
2 votes – Rajon Rondo. Has been the second best player in this series behind LeBron James, and continued his red-hot form with 21-10-6. But beyond the numbers, what Rondo did so well in this game was control the tempo. I cannot overstate this. Game 3 was a battle to see which team could own the tempo – go watch LeBron’s outlet pass to Wade in the 1st quarter, a play that took merely 4 seconds off the shot-clock. The Heat wanted to run and break as much as possible, exploiting Wade and LeBron’s strengths while trying to negate as much as possible the lack of Chris Bosh. Rondo crucially helped the Celtics win this battle, and it may decide the series. The more half-court offense the Celtics can force the Heat into playing, the more I think they can stretch this series to 7.
1 vote – Ray Allen. For this.