You can now read 10 articles a month for free. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

Bob Ryan

Anyone’s guess as to what’s next for Celtics, Heat

Miami's LeBron James (left) and Rajon Rondo during Game 3 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals.

Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Miami's LeBron James (left) and Rajon Rondo during Game 3 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals.

Don’t ask. I don’t know. Nope. Absolutely no idea.

I mean, why do we bother? Why do we spend time previewing and analyzing these games, when the truth is none of us have a clue? So don’t ask me what I think is going to happen Sunday night in Game 4 after what took place in Game 3.

Continue reading below

Didn’t we all have Game 3 nailed? The Celtics were in trouble, remember? How were they ever going to recover, either emotionally or physically, from the sad events of Game 2? OK, maybe, with the help of the Almighty, the crowd, and the refs, they might find a way to pull out a close one.

So there they were, up 22 (85-63) after three. Yeah, we sure know our stuff.

The final was 101-91. Miami tried to make it interesting in the fourth quarter, getting it to 8 on a Mario Chalmers 3-point play that made it 95-87 with 3:09 left. But the Heat got no closer.

So both the East and the West have honest-to-goodness series going. And this game was pretty much a carbon copy - oops, dated reference - of the game that took place in Oklahoma City on Thursday night.

“They played well,’’ acknowledged Miami coach Erik Spoelstra. “They got us tonight. Their reserves came in the game and really knocked us back on our heels. And from that point on we were playing catch-up, it seemed like, the whole night.’’

True enough. While there were some requisite big numbers put up by the Celtics’ marquee players, the game turned when the bit players checked in. OK, let’s get specific. We’re talking about Keyon Dooling and Marquis Daniels.

Neither one is asked to score. They’re all about energy and effort at the defensive end. “I thought what our second unit did was come in with a defensive energy that changed the game,’’ said Doc Rivers. “And they scored off the defense. They got stops and they ran the floor.’’

Dooling and Daniels sparked a game-changing run of 15 straight points as the Heat were scoreless for 7:10 and held without a field goal for 8:40. This enabled the Celtics to go from being down, 28-22, to in front, 37-28. The Heat never got closer than 7 (37-30, 39-32, 41-34) again.

But those guys with the big contracts weren’t bad, either.

Start with Kevin Garnett, a.k.a The Reluctant Pivotman. He is the 7-footer who long ago revolutionized the game with his elegant perimeter prowess. He would go days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries, and eons without venturing near the basket. But recent events have forced him to alter his offensive M.O., and Friday night he may have spent more time way down deep in what the great Hubie Brown refers to as the “painted area’’ than he has, well, ever. Only two of his 10 field goals came on jump shots outside the lane, and only one was a face-up, that being an inside-out 18-footer from the right provided by a Paul Pierce drive-and-dish with 56.1 seconds remaining.

I mean, the Celtics high-lowed the Heat into submission.

“They established him deep in the paint,’’ Spoelstra said of Garnett. “We can do some things better in terms of getting him a step further out and trying to disrupt him a little bit on his catches, but he was able to get into a real good comfort zone.’’

“One of the things we kept telling them,’’ said Rivers, “at the end of the day, throw it up.’ There’s nobody taller than him on the floor. Throw it up in the air. Kevin will go get it.’’

Garnett finished with 24 points and a game-high 11 rebounds in just under 34 minutes of play. He looked anything but fatigued.

And neither did Pierce, who went 41 minutes and who may not have shot well (7 for 21) but who played with great ferocity. What overtime game?

Ray Allen went a tick under 38 minutes. He had a pair of threes, grabbed five rebounds, and even put the cap on a broken play with a driving dunk. Tell the good Padre to stay home. Ray Allen’s not quite ready for the Last Rites.

The Kid? Well, The Kid was all right. Rajon Rondo let the game come to him, starting out slowly and then exploding in Miami’s face with a take-charge second half. “He stabilized us, really,’’ said Rivers.

“He broke us down off the dribble, he made a lot of plays,’’ pointed out Spoelstra. “Like they usually come, they’re in random situations. Not play calls, not things you can necessarily scheme for.’’

For the record, the King of Random finished with 21 points and 10 assists in just under 43 minutes.

What it added up to was that the Celtics had more energy, more zip, more resolve, and more of just about everything. The Heat had LeBron James, who finished with 34 while scoring 30 of their first 59 points.

“We know this is a tough place to play,’’ Spoelstra conceded. “But we know we can play a lot better than this.’’

Probably so. But will it be enough to come away with a win that will send them home up, 3-1? Wait a minute. Are you looking for a prediction? Get serious.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist and host of Globe 10.0 on Boston.com. He can be reached at ryan@globe.com.
Loading comments...

You have reached the limit of 10 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week