BOSTON — Kevin Garnett had 24 points and 11 rebounds and Rajon Rondo scored 21 points with 10 assists to lead the Boston Celtics to a 101-91 victory over the Heat in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on Friday night, cutting Miami’s lead in the series to 2-1.
Game 4 is Sunday night in Boston.
Paul Pierce scored 23 points for Boston.
LeBron James scored 34 points, but the NBA MVP and the rest of the Heat went cold during a 7-minute stretch at the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second, when Boston outscored them 15-0 to turn a six-point deficit into a nine-point lead.
James scored 16 points in the first quarter but had just four points with one rebound and one assist in the fourth, when Miami cut a 24-point deficit to eight. Mike Miller hit consecutive 3-pointers during an 11-0 run that cut the deficit to 95-87.
Miami still trailed by eight points, with the ball, when Dwyane Wade missed and Ray Allen grabbed the rebound, sending Rondo on a fast break that made it a 99-89 with 99 seconds to play. James threw the ball away underneath, then missed a 3-point attempt the next time down — one of only four shots he took in the fourth quarter.
Pierce found Garnett for a long jumper at the other end, and the teams began emptying their benches.
Coming off his 44-point effort in the Game 2 loss in Miami, in which he played every second of regulation and overtime, Rondo was 9 for 16 from the field and grabbed six rebounds. Marquis Daniels led the Boston bench with nine points and five rebounds in 18 minutes.
Wade scored 18 points and Mario Chalmers had 14 points and six assists for Miami. Shane Battier was scoreless, missing all six shots, and Ronny Turiaf had three points while tangling with Garnett under the basket for much of the game.
The Celtics center, who has appeared rejuvenated during these playoffs at the age of 36, got called for another technical foul for a violent elbow but otherwise seemed to be enjoying himself. While waiting to inbound the ball in the second quarter, he high-fived a young child sitting courtside in a No. 5 Celtics jersey.
At the other end, after falling to the court after his shot, he did a series of pushups to the crowd’s amusement.
Wade was 9 for 20 from the field and did not shoot a free throw in the game. James, who shot 24 free throws in Game 2, making 18, was 1 for 5 from the line.
James hit seven of his first nine shots, before making one of the next six. That helped Boston score the last eight points of the first quarter and the first seven of the second to turn six-point deficit into a nine-point lead. Much of it came with Keyon Dooling and Daniels on the court for Boston.
For the Heat, Chris Bosh seems closer to returning from injury, and for the first time since early in the last round, the Heat look like they need him.
The Heat, with youth and athleticism on their side, remained a force whenever they got in transition. But they stalled beyond James in the halfcourt for long stretches, settling for jumpers.
That’s where Bosh would help. The Heat often throw it into him and move to open spots to begin their offense, and he is one of their best shooters.
The Heat are still saying Bosh is out indefinitely with the lower abdominal strain he sustained in Game 1 of the second-round series with Indiana. He traveled with Miami to Boston and took part the Heat’s morning workout Friday, but they didn’t do much so it’s hard to gauge any progress by that.
Coach Erik Spoelstra said the All-Star forward will be re-evaluated daily, but wouldn’t say if that meant he would be able to play in Game 4 on Sunday. Though the Heat know they would need him for any shot at a championship, they had played so well behind a dynamic two-man game from James and Wade that it seemed they had overcome a dependence on Bosh.
“Probably the biggest confidence-builder for our basketball team was the mere fact that for the last two years we simply couldn’t win without Chris, but we simply couldn’t play effectively without Chris. He was our most important player,” Spoelstra said before the game.
NBA NOTEBOOK: Orlando Woolridge, the rugged forward who carved out a reputation over 13 NBA seasons as a scoring specialist and one of the original alley-oop artists, died late Thursday at his parents’ home in Mansfield, La. He was 52.
DeSoto Parish Chief Deputy Coroner Billy Locke said Woolridge died while under hospice care for a chronic heart condition.
The 6-foot-9 Woolridge was the sixth overall pick by the Chicago Bulls in 1981 after starring at Notre Dame in college and Mansfield High School in Louisiana.
Known for his high-flying dunks and ability to throw down lob passes in the open court, Woolridge played for the Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Denver, Milwaukee and Detroit, and also coached the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA. He averaged 16.0 points in just over 28 minutes per game, quickly emerging as an offensive spark plug no matter if he was in the starting lineup or coming off the bench.
“I just love it when we go up in the transition game, up and down the court, Magic (Johnson) looking for the open guy,” Woolridge told Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn shortly after joining the team in 1988. “I get excited when we start playing like that. That’s the way I love playing.”
He participated in one of the greatest slam dunk contests of all time in 1985, competing against Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins and Julius Erving, among others, and he averaged 22.9 points per game for the Bulls in 1984-85, the last player to lead Chicago in scoring before Jordan took over.
“He was a good person,” said Timberwolves assistant T.R. Dunn, who played with Woolridge for one season in Denver. “He was a really good offensive player, athletic, could run the floor, score the basketball. He had a pretty solid career. Just a fun-loving, athletic guy. Just sad news.”
Woolridge was suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy in 1987, but returned to play eight more seasons in the league, his last with the Sixers in 1993-94. A scorer to the end, he averaged 12.7 points per game in 26 minutes during his final season.
“He was such an energetic-type, big player,” said Wolves assistant Jack Sikma, who played against Woolridge. “He really was one of the early athletic-type players to come in the league, where we see a lot more of that now.”
After ending his NBA career, Woolridge spent his final two seasons playing professionally in Italy.
One of Woolridge’s defining moments came as a senior at Notre Dame in 1981, when he hit a buzzer-beating jumper to beat Ralph Sampson and No. 1 Virginia on national television, ending the mighty Cavaliers’ 28-game winning streak. Woolridge averaged 10.6 points in 109 games at Notre Dame, helping the Fighting Irish reach the NCAA Tournament in each of his four seasons, including the Final Four as a freshman in 1978.
Former Notre Dame basketball player Marc Kelly, a Superior Court judge in Orange County, Calif., called his courtroom into session Friday with a tribute to Woolridge.
“Please remain standing for a moment of silence in honor of Orlando Woolridge,” Kelly said, according to a transcript provided by Notre Dame. “Always smiling, Orlando was a world-class human being and one of the greatest athletes to ever put on a Notre Dame uniform.”
Woolridge is survived by his four children, Zachary, Renaldo, Royce and Tiana; by his parents, Mattie and Larnceen; his sister, Dr. Vanessa Woolridge Duplessis; his brother-in-law, Darren Duplessis; and his nephew, Nigel Duplessis.