BOSTON // Miami hope to welcome back Chris Bosh from injury for Sunday night's Game 4 in Boston after the Celtics won their first match in the best-of-seven series on Friday to cut the Heat's lead to 2-1.
Without the injured Bosh, Miami coach Eric Spoelstra has been forced to play a small line-up, something the Celtics' Kevin Garnett was able to take advantage of in Game 3, scoring 24 points - many of his baskets off lobs into the paint - and grabbing 11 rebounds to lead Boston to a 101-91 win.
Bosh took part in workouts on Friday but continues to be hampered by a lower abdominal strain.
"His return is indefinite," Spoelstra told NBA.com, then added that Bosh is being evaluated on a daily basis. Spoelstra will at least again have the services of Dexter Pittman, the back-up centre, who had been suspended for three games by the league for elbowing Indiana's Lance Stephenson in Miami's previous series.
Still, for the Celtics to make this a series and even things up, many things have to go right again for Doc Rivers' team. The Celtics' coach's bench is thin and had been held to nine points and four rebounds in a Game 2 loss.
They will once again have to play above their heads - Boston got 19 points and 12 rebounds from the bench in Game 3.
They will want to avoid getting in to a sprint with the younger Heat and continue to make the offence go through the paint with Garnett, as the Celtics are 14-0 over the past two seasons when they score more than 50 points in the paint.
Rivers knew there was little to say to Rajon Rondo after the Celtics point guard scored a career-best 44 points in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.
After Boston lost that one, Rivers could not resist offering one piece of advice.
"Throw it up in the air, Kevin will go get it," the Celtics coach said he told Rondo. "The only thing we told him offensively was we had to get Kevin involved. Other than that, just go play."
Paul Pierce added 23 points and Rondo followed his Game 2 performance with 21 points and 10 assists to help the Celtics avoid falling into a 3-0 hole after dropping the first two games in Miami.
"They defended their home court," Rondo said. "In a couple of days, we'll do the same."
With Garnett posting up underneath the rim, Boston outscored Miami 58-46 on points in the paint.
"He [Rivers] kept preaching to just throw it up to him," Rondo said. "They went [to a] small [line-up], and no one can jump as high as Kevin. He stood up to the rim, and he went up and got most of them."
The Celtics centre, appearing rejuvenated during these play-offs 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 being slammed hard to the court by the Heat's Udonis Haslem, Garnett gingerly rolled over onto his stomach before extending his arms to ease himself off the court. Down and up he went, pushing off the floor on his knuckles eight times for some post-season push-ups.
"I'm getting crap about my form, but I want people to know it's because it was on my knuckles," Garnett said.
"That's old school. My uncle taught me to do push-ups on my knuckles. That's some Army-Navy stuff."
The 58 points in the paint was a season-high for the Celtics and may have exposed the one weakness the Heat, a team with no true dominating centre, have - playing with their backs to the basket.
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