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NBA playoffs: Celtics will feel the Heat in Game 3

NBA playoffs are heating up. The Boston Celtics return home to face the Miami Heat in Game 3 of their best-of-seven, second-round NBA playoff series. Tip off is Saturday at 8 PM Eastern time.

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As they approach Game 3 on Saturday night in Boston, Miami’s challenge is to keep a sense of both humility and perspective. They’ve never been in this position before against this Celtics team, and winning a game on the road at this stage of the series would be a major accomplishment. Bosh’s 23 rebounds in the first two games – 18 of them on the defensive glass – have helped mightily.

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On the other hand, Boston’s big hurdle will be to keep from losing its cool (not to mention its players) for an entire 48 minutes. They’ll need to be more patient and focused, and avoid the unnecessary confrontations that got them so many fouls in Game 1. And, with the expected return of Shaquille O’Neal on Saturday, the Celtics will not only have more options inside, but their starters should see more effective screens to get better looks from behind the 3-point arc, in addition to the high post. The bottom line here is that if their starters don’t produce, “The Green” are effectively finished.

But just as crucial to Boston’s fortunes, as I see it, is how forward Glen Davis handles the homecoming. He has dramatically underperformed, both on the opponents’ glass and in the offensive low post in the first two games. He’ll need step it up by doing double-duty inside with Shaq in effectively plugging the defensive lane and by helping to set screens for drives by Rondo – who must also have another solid outing. Miami will be forced to take more outside shots, and with Boston securing the inside, will probably need another scorer to produce, as was the case with the Heat’s James Jones’ 25 points in Game 1.

Boston, looking for a silver lining, can rightly claim they haven’t lost two consecutive home games like the L.A. Lakers. Nevertheless, they have their backs against the wall and must win Saturday night in front of their hometown fans to have any chance at winning this series. Coming back to the TD Garden in this context should fill the Celtics both with hopefulness and trepidation.

But Miami’s mission, should they choose to accept it, is to neutralize the home court fervor as quickly as possible and transfer the momentum they secured in American Airlines Arena to Boston’s parquet floor. And speaking of hopefulness, the Celtics’ mascot is a leprechaun named “Lucky.” The way Miami’s been playing so far against Boston, he’ll definitely need to be in the house on Saturday night.

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