May 16, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA;Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo (9) sets up the offense as Philadelphia 76ers guard Louis Williams (23) defends during the third quarter in game three of the Eastern Conference semifinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Wells Fargo Arena. The Celtics defeated the Sixers 107-91. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

NBA Playoffs 2012: Celtics Dominate Game 3 to Take 2-1 Series Lead

Remember how the other day I was saying this was going to be a grind it out series, and teams would be lucky to score 90? Well, that go thrown out the window tonight. The Celtics ran away with game three tonight, absolutely dominating the middle quarters of the game.

After a closely contested first quarter, the Celtics blew this one open, absolutely dominating the second and third quarters. During that run, the Celtics outscored the 76ers 61-33, turning a five point 76er lead after the first, into a blowout, 16 point victory by the end of the night.

Their usual stellar defense was somewhat in the rear-view mirror tonight. That’s not to say it wasn’t stellar, because it was. They held the 76ers to less than 41 percent shooting, and dominated on the glass, outrebounding them 44-37.

Tonight was a showcase for the Boston offense though, as they put on one of their finest performances of the year. They hit just under 52 percent of their shots, and had an incredible 26 assists to just seven turnovers.

Kevin Garnett continued to play like he’s 10 years younger again tonight, dominating the 76ers front-line en route to a 26 point (hitting 10/17 from the floor), 13 rebound double double. Not to be outdone was Rajon Rondo, who scored 23 points and had 14 assists to just one turnover. And just for good measure, Paul Pierce turned in a gutty 24 point, 12 rebound double double.

The 76ers were paced Thaddeus Young’s 22 points off the bench. For that matter, the bench was basically the team for the 76ers tonight, as Young, Lou Williams, and Jodie Meeks combined for 48 points. The starting five managed just 36.

Boston, who has been hearing all year that they’re too old to win the title, proved tonight that they just might enough spring in those legs to give it one last go. And for the one night at least, they looked like true title contenders. This isn’t going to be a team that goes down easy, and the 76ers were put on notice of that tonight.

Hero of the Game: Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett

Because I can’t choose which one, I’m going with both of them tonight. They were each completely dominant tonight, and looking at the box scores certainly shows that. Rondo got to the lane at will while Garnett dominated the post. Garnett also completely shut down the bigs of Philadelphia, as Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes managed just seven points on 3/14 shooting between them. Oh, and I think I also managed Rondo and his sparkling 14 to 1 assist to turnover ratio. Ridiculous.

Zero of the Game: The Entire 76ers Starting Lineup (minus Holiday)

While this might be a copout, I’m doing it anyways. Their starting lineup (outside of Jrue Holiday) was awful tonight. Flat out pathetic. Any night where three players from your bench outscore your starting line up by a dozen points, you know you’re having a bad night. Their starting line up, by the numbers, produced: 36 points on 12/40 shooting (though they did hit five of their eight threes), 26 rebounds (Garnett and Pierce alone had 25), and 16 assists to eight turnovers. If we take Holiday out of this (the only starter who had a solid game), they lose 15 points and nine of their assists, making their night even worse. This team has talent in that starting lineup, and it didn’t show up tonight.

Keys Moving Forward:

For Boston, it’s going to boil down to offensive production from them. We all know their defense is going to show up every night, especially against a 76ers team that lacks a go-to guy. But their offense is what needs to be worried about here. Can they continue this momentum into game four, or will we see the offense that struggled to crack the eighties in games one and two? We shall see.

For Philadelphia, they need, no, NEED their starters to step up. I’ve thrown the word pathetic out there, and I’m going to do it again, because that’s what they were tonight. Pathetic. Holiday was quite literally the only starter who did anything. Evan Turner was a black hole, as he just 1/10 from the floor. Hawes had four points on just 2/8 shooting. I could go on, but I won’t. You get the picture. They HAVE to improve if they want to stand a snowball’s chance in hell in this series. Another game like this from that starting five will quickly put them in a 3-1 deficit. And we all know how tough it is to climb out of that. (In case you were curious, only eight teams have come back from down 3-1 to win the series).

Game four will be May 18th at 8/7 CST.

Follow Mike Owens on Twitter @mikeowens1

Tags: Boston Celtics Kevin Garnett NBA Playoffs Paul Pierce Philadelphia 76ers Rajon Rondo

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