Boston Celtics forward Pierce defends Miami Heat forward James during the fourth quarter of Game 3 of their NBA Eastern Conference playoff series in Boston

NBA Playoffs: Boston got one, but can they beat a better Heat?

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Boston looked good in getting the Game 3 — they were defending again, they had the inspiration of Rajon Rondo’s rreturn, they got big games from Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce…

Which is to say just about everything except Rondo’s elbow went right for Boston. Don’t expect that to be the case a second game in a row. This time things will be closer, and Boston is going to have to fight and defend harder to get the win.

The Heat are going to make starting lineup changes, and the smart money says they will start Mario Chalmers at the point and his job will be to attach himself to Rondo’s right him and play him hard. Force him to go left. Do not back off all the time and do what he wants, he’s not going to shoot a jumper. If Rondo can handle that pressure the Celtics will be one up.

The other big advantage in Game 3 was that Kevin Garnett dominated his matchup with Chris Bosh, who did his Pau Gasol impression for a game. Boston needs to win this battle again, if Miami and Bosh can force it to a stalemate (as it was the first two games) they win.

Boston once again has to keep LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Bosh in check — that is where the majority of the scoring has to come from for the Heat. There is no balance. The three combined for 44 points in Game, while Pierce and Garnett had 55. Boston needs that kind of win, again.

The Celtics stand a better chance of getting one big game out of their role players — Delonte West is the most likely. While Miami will not get a lot of points out of their subs (unless the Celtics leave James Jones open a lot again) the bench battle is one the Celtics must win big.

The Celtics need things to go right, but they have been here before. They are used to the pressure and the intensity. They know how to make things go right.

Does Miami? That may be the biggest question. This is the first real big test of the playoffs, the first real question asked of this Heat team. How do they answer? With renewed defensive intensity, or do they still look like a deer in the headlights?

Either way, you can bet this game will be a lot closer than Game 3, likely going right down to the wire.

Al Horford shows he still has hops dunking on Solomon Hill (VIDEO)

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That’s just nasty.

Atlanta’s Al Horford gets the ball out high, but within his range, so when he pump fakes Indiana’s Lavoy Allen goes flying by. That opens up the lane and Horford attacks it, Solomon Hill tries to cut him off, but Horford just finishes threw him.

Pacers and Hawks played an entertaining, close game Friday night.

Dwyane Wade shows he still has hops with dunk on Hornets (VIDEO)

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Dwyane Wade still has some springs.

In what may be his best dunk in recent memory, he shoulders Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to create space in transition, then gets up and throws it down before Nicolas Batum can get there for the block.

Not sure even Wade saw that one coming.

Reigning dunk champ LaVine: ‘I’ve got tricks up my sleeve’

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine is heading back to All-Star weekend to defend his slam dunk title. And he says he has “a few tricks up my sleeve” after dominating the event last year.

LaVine will compete against Detroit center Andre Drummond, Denver swingman Will Barton and Orlando forward Aaron Gordon in Toronto next weekend.

LaVine was one of the breakout stars of All-Star weekend last year with his electric performance in the dunk contest. He says he debated about coming back and made his decision after strong encouragement from his fans.

If LaVine wins, he will become the fourth player in the 31-year history of the event to repeat as champion. Michael Jordan, Jason Richardson and Nate Robinson are the others.

Report: Blake Griffin has second procedure on hand, timeline remains unchanged

Blake Griffin
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Blake Griffin will still return to the Clippers some time in March (barring any setbacks).

That said, he had a second procedure this week to repair the boxer’s fracture in his right hand, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Clippers forward Blake Griffin underwent a second procedure this week on his broke right hand, sources told ESPN. The procedure was a part of the original surgery last week, so sources said the 4-6 week timeframe for his return remains unchanged.

This might help explain why Griffin’s hand looked so swollen and scarred this week. But to be clear, this was a planned second procedure, not a setback.

Griffin suffered the fracture punching a Clippers’ equipment manager while everyone was out to dinner in Toronto recently, while Griffin was still sidelined with a quadricep injury. The Clippers have moved on, but it is likely the league will tack on a couple of game suspension for Griffin upon his return to health.

And no, the Clippers are not looking to trade Griffin in spite of this. So stop asking.