By Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel –
BOSTON — Coming off Friday’s 101-91 Game 3 loss to the Boston Celtics in these best-of-seven NBA Eastern Conference finals, the question is whether the Miami Heat have finally run into a big man capable of cutting them down to size.
Able to survive matchups against New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler in the first round and Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert in the second round, the Heat find themselves a bit more perplexed by the lengthy versatility of Kevin Garnett this round.
“His length is a little more different. He’s agile,” said Shane Battier, who has been playing as an undersized power forward these past two rounds.
“A guy like Hibbert, he was so big, but he was lot slower than K.G. You could react a little quicker to him. K.G. is pretty agile and his length makes him a different challenge.”
Garnett led the Celtics with 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting and 11 rebounds in their Game 3 breakthrough Friday night, averaging a team-high 19.7 points and 10.6 rebounds in the series, which continues with Sunday’s Game 4 at TD Garden.
“They came in with a mentality to make sure he got some deep catches,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Saturday of Garnett’s Game 3 performance. “So we have to meet him with force, play him with two people at times, but do things harder and better than what we did.”
With little in the way of quality length available, with center Ronny Turiaf playing as a token starter and backup center Joel Anthony limited to 12 minutes Friday due to his liabilities on offense, Spoelstra turned to forward LeBron James in Game 3 for defensive deterrence.
“K.G. is a difficult cover,” James said.
“First of all, he’s a more prolific scorer than Chandler and Hibbert. And when he gets to shoot, his wingspan, he shoots higher than anybody we have in this league. So we have to do a better job of trying to help each other out and not expose ourselves as much with our coverages.”
The Heat, of course, are exposed with their lack of height. They overcame much of that in the first two rounds, and the first two games of this series, with a relentless fronting defense. But the Celtics figured out the passing angles against the tactic in Game 3 and Garnett was practically unstoppable once he caught the entry pass.
“Well, we’ve been undersized on paper all season long. So we know we have to work extras hard, extra smart to really limit paint points,” Battier said. “So it’s nothing new for us. We know we’re undersized. We have to work quicker, smarter and more together to limit those catches.”
No Bosh update
The Heat held a light workout Saturday at TD Garden, hardly the type of workout to gauge whether sidelined power forward Chris Bosh is ready for a return.
Spoelstra, in fact, said he has yet to be summoned to witness any type of ready-for-return workout by the All-Star power forward, who has been sidelined for three weeks with a lower-abdominal strain.
“No update on Chris,” Spoelstra said, effectively confirming Bosh will miss Sunday’s Game 4.
Said guard Dwyane Wade, “When it happens, we’re getting an All-Star player back, a big part of what we do. But we don’t know when it’s going to happen and right now we’ve got to focus on what we have.”
Wade said he had moved on regarding going without a free throw in a playoff game for the first time since his rookie season in 2004. “I can’t really expand on it. I just didn’t shoot none,” he said of Game 3. “I’ll try to come out and be just as aggressive, a little more. Hopefully I’ll get some.” …
Of as much concern was the Heat shooting 10 of 20 from the foul line in Friday’s Game 3 loss, now at 63.3 percent from the line for the series. “We just have to keep stepping up there with confidence,” Spoelstra said. “We work on it. But the bigger focus is making sure we get free-throw attempts.”