Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics gestures as he...

Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics gestures as he reacts in the second half. (June 1, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

BOSTON -- LeBron James came out Friday night like someone who wanted to put the game -- and this series -- away quickly. But the aging Celtics showed the heart and fight of a team that has no intention of leaving quietly.

Kevin Garnett typified that after falling hard on his back in the first half. He lay on the ground for several moments, then turned over and did push-ups as his teammates stood around him and the loud Boston crowd cheered.

The Celtics beat the Heat, 101-91, in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals, trimming Miami's series lead to 2-1. Game 4 is Sunday night right back here and the Celtics are hoping they can make the best-of-seven a three-game series by winning at home again.

"This is a championship team," James said. "They have a lot of guys that won championship rings. They got a lot of pride. We know we're not going to be able to just walk on top of them."

The Celtics showed little mental effects or physical fatigue from squandering leads and losing the very winnable Game 2 in overtime. Energized by their fans, the Celtics built a 24-point fourth-quarter lead. Also Rajon Rondo, who had 44 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds in Game 2, got the kind of support he needed from his teammates.

Rondo played another brilliant floor game, though, as he finished with 21 points, 10 assists and six rebounds. He was big in the fourth, scoring eight points and helping to make sure the Celtics staved off a Heat rally. Miami got within eight with less than two minutes left and Rondo scored on a layup with 1:39 left to make it 99-89.

Garnett led the Celtics with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Paul Pierce had 23 points and Ray Allen 10.

James scored 16 of his game-high 34 points in the first quarter. Dwyane Wade added 18 points, shooting 9-for-20, and Mario Chalmers had 14.

With James' jump shot falling early, the Heat opened up a 28-22 lead in the first quarter. But James' 16-foot jumper with 2:38 left in the first wound up being the Heat's last basket for 8:40.

In that time, the Celtics outscored the Heat 17-2 and were leading 39-30 when James' turnaround bank shot ended the drought with 5:57 left in the half. But the Heat continued to struggle offensively and trailed 55-42 at halftime.

It was all James all the time. He had 20 points in the first half and picked up his third foul with 43.5 seconds left. The rest of the Heat combined to score 22.

The Celtics took their first double-digit lead on a Pierce three with 3:40 left in the half that made it 46-34. Later, Allen buried a three-pointer to make it a 13-point game.

The third quarter started much the way the first half ended. The Heat had difficulty scoring and the Celtics continued to widen the gap.

Garnett scored six of the Celtics' first nine point points and Boston took a 67-46 lead with 7:09 left after a Daniels' three-point play. The Heat finally started making shots, but couldn't put consistent stops together against the Celtics. Boston opened up a 22-point lead after Pierce canned a three in the closing seconds of the third.

Notes & quotes: Chris Bosh shot and took part in the Heat's walk-through during shootaround Friday, playing the role of Garnett on the scout team. Bosh remains out indefinitely with a lower-abdominal strain.

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