It hasn't been a pretty sight so far for the Boston Celtics in their round 2 match-up against the Miami Heat. Their starters are getting banged up while their reserves are being outplayed and outhussled by a Miami bench squad that has been regularly blasted by everyone, myself included, for being weak and ineffective. Down 2-0, they might have built themselves a hole too deep to climb up out of.
"Nothing we can do about it," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "We've got a third game and we've got to take care of that. Whatever the past is, it is. They've won two games at home. But we can't allow them to play like this, or it's going to be tough at our place."
After a game 1 loss, the Celtics needed to 'unleash hell' (stealing a quote from Steelers coach Mike Tomlin here) on the Heat to steal home court and even the series. What they got instead was another reminder that their time as a major Eastern Conference power may be nearing an end. With Rajon Rondo battling a bad back, Paul Pierce struggling through a strained Achilles, and Ray Allen missing the second half with a bruised chest, the Heat took advantage of the blood in the water and feasted on Boston in the second half.
Led by LeBron James, who put up 24 of his 35 points in the second half when Pierce was to injured to slow him down, Miami put this game to bed with a smothering defense and a timely offense that was just enough for a 102-91 win.
"That's our staple. We know the only way for us to win games, especially in the playoffs, is to play defense," James said. "Everyone has each other's back. If one guy gets beat, another steps up. They made a run, a heck of a run … but we just kept grinding, kept playing our principles, and we finally wore them down."
For the moment, it appears that star power is trumping team chemistry as the 'Big Three' of Miami are proving to be the difference in this series so far. In game 1, it was Wade making the biggest contribution and in game 2, it was LeBron… a LeBron who is feeling the relief of not having to be THE MAN night after night.
"In the past, I knew that if I didn't bring my A-game, there is a pretty good chance we weren't going to win," James said, referring to his previous two series losses to the Celtics when he was with the Cleveland Cavaliers. "Having guys on the court that can take over the game, that takes a load off of you. That is the vision I had during the free-agent period when I decided to come."
This series is far from over and if any team can find a way to dig out of an early 0-2 hole, it's the veteran laden Boston Celtics. They will try to take their first step in making this a series Saturday night when they return home for game 3.
"Being down 2-0 doesn't scare any of us, doesn't make us nervous," Ray Allen said. "It's just an opportunity to come out shining."
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