My Little League coach had a favorite saying, one that he’d dust off any time our team got a little bit of breathing room.
“Close the door,” he’d say. “Let’s close the goddamn door.”
Tonight, the Celtics should heed his advice. A 2-0 lead and a Game Two drubbing has closed the door on the Miami Heat halfway, but that pesky piece of wood is still slightly ajar. No matter how good the Celtics looked at home, this series isn’t over. The Celtics still have two more wins to go. The seven-game battle royale Boston played against Atlanta two seasons ago stands as a cautionary tale of what can happen to a team that rests on its laurels away from home.
As bad as things were for his Heat in Boston, Dwyane Wade thinks the series hasn’t even started yet.
“You’ve got to keep in perspective that a series doesn’t start until a team wins on the other team’s court,” Wade said after Thursday’s practice. “So we’ve got to come home and take care of our home court. We’ve played well the end of the year here. We should be confident.”
But there is nothing for Miami to be confident about. As much as Wade would like to think the series hasn’t started yet, his team is down 2-0. As well as they played toward the end of the regular season, the playoffs are a different animal and the Heat have so far spent them getting slapped around. Lose tonight and Wade, probably wearing some goofy outfit, will be golfing by next week. As unlikely as it seems that Miami could win four games out of five against the Celtics, winning four games in a row won’t happen. And that’s the daunting task the Heat will face, should they lose tonight.
A Celtics loss tonight wouldn’t mean certain defeat in the series. Far from it. But it would give Miami an opening to swoop in and make this an interesting series.
“I don’t think you should be happy [with the two wins," Doc Rivers told the Boston Herald. "We haven’t done anything. We’ve talked about that already. There’s no reason to be happy. You’ve done what you should do. You won two home games. Be happy when you get to four. That’s all I’ve talked about. Two wins shouldn’t get you happy. Three shouldn’t get you happy. Four you can be happy."
And the Celtics will have Kevin Garnett back to help them on their quest to four. The Big Ticket missed out on the Game Two smackdown, as a suspension forced him to watch from Danny Ainge's basement. In that game, Quentin Richardson was an object of abuse for Boston fans, and tonight Garnett expects nothing less than the same venom to be directed his way.
"Just anticipating it being very hostile," Garnett said. "Watching Chauncey and Rasheed play them, how hostile and how crazy that town can get when they’re behind their team. It’s what we’re anticipating."
In a bit of defiance toward the idea that a crowd will be able to affect his play, Garnett added, "I don’t expect any of us to get any cheers down there and I’m no different from that.
"I’m not saying I’m the villain or the hero," he said. "I could care less. I’ve played on the road before. Hell I played in San Antonio and I know they hate me there for whatever reasons. So this should be no different. I could care less."
The crowd may not be able to affect Garnett, but will certainly be out in full force behind a Heat team needing a victory to keep alive any hope.
"Whether we won [Game Two] by one, or whatever we won by, Game 3 is going to [be] tough,” Doc Rivers said, “and we understand that.”
Step one is understanding. Step two is doing.
Step three is closing the damn door.