The Boston Celtics had never trailed a playoff series by two games during the Big Three era. They had never been beaten so thoroughly, nor perhaps so meaningfully, in successive games. They had never looked so incapable, so overmatched, so defeated, so confused.
We’re accustomed to seeing Boston respond to smoke with fire, but this time the flames engulfed them before they could appropriately react. All of which leaves them stumbling like the neighborhood drunk, wobbling like a sunflower in 40-MPH winds, standing close enough to their biggest collective challenge yet that they can tell you what flavor gum it’s chewing.
“It is what it is and we have to deal with it,” Kevin Garnett told WEEI’s Paul Flannery. “We need to go protect our homecourt. Period. There isn’t much to talk about. It’s do or die.”
There are certainly things Boston can correct from yesterday. They can set better screens for Ray Allen. They can stress better ball movement. They can make fewer bad turnovers, which almost always result in a Miami dunk or layup. They can encourage Glen Davis to refrain from trying to play hero. They can offer Jeff Green a “Defense for Dummies” handbook. They can completely cut Nenad Krstic’s minutes, and they can put Jermaine O’Neal back in the game more quickly. They can maintain their composure in the endgame. They can make life more difficult for LeWyane Jade.
But coming back in this series won’t be so much about adjustments to technique as it is will be about the Celtics finding it within themselves to play better. That’s what my expert advice is: play better. For all you GMs out there, I’m available for a coaching position. But such genius pearls of wisdom don’t come cheap. Play better. I’m good, huh?
Of course, I’m being sarcastic about my “great” advice, but Doc Rivers actually agrees with my sentiment. “No different approach, honestly,” he said about Boston’s plan for Game 3. Structurally, there’s nothing Boston will do differently. They will just attempt to do what they do more efficiently. And they will be attempting to do so against a Heat team that, if it ever did, no longer feels inferior. Nor should they feel inferior, considering they spent the first two games pelting Boston with the same wrench Will Hunting’s father used during fits of alcoholic rage. Playing better, against this Heat team that’s executing so well, is far easier said than done.
This series has turned into Boston greatest challenge yet, and should the Celtics somehow find it within themselves to steal this series, will become their most worthy accomplishment. Nothing so far has provided hope, nothing so far has provided optimism. But the Celtics would be surprised if they don’t bring the heavy artillery when play resumes on Saturday.
“We’ll be ready, I can tell you that,” Rivers told ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan about Game 3. “I can guarantee you that. In this case, the rest is good. It’s very good for us because we are a little banged up. So I told [the players] to go golf or do whatever they want to do, stay away from each other, stay away from film, stay away from basketball and just relax.
“And then we’ll get right back at it on [Thursday] and build up to Game 3, and Game 3 will be in Boston. We like being in Boston.”
They are bloodied, but not afraid.
“Being down 2-0 doesn’t scare any of us,” Ray Allen told the Palm Beach Post. “It doesn’t make any of us nervous. What this gives us is an opportunity to come out shining, an opportunity to go home in front of our home crowd and play some good basketball.”
They better take advantage of that opportunity, because their graves are waiting, already dug, and the Heat are ready to nudge them in. Hope has regressed to the point that I have begun thinking about Boston’s impending death, about how I’d at least like them to go down pridefully. In my thoughts, and this was my brother Tommy’s idea first, their death goes something like (*”The Wire” spoiler alert*) Bodie’s in “The Wire.”
It’s late at night, and Bodie’s selling drugs on a Baltimore street corner. Darkness has already claimed the day when Bodie spots gangster assassins lurking, approaching. Immediately, he knows what’s going on. His friends tell him to run. But not Bodie. No, Bodie’s what they call a soldier.
“This is my corner, I ain’t running nowhere,” he says. The assassins walk closer. They’ve developed a reputation as the most dangerous duo (sound familiar) in Baltimore, and Bodie understands their power. But it’s his corner. He’s not going anywhere. Instead, he fires two shots.
“Come with it, motherf—ers. I don’t give a f—,” he yells into the night air. “I’m right here.”
He fires more shots. His friend Poot urges him one last time to leave before getting killed, but Bodie’s mind is already decided. He shakes his head and Poot runs away, a coward or smart, or both at the same time, whatever you want to call him.
Bodie keeps shooting. Even though death seems inevitable, it’s his corner. He’s nothing if not proud, nothing if not defiant. They will take his corner, he must understand, and he should know he will die protecting it. But he’d rather have it that way. A few seconds later, a few shots later, Bodie is dead. Shot at close range. The approaching assassins, as expected, proved to be too much. You can call Bodie stupid for standing his ground when he could have run, but I imagine it’s the way he wanted it to end, prideful and unafraid.
That’s how I want Boston to go. Either that, or they could somehow escape the Grim Reaper and overcome the approaching assassins. It’s their biggest challenge yet.