Okay, Miami Heat.
You lost to the Celtics in the season opener. You lost to the Celtics at home. You lost to the Celtics after you’d supposedly gotten everything figured out. This your last chance. And it’s a good one.
The Heat are in a no-win situation here. They beat the Celtics on Sunday in Miami, and the immediate calls will be about either a. how they lost the season series 3-1, b. how winning in the regular season means absolutely nothing and they have to win in the playoffs, or c. how the Celtics had mailed in the rest of the regular season. That said, being faced with those assessments is much preferable to the alternative. If the Heat can’t topple the Celtics now, there’s no way anyone outside of LeBron’s mo… let’s not go there. Sufficed to say, no one’s going to have any faith in the red and white if they face the green in the second round should they be swept on Sunday.
The Celtics are at a lowpoint. They just had their tails kicked in by the Bulls who have lapped them in the two years since the first-round series many call the best of all time. They are .500 in their last ten, due to a combination of late-season malaise and continuing issues with chemistry and integrating new players. Jeff Green’s not rebounding. Krstic is tall, but he’s not tough, not in the Celtics’ vicious, no-quarter-given-none-asked way. There’s every reason to believe things will click into place a week from now when the Celtics open their first-round series in the Garden. But if the Heat are going to be able to topple them, now’s the time.
The biggest concern for the Heat going into Sunday’s contest? It’s not Kevin Garnett’s ability to out-muscle and out-stretch Chris Bosh both in the post and from range. It’s not Ray Allen slipping screen after screen to catch and shoot daggers that fall like rain while Dwyane Wade tries to absorb the punishment on his body from said screens. It’s not even Rajon Rondo tossing in what seems like a million assists per game against them.
It’s Glen Davis. Against Miami this season, Davis has averaged 11.6 points on a little over 8 shots per game, along with 6 rebounds, in limited minutes. You can live with getting daggered by Pierce and Allen or bullied by Shaq and Garnett. Getting roly-poly’d by Glen Davis is a different matter. Worse still is what Davis has done that isn’t in the box score. Davis has played LeBron enough in the playoffs over the past three years to know his tendencies. He knows when to shade over to take the charge, and that disrupts LeBron’s ability to finish at the rim. There will be significant regard for human life as long as Davis is on the floor playing help defense on James.
From there it gets into effort. As in, the Heat have had none. When faced with the Celtics grinding defense, they haven’t panicked or gone headlong into the mouth of madness. Instead they’ve just given up. They’ve looked like they simply wanted to surrender. Not exactly the mark of a champion. Boston should know what that look looks like. They had it for much of the fourth quarter against the Bulls Thursday night. If the Heat don’t give everything they have to try and take the Celtics down, they’re going to see them in the second round, knowing full well that the Celtics swept them in impressive fashion in the regular season. This is a gimme game for Boston.
It is a near-must-win for the Heat.