We’re near the epilogue of the NBA Eastern Conference finals, moments from the credit roll. So long as the Heat doesn’t play like it, that is.
Game 3 on Friday in WhateverBank Garden will be Boston’s fourth game in seven days. The first was an emotionally draining Game 7 against Philadelphia. In Game 1 against the Heat, the Celtics looked stuck in the 1970s, both on the scoreboard and in age. This round’s schedule provides no break, no double off days for old Sizzlers to find their Juice Machine once more.
They face the prospect of winning four of five from the Heat. Logic says they won’t, and it’s harder to believe in the illogical when you’re the Celtics’ age.
Didn’t Game 2 on Wednesday feel like the climax of a late-night Western, especially because both John Ford and Sergio Leone in their current worm-food states could have done a better job officiating than the NBA-sanctioned whistlers?
There’s Rajon Rondo, the point guard with a name straight out of Louis L’Amour, as the young gunslinger doing what all he can do and much of what his senior partners used to be able to do in an attempt to make the best of their last moments together. Ray Allen threw in a three-pointer to keep the Heat from winning in regulation, but missed a potentially killing shot a few minutes earlier with the Celtics up.
Rondo can’t conjure that game four more times. Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, a collective 19 of 48 in Game 2 and 15 of 41 in Game 1, can’t seem to summon the past even once.
But the Heat shouldn’t take the chance that they might.
Wounded, their eyes clouded, the Celtics lay as prey for the Heat’s wagon train pulled by the stars. The backup of the Heat’s Big 3, so erratic during the season, has appeared with greater consistency now that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have gone into Avengers mode without Chris Bosh. No one player is stepping up all the time but somebody is all the time.
Whether it’s a few timely threes from Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller and Shane Battier or a few pivotal rebounds or putbacks from Joel Anthony or Rony Turiaf, the Heat has been getting what it wants and what it needs the past five games.
As James and Wade roar up and down lanes as if they were runways, this is the barely beatable Heat team the rest of the NBA feared since July 2010.
The Celtics’ habit of resurrecting themselves like that other undead icon, Dracula, should concern the Heat into decisive action. Especially because, over on the other side, San Antonio went into Thursday night on a winning streak so long, I think a George Gervin finger roll started it. The Spurs will be well-rested for the NBA Finals.
So, the Heat should enter Friday with the goal of putting bullets into Boston before the Celtics can twitch twice. Feed off the angry energy of a Boston crowd seeing its own latest Big 3 era end with only one title, silence it early and keep firing away. Acknowledge the funky calls that go against you on the road with a brief look without fussing, then move on with the killing.
Or, as Tuco says in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, “When you have to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk.”