If You Can’t Handle The Heat…

May 4, 2011

The series is far from over, but it looks as if the Boston Celtics are going to have to get out of the kitchen.

Miami’s 102-91 victory over the Celtics last night in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, in which Boston looked slow and robotic, has some people wondering when the Celtics team that was supposed to be capable of stopping the Heat will show up. Maybe that team doesn’t exist, though. 

Forget the fact that the Celtics won the regular season series 3-1. The Heat obviously had some team chemistry issues to iron out, Kendrick Perkins was a factor that the Heat no longer have to deal with, and most importantly, it is a known fact that some NBA teams don’t play as hard in every game of regular season as they do in the playoffs. That is not to say that slacking off is an excuse for the Heat’s struggles against the Celtics during the regular season. It’s hard to pin down one reason why the Heat have looked so differently than the team we saw in late February and early March, because there isn’t anything different about them. 

Other than not having Kendrick Perkins, there isn’t much different about the Celtics, either. They still play pretty good defense, and seemed to have high confidence heading into the current series after dispatching the Knicks in four games in their first round matchup. However, there is no denying that this team is old, and certainly looked it last night. The Heat looked faster and stronger than the Celtics last night, and when the Boston tried to stand up and fight back, they were pushed back onto the floor.

The fact that the Celtics are ailing (possibly due in part to their age) does not help matters. Paul Pierce’s foot, Ray Allen’s chest, Shaquille O’Neal’s calf, and Rajon Rondo’s back are noticeably crippling the team’s efforts, making it almost impossible to keep up a team that wants to push the tempo as the Heat did last night.

Maybe the Celtics just had a rough first two games, and will bounce back when the series resumes at the TD Garden. Game 3 is not until Saturday, which will give the teams some time to rest, much to the benefit of the Boston players. Maybe though, this was bound to happen. Maybe this entire season, the Celtics were just a rusty bridge waiting to fall, a shell of what they were two or three years ago. Boston’s injuries are unfortunate, but other than Rondo’s, not surprising. After an 82 game regular season plus playoffs, a team whose core includes the 33-year-old Pierce, 34-year-old Garnett, and 35-year-old Allen was bound to get a little banged up. The Heat know this, and decided to come at Boston with speed and physicality. Why didn’t they do that in the regular season? Quite simply, because the stakes weren’t high enough.

Lebron James wasn’t strong enough to destroy the bridge on his own. Even an aging Celtics team is still too good to be beaten by a one man team, as James was in Cleveland. Still, Boston will be difficult to take down. It should not go without mentioning that the Heat went on a 14-0 run in the fourth quarter that allowed them to win rather comfortably. Without that run, it is possible that the end result may have been different. 

However, there is no denying that this is exactly what James signed up last July. Along with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, the Heat have shown in these first two games that they have more than enough manpower to send the bridge crashing down.

– K. Becks

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