It must have been a haunting sensation leaving the American Airlines Arena last night for the Boston Celtics. For the consecutive time they, who many had pegged as favorites in the East, were bludgeoned on both ends of the court by a relentless opponent who is more determined, more athletic, and can see their future unfolding before their eyes. That future will not be pleasant for the Celtics because in it they cease to be relevant.
However, there should be a point of pride within the Celtics’ front office. Their model, that they created when assembling their present team, is the one currently dismantling them. Clearly, it was a very successful precedent to set otherwise it would not have been emulated. Well, that is not entirely true. The Miami Heat, who hold a 2-0 series lead over Boston, did not strictly adhere to the Celtics’ model. Instead they went younger and more athletic. Why build a team with a closing window when you can build one that is being thrust open? Boston’s creation is presently being perfected.
Miami is winning games in the manner in which the Celtics used to win. They employ a suffocating defense and run the offense through their stars when they need efficient scoring late in games. Boston ran this system to a T but now it is anything but menacing. They are feeling the effects of their bodies catching up with them especially against a younger, more agile opponent who is taking the physicality to the Celtics and not letting them fight back.
In game two, Boston tied the game at 80 in the fourth quarter. This was simply Miami’s Illicium enticing the Celtics into their gaping maw. The Heat went on a run to finish off the Celtics, who were smarting from various injuries, to further press the backs of the one time bruisers into the wall. However, the injuries that the Celtics endured during game two should not be used as an excuse. They have not played well throughout these playoffs.
Boston almost let Carmelo Anthony singlehandedly dismantle and defeat them in the first round. That Knicks team did not have all the necessary pieces in place to give them a real run for their money but they did enough to make it interesting. In the Heat, Boston has found its ultimate test. Miami wanted to play them, they knew they must if they were to prove anything after a year in which their entire season was scrutinized. When the Celtics brought in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to join Paul Pierce, they were lauded by the media because of the Celtics’ provenance in the NBA. For the Heat the story was the exact opposite. They were ridiculed and chided. It was seen as a selfish move on the part of the players as they were seen to be exercising a misguided belief of entitlement. Miami had everything to prove to themselves and to the league.
Right now they are doing just that. Spearheaded by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the Heat are proving the doubters wrong. They are proving that they can indeed function as a successful playoff unit surrounded by bit pieces. In two games they have shattered all preconceptions. This is a team determined and hungry.
The trio of James, Wade, and Chris Bosh can be best related to the Lernaean Hydra. Only you cannot decapitate the three heads of the Heat, you can only try to slow them down. When one of the stars is slowed, however, other players, like James Jones did in game one, step up. Yet, when one is slowed, the others excel. Boston, after Wade’s performance in game one, is more than privy to that. The Celtics are not Heracles though many may have thought them to be in 2008.
Miami is circling now as green blood has tinged the playoff waters. All they have left to prove now is if they can deliver a final blow. That blow will not come easy, though. The Cetlics’ veterans are proud and will not go down without a dogged fight in front of their faithful in Boston. They were champions once but they have been deposed. In the East, a legacy is dying and we are all witness.