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If the Heat can’t beat the Celtics now, they’re never going to

Apr 9, 2011, 7:00 PM EDT

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics Getty Images

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.

  1. therookie773 - Apr 9, 2011 at 7:26 PM

    If Lebron doesn’t win it all this year, his greatness is seriously questioned. How good of a team does this guy need to win it all?

    • zackd2 - Apr 10, 2011 at 9:38 AM

      Maybe they’ll get CP3 & Dwight this summer.

  2. jstrizzle - Apr 9, 2011 at 10:03 PM

    No it is not near a must win unless they need that second seed. It is entirely possible to lose every game against the Celtics and then beat them in the playoffs. Unless you have a crystal ball Matt that you aren’t sharing with anyone.

    • ibleedaquaorange - Apr 10, 2011 at 7:37 AM

      I like how anything pro or even neutral toward the Heat is an instant thumbs down, regardless of content. Jstrizzle’s post is nothing more than a fair point. Grow up, children.

    • davidly - Apr 10, 2011 at 7:44 AM

      In sports journalism a “must win” is any win which isn’t a must. Come game 7 in the series, you’d be hard-pressed to find it being described as a must win.

  3. davidly - Apr 10, 2011 at 4:13 AM

    If James had stayed in Cleveland, imagine how scary good the Bulls would be right now with Wade.

  4. corharper - Apr 10, 2011 at 5:27 AM

    The Heat have a reasonable chance against the Celtics on Sunday. Is it a must-win for the Heat? No. Essentially, from my vantage point both teams would be considered equal (after Celtics’ trade); except for the obvious factors (that is, a center, a bench, a healthy Chalmers or perhaps a consistent Bibby). The scouting report clearly demonstrates the Heat are vulnerable in those positions.

    Now, with regard to the Celtics’ recent sluggish play (trades, injuries, and — quite frankly — Father Time), their staple defense and the start of the playoffs are who they are. Or at the very least have become. Jeff Green, who was part of the new up-and-coming three in the Oklahoma City Thunders. When Green excepts his new role (that is, previously a starter for the Thunders) and come to turns with playing on a veteran team –even though temporarily — his game will change dramatically.

    Moreover, either Shaq or Jermaine must be healthy. Then Krstic’s not tough will be a moot point. Albeit Glen “Big Baby” Davis has been effective against Lebron James, to say he is the key to the Celtics win may be an hyperboly. The fact remains that if Davis succeed in limiting James’ shots, then the Heat’s bench will need to produce to counter James’ offense.

    Anything is possible. Right?

  5. mornelithe - Apr 10, 2011 at 6:45 AM

    Only games that really matter now are playoff games. The Celtics are notorious for not giving a rats ass about the final games of the season, so one cannot draw any conclusions from games right now. Kind of a let down, really. I mean, they get paid huge bundles of cash…and yet can take large chunks of the season off. Weak.

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