May 8, 2011, 1:30 AM EDT
Welcome back the Miami Heat we have mocked and derided all season. We’re glad you could visit after the impressive, competent team that has inhabited your body for eight weeks. They were no fun at all, what with their championship aspirations and focused intensity.
The Boston Celtics rediscovered themselves in Game 3 on Saturday, as they got back to what they do best, hitting big shots and shutting off the opponent’s airflow defensively. But for the time being, let’s shelve Rajon Rondo‘s heroic performance, Boston’s stellar defense, and Kevin Garnett eating Chris Bosh alive alone for a second. Actually, you know what? Let’s start there, but on the flip side.
Remember those halcyon days of the first round when Bosh was facing inferior defenders and could thrive at the elbow? Yeah, neither does he. Bosh admitted after the game that he had a bad game, as if six points, five rebounds, one assist and two turnovers with a blocked shot begins to describe how pitiful he was in this game. Garnett turns 35 in 12 days. However, if Garnett can figure out a way to transfer Bosh’s pride into physical years of life, he’s going to last longer than Indiana Jones. Garnett ruined Bosh in Game 3 as he has throughout the matchup in the regular season and playoffs. Bosh’s 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting in Game 2 feels like a relic. There was simply no way to describe how badly Garnett shook and baked Bosh in the block. The rebounding, the works. But, hey, maybe Bosh would have produced more had the ball moved at all on offense.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, when moving through the flow of the offense, are a deadly combination. James and Wade, when freezing the offense with over-dribbling, head fakes, and isolation, always isolation, are just as thoroughly inept as any bottom-feeding lottery squad. Guess which team showed up in Game 3?
In the continuing evolution of the question of who is the real leader of the Heat, Game 3 represented a significant development. Maybe the Heat can’t close without Wade plugged in. But they have no such opportunity when James drops a 6-of-16 performance with as many turnovers as assists. In short, when James is neutralized, so go the Heat.
There were questions about the Heat’s mental focus and toughness going into the playoffs. A 2-0 lead over the defending Eastern Conference champions had quelled some of that, but the Heat had never been behind in the fourth, never been trying to overcome a deficit on the road in these playoffs against a real contender. They got a taste of that experience against the Celtics on Saturday night. And the Celtics beat them with one arm tied behind Rondo’s back (almost).
So we’ll wait till Game 4 on Monday to see if the Heat can put together another impressive performance, or if they’re back to their same old tricks of disappointment and failure.
Maybe the Celtics were just giving it one more try. Maybe it was just the emotion from Rondo’s return to action after dislocating his left elbow. Maybe it was just a momentary diversion in the Heat’s ascension to the title they planned in the summer. Or maybe it was Miami showing that as long as they can’t race out to a big, fun lead, they’ll still revert back to the same habits we’ve come to mock or be frustrated with. Game 3 was a flashback for the Heat, in a real bad way.