Quietly the murmurs stirred from Boston. Contrary to what many believed, the Boston Celtics wanted to play the Miami Heat.
Not just in Game 1, or Game 2, or even in Game 3, but from the get go. When the seeding for the NBA playoffs became official, the Celtics seemed determined to have another showdown with the Heat.
The bitterness of being dismantled by Miami in last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals, 4-1, never quite left their taste buds.
When last season’s MVP, Derrick Rose, went down for the Chicago Bulls in their first playoff game, the road to Miami became more reality than fantasy.
The chips continued to play in the Celtics’ favor as the Philadelphia 76ers advanced, ensuring Boston would have home court advantage again.
Then the biggest chip of all fell their way: Chris Bosh, Miami’s only consistent offensive big man, got injured. He hasn’t returned to the court in over two weeks, and will miss game four, if not more games.
Boston, though down 2-1 in the series, has Miami right where they want them.
Rajon Rondo has developed his game beyond being just a playmaker. He has become the scorer the Celtics have needed, averaging 27 points per game in the series.
At age 36, a rejuvenated Kevin Garnett is playing his best basketball since his days in Minnesota. He is tied for the most double-doubles in the playoffs, with who else but Rondo.
Miami has no answer for these two superstars.
When James switches to guard Rondo, it leaves an undersized Miami team vulnerable to offensive rebounds and Garnett more room to operate.
Even with James helping in the paint, no one on Miami beside Bosh has the length to stop Garnett’s tear.
Yet Garnett is chipping in much more than 20 points and 10 rebounds a game in the playoffs for Boston.
His renewed grit and toughness are the motor behind the Celtics’ playoff run. His desire to bully his opponents on the court, gives Boston the confidence and swagger it needs to beat Miami.
Thru three games so far, the Celtics have never acted like underdogs. Neither have they acknowledged it. They have gone nose to nose with the Heat.
At the end of game 2, Rondo was seen jeering at Lebron James as he defended the three-time MVP on his attempted game winning shot as regulation ended.
James missed. Even though he shook Rondo on defense to get the open look, he couldn’t shake him out of his head.
Though Boston lost that game, and are down 2-1 in the series, they know they could just as easily be up 2-1. The Celtics took game three behind ‘desperation basketball’ but they won’t need that heading into game four tomorrow.
Instead they’ll be playing their typical ‘bully basketball.’
Boston knows they have their superstars, in Rondo and Garnett, clicking at the right time. They know they have their raucous home crowd behind them.
Even more, they know all the chips are on their side of the table, and it’s their turn to roll the dice.