Despite 2-0 Lead, Celtics Can’t Just Coast on Road in Miami


April 22, 2010

Despite 2-0 Lead, Celtics Can't Just Coast on Road in Miami BOSTON — The Celtics are up 2-0 in their first-round playoff series, and they're catching the next flight out of Boston with visions of a sweep dancing in their heads.

Either that, or they're brushing up on their history.

For the guys who have been around a couple years and remember the team's 2008 championship run, history has shown that finishing the deal after starting with a 2-0 series advantage is anything but easy.

Think back to the first round of the '08 playoffs, when the Celtics were up 2-0 on the Atlanta Hawks — it was a one-versus-eight matchup in the first round, and when the C's started off with two easy wins at the TD Garden, everyone assumed it'd be smooth sailing to the second round.

It wasn't. They boarded a southbound flight, and before you knew it, they were in Game 7. Two years later, they're still thinking about it.

"That's all I think about," Ray Allen said. "It resonates so big with this team now because we were flying high, up two. We blew them out both games in our building. And we had all played in [Atlanta's] building before. So we didn't expect what we saw when we got out there. That building carried them to two victories out there."

The same thing happened in the next round against a Cleveland team led by a then-23-year-old LeBron James. Boston won the first two at home, including a 16-point cakewalk in Game 2, but blew the next two on the road and ended up in a Game 7. The C's didn't win a road game until the conference finals against Detroit.

They're hoping that in 2010, they don't repeat their past mistakes.

"It's key to win on the road," Kendrick Perkins said. "If you've got a chance to put a team away, you never want to go to a Game 7. Because anything can happen in a Game 7. Guys get hurt, guys get in foul trouble, anything could happen. So you want to try to prevent Game 7 as much as possible."

Of course, the Celtics won those Game 7s en route to the finals that spring. They blew the Hawks away in their own building 99-65, and Paul Pierce outdueled LeBron in a Game 7 for the ages in the second round.

But that's not the healthiest way to survive. With this many old men on the court, the Celtics might have a heart attack or two. Even up 2-0, they've got to remain focused, especially as they take their show on the road.

"At the end of the day, all we've done is win two home games," Doc Rivers said. "And Miami has yet to play a home game. So that's how they're thinking, for sure. And whether we won [Game 2] by one or by whatever we won by, Game 3 was going to be tough anyway. We understand that."

Of course, the Celtics have the favorable home/away splits to hang their hats on. They went 26-15 away from the Garden this season, tied for the best among the eight Eastern playoff teams; the Heat were 24-17 at American Airlines Arena, tied for the worst of the lot.

But how much does that matter now, in the playoffs? The Celtics are thinking … not much.

"Miami could care less about our regular-season record on the road," Rivers said. "And we should care less about it. We have to come to play and earn it. The playoffs are a different beast. I say it all the time — you can overvalue the regular season when you start looking at records and matchups."

All the numbers look good for the Celtics — they're good on the road. Miami's (relatively) bad at home. The C's are 5-0 now against the Heat this season. Every single statistical indicator you look at says that, yes, the Celtics are in great shape.

But this time of year, you've got to set the numbers aside and play. No matter what, you've got to take care of business.

"That," Kevin Garnett put it bluntly, "is the only reason we're going to Miami."

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