Game 5 Against Heat Suddenly a Must-Win For Celtics


April 26, 2010

Game 5 Against Heat Suddenly a Must-Win For Celtics Call it an overreaction. Say it?s nothing more than classic Bostonian Doom-and-Gloomism.

But the Celtics need to shut the door on Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat on Tuesday night, or they?re in trouble.

Why? There is, first, the obvious: A loss would put Game 6 back in South Beach, where Boston just handed over a nine-point defeat and witnessed one of the greatest playoff performances ever.

And that, to get more specific, is Reason No. 2: D-Wade. The guy is a true contender. He told folks before Game 4 that the Heat?s season wasn?t over yet, then delivered, scoring 46 points on 16-of-24 shooting, including a ridiculous 4-for-4 stretch from 3-point range in the final quarter.

He added five rebounds, five assists and two steals. Wade was possessed (so much so that he stupidly stared at and blew on his right hand after hitting one of those 3?s. I and every other sports fan with even the slightest understanding of what?s cool are all still waiting for the apology on that). Once he had declared that Miami wasn?t finished, he simply couldn?t afford to lose.

That is a very scary proposition for the Celtics — a player who can fulfill a prophecy by simply making it.

Game 4 Sunday was eerily reminiscent of Game 3 of the 2006 Finals. After two blowout losses and seemingly no chance of a comeback, the Heat upended the Dallas Mavericks in Miami, then rattled off three more in a row to take the title. Wade was named Finals MVP, averaging 40 points over that stretch.

Granted, Shaquille O?Neal (the real Hall of Fame one, not the guy in a fat suit who currently plays for the Cavaliers) was on that team, and the Celtics don?t have a choke artist of Dirk Nowitzki?s caliber — although Ray Allen did his best impression Sunday.

But the point stands: Dwyane Wade is a monster, capable of taking over this series and making the C?s feel like the 2004 Yankees: completely hosed.

As worrisome — while Jermaine O?Neal remains preoccupied with his audition for the part of Goomba in the next Super Mario Brothers film — is that both Quentin Richardson and Michael Beasley are starting to find their rhythms.

Beasley has scored 16 and 15 points in the last two outings, respectively, and is seeing that smooth jumper start to fall. Richardson, meanwhile, sank four of six 3-point attempts on Sunday and added three steals and seven rebounds to pester Boston?s offense.

And precisely because of the inconsistent play of those two, there is perhaps no streakier team in the league than the Heat. The Erik Spoelstra-coached club lost eight of 13 in February before going 18-4 over the last two months of the regular season.

That, too, could spell trouble for the C?s, if Miami were to steal away a win at the TD Garden. Let Miami get hot, and the C?s could be left fighting a fire.

Perhaps more important than any doomsday scenario with the Heat, moreover, is the opportunity cost associated with letting this series drag on: While the Cavs are set to finish off the Bulls, the Celtics would sacrifice valuable rest for Rajon Rondo and the Big Three. Paul Pierce, perhaps the only Celtic who can contain LeBron James, is averaging 37 minutes per game in Round 1; Rondo is seeing 42.

Boston?s only shot at dethroning the King is with a full and healthy roster.

Not that I?m looking ahead to the second round. A date with the Miami Heat at 7 p.m. Tuesday is, at this point, far more important.

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