Window Of Opportunity

Did the Celtics blow their only chance to steal this series?


(Total votes: 622)



Forsberg By Chris Forsberg

The Boston Celtics spoiled a one-of-a-kind playoff performance from Rajon Rondo (44 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds) and missed a chance to steal momentum -- and home-court advantage -- in the Eastern Conference finals with Wednesday's Game 2 loss to the Miami Heat.

Many teams would roll over having squandered maybe their best chance to steal a win and make this series interesting. Not these prideful Celtics. They save their most inspired ball for when their backs are against the wall.

Boston can still steal this series. It simply won't be easy. Certainly not as easy as it would have been had the Celtics won Wednesday in Miami.

But maybe Heat coach Erik Spoelstra summed it up best: "There just can't be any other way with [the Celtics]. It has to be the hard way."

And the hard way it is, yet again. Not only do the Celtics not make anything easy on themselves, they're not going to make it easy on Miami either. Boston players rallied around the company line that the Heat simply held serve by winning Games 1 and 2. Now the Celtics return home confident they can protect their turf in Games 3 and 4.

It's one thing to say it; it's another to do it. Yet the Celtics have shown uncanny resiliency this season.

You simply can't yet count them out of this series -- even if they missed a great opportunity and all the historical numbers suggest they have little chance of rallying back.

"The next two are at home," said Rondo. "We had two tough losses on the road. It's a sevengame series. We're playing very well at home as of late, so I'm looking forward to it."

If it's just spin, it was hard to tell in the Boston locker room.

"If we continue to play with that effort and play with that passion, I really like our chances," said captain Paul Pierce.

Of course, these are the same things Boston said a year ago in the conference semifinals after dropping two games in Miami. The Celtics came home to win Game 3, but Rondo dislocated his elbow, Shaquille O'Neal could never get on the court, and the Celtics were ousted in Game 5.

The difference this time around: mental resolve. This Boston team has it, maybe like no other in the Big Three era. For that reason, the Celtics still have a chance, but it will be their most difficult hurdle to overcome yet.


By Greg Payne

Ray Allen might prove to have been prophetic in these comments made following the Celtics' Game 7 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday:

"You go through the regular season and you throw games away, and you think you're going to pick them up, you're going to catch up somewhere down the line," he said. "But [in the Eastern Conference finals], you know what it is. When you lose, you're one step further away from your goal. You win and you're one step closer."

You can't afford to squander games in the Eastern Conference finals. There simply aren't enough of them to have that luxury. Matters are made worse when you're up against a very capable team like the Heat.

A lot of things fell the Celtics' way in Game 2 in a perfect storm-like combination we're not likely to see again this series. Dwyane Wade was stymied for an entire half, LeBron James shot an inefficient 7-for-20 from the field, Miami missed a whopping 16 free throws, and Rajon Rondo was burying jump shots at a ferocious clip.

I'm not saying Rondo is incapable of hitting jumpers with such marksmanship again, but what precedent is there that can lead us to believe he'll have another shooting performance like that? The Celtics cannot comfortably rely on a repeat effort in Game 3. He can still score by attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line, but arguably the biggest reason why Boston's lead ballooned to 15 points in the first half was because of Rondo's accuracy from the perimeter.

There are a host of ups and downs throughout a seven-game series, and it's rare for so many different things to go one team's way in one specific game. Wade and James are both silenced offensively for significant stretches? The Celtics' point guard, who supposedly can't shoot, is suddenly making it rain? These things might occur separately in different games over the course of the series, but to have them come together in one outing presented Boston with what will probably go down as its best chance to steal a game in Miami.

Even if you assume the Celtics will hold serve at home, they still must win a game on the Heat's floor to win the series. Are they going to have a better opportunity than Wednesday night? It's highly doubtful.