Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Celtics Are No Match for Younger James, Heat
In a year where the epicenter of an unparalleled experiment assembled believably the greatest trio all-time in the history of American sports -- bigger than any prior transactions in NBA history, the only other that parallels the acquisition of Lebron James and Chris Bosh was a few years ago when Boston acquired Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett respectively in a trade.
If there's one valid explanation for why James fled abruptly from his native homeland Cleveland and announced nationally via his narcissistic one-hour spectacle, a bizarre, self-centered stunt that killed his legacy and popularity, it was for one objective. That would be to capture his first ever NBA championship with the Heat. If there's anything less than a title, upon the gossip that the Heat are the dominant force in the league jumping into primary contention with the masterminded rebuilding by the savvy Hall of Famer Pat Riley, it would be a great disappointment when the franchise built sizable talent.
The Heat, once upon a time, were useless, too young and soft to align into quality stars, unable to vanquish any weaknesses in a flux. For a variety of reasons, for which he sacrificed his ego and ceded his legacy all while seeking a lone title, he signed the smallest deal of the most compelling free-agency bonanza, migrated to South Beach and join forces with the Heat. When the Heat implored James to become a resident in Miami, not to mention to stand as a symbol globally in a town where basketball has turned into a social event regularly, the franchise in Southern Florida wooed him away from Chicago, New York and Cleveland.
The good news is, of course, that he is playing for the hottest team in these playoffs and has had a large impact on the Heat's dominance in the postseason so far, even if he's portrayed as one of the most villainous person in sports except for the likes of Tiger Woods, Alex Rodriguez and Kobe Bryant. That's what America desires, a sports figure who is the villainous superstar ridiculed for either a mishandled decision or for being disloyal in a town that pampered and adored him dearly. The most powerful man in the world isn't Donald Trump, not even Charlie Sheen, maybe the funniest television personality who might have lost his mind mentally.
Other than President Obama controlling the reign of power these days, it turns out that James is the most powerful athlete. This was the night for James to put a hush on the critics, carrying the Heat in the most sensational performance in which he played like a barbaric assassin to propel to 102-91 victory in Game 2 Tuesday night for a commanding 2-0 lead of Boston in the series. And together, they have played with cohesiveness and toughness, thrust in the position to increase the level of intensity and urgency if the Heat wish to surpass the hardest challenge in the postseason.
In an erratic season, of which the Heat wilted and began to frail in the shadows of others in the Eastern Conference for their poorest drought in the regular season, one of the underachieving franchises that lacked unity and trust, Miami was seemingly predicated to hit a roadblock against the Celtics, who boldly teased Miami via Twitter by unleashing, "It's been a pleasure to bring my talents to South Beach, Paul Pierce posted after Boston's statement win in Miami back in November.
Before the basketball lords mock and denounce the Heat, before the analyst disrespect James and Wade, might we suggest that Miami is scarier than ever, prepared to meet an epic battle. This clearly looks like a seven-game series, in what has flourished into an immediate rivalry. This gives Miami coach Erik Spoelstra, the protégé of Riley, every reason to breathe and not stress about his job security but uphold the coaching role and thrive to cement the Heat in every way.
It seems, after all, the Heat aren't nearing destruction but instead triumph, aren't close to being dispatched from the postseason with the exception of James, Wade and Bosh. Quite fittingly, the Big Three exist in South Beach rather than Beantown for a veteran core beginning to reveal their weaknesses. The aging bodies and tiredness is a factor in the Celtics' sluggish, sketchy breakdown as Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, the inspirational voice and defensive guru, slowly debilitates to limit Boston's usual firmness. No one ever imagined the Celtics being in the jeopardy of losing a series, now trailing 2-0 to the Heat.
For Miami, now in full control of the series, they are the hungriest and strongest equipped with a disruptive and assertive defense. In this generation, known as the era of "Where Amazing Happens," the Heat bypassed the hysteria and lives up to the hype with a relentless effort against the defending Eastern Conference champs. It was an edgy night for the Celtics, a testimony to the Heat's anxiousness and heartiness to revolutionize their intensity as the deepest and boisterous triple threat in the East if not in the league. As the Heat's youth dictates the significance of this series, a common trend noticed all of the sudden in such a startling semifinals, the older Celtics are breaking down.
The premature disrespect inspired the Heat to heal the heartaches and it has placed fear on the minds of the Celtics, fading quickly as the topflight squad. Forget about the Celtics entering the Eastern Conference semifinals with higher expectations than the Heat. Forget about Boston supposedly being the toughest unit with much postseason experience, when perhaps the reign has ended completely. But as much as everybody tries to downplay the Heat's rebound in time for the postseason, with talented star power on the floor nightly, the Heat are rising quickly.
In this one, James had the signature dunk and poured in 35 points, many of which came in the fourth quarter alone when he dominated at will and stunned all his critics. His counterpart, no doubt, scored 28 points, and on this particular night, he wasn't too worried about an ailing Pierce. No ejects or technicals, but he was seen limping to the locker room with a probable "strained foot" diagnosis. No need for a wheelchair either but, in all, the injury was revealed to be a strained Achilles' tendon.
In his return, he was limited and had a 5-for-11 performance to finish with 13 points, all while his teammate Allen accounted for seven points and ended an abysmal night in shooting. Everything, it seemed, was falling for the Heat in the final quarter after witnessing the Heat take a 14-0 tear in the fourth to complete another lopsided ending. The lack of fight in the Celtics, with the passive and careless mindset, is killing Boston and finally James and Wade are gaining closer to riding the Celtics with the last word at last.
Without a healthy Rajon Rondo, battling with problematic back ailments, the Celtics aren't nearly explosive or robust but very fragile and vulnerable that gives Miami an advantage in an unpredictable series. Early in the fourth, he lied flat on his sore back and had been worked on by trainers. Earlier in the season, the Heat were overpowered in three games by the Celtics and bullied while in uncertainty with the lack of defensive effort.
If the age was revealed, finally, it's a real notion that Miami has solid defense to halt the Celtics when Allen, the NBA's all-time three-point leader, couldn't hit a three exhausted from the Heat's speed and energy that dictated the tempo. It was ridiculous for nine voters to exclude James off their MVP ballots, given that he transcended in one of his most balanced playoff performance of his strange career. But all of this essentially fueled his capabilities to unleash his stylish attack on the older Celtics by shooting a mere 14-for-25 and collecting seven rebounds, compiling 14 of the Heat's 16 points in the third and fourth.
"I've been in moments before in the postseason where I've gotten it going," James said. "And tonight was another night where you felt like whatever you threw up or whatever play you were making for you team, it was going to work."
It will probably go down as one of his greatest games, hitting consecutive three-pointers and crossing over his opposing defender to finish on a smooth floater off the glass. When James stormed down the floor quickly, he literally flew over the top of Rondo in the fast break and slammed in a basket on the putback dunk. And he even caused damage on defense when he blocked Garnett late in the game.
This tells us that LeBron and company is no match for the Celtics.