Pressure is on as Celtics fall into 0-2 deficit
MIAMI — They will golf. They will rest. Whatever they do, coach Doc Rivers does not want his Celtics to be consumed by the hole they now find themselves in.
His order was to get as far away from the game as possible, for a day at least.
“Stay away from each other, stay away from film, stay away from basketball,’’ he said.
After last night’s 102-91 loss to the Heat in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, putting them in an 0-2 series hole, they aren’t necessarily ready to hit the panic button, but the Celtics know the situation.
They have played 11 playoff series since the new Big Three was assembled in 2007 and they’ve never been down two games to none.
“There’s nothing we can do about it,’’ Rivers said. “We’ve got a third game and we can take care of that. Whatever the past is, that’s what it is. They’ve won two games at home, but they’ve played well and we can’t allow them to play like this or it’s going to be tough at our place.’’
Game 3 is Saturday night at TD Garden.
The Heat’s LeBron James did everything in his power to kick the Celtics down the well, pumping in 35 loud and emphatic points. He caught alley-oops off inbounds passes. He finished fast breaks with spin moves that turned into two-hand flushes. He drained pull-up threes. He made rubble out of Boston defenders, breaking them down off the dribble.
More than anyone, James knew the value of all the experiences the Celtics had been through together — he seemed practically envious of it before the series — but now they’re in uncharted territory.
The last time James was in Boston for the postseason, he was ripping off his Cavaliers jersey, preparing to make the biggest decision of his career. He’ll return Saturday night with a chance to eliminate the Celtics on their home floor with two wins.
“This is what we wanted to do,’’ James said. “We wanted to win the first two games. We are looking forward to going back to Boston.’’
After blowing up for 38 points in Game 1, Wade gladly handed James the scoring baton, going for 28 points as the King’s wingman.
Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo’s double-double (20 points, 12 assists) was futile. It was clear coming in that Rivers would make a concerted effort to go to Kevin Garnett, but the forward missed 12 of his 20 attempts, finishing with 16 points.
Paul Pierce left the game late in the first quarter with a strained left foot. He returned, but never found a rhythm (13 points on 5-of-11 shooting).
The Celtics’ frustrations were to the point that when Ray Allen was whistled for his fourth foul — putting Wade on the line for a pair of free throws that made it 85-80 — he hopped up and down, shedding his typical cool.
Allen had to leave briefly in the third quarter after catching an elbow from James while trying to stop him from getting out on a fast break. Allen went to the locker room after experiencing shortness of breath. Doctors called it a bruised chest cavity.
Rivers was issued a technical foul with 2:48 left in the fourth quarter for arguing with referee Joe Crawford about a foul on Garnett, the coach breaking his own rule about getting fourth-quarter T’s).
“I asked Joey, calmly actually — calm in coaching speak,’’ Rivers said. “I said, ‘Doesn’t Kevin have a chance to roll?’ He said, ‘Good question. Technical.’ ’’
The Celtics have been down two games to none eight times in franchise history. They came out of the hole to win the series just once.
“We’ve lost a lot of different ways and won a lot of different ways,’’ Allen said. “There is no clear-cut way to win a championship, or win during the regular season. I have learned over the course of my career the adversity you face makes you who you are and that is why we’re here.
“Being down two games to zero does not scare any of us or make us nervous. We have the opportunity to go home and play in front of our home crowd and play good basketball.’’
But for three days, it’ll be the only thing on their minds no matter how far away from the game they try to get.
“Regardless, of where you go, it’s still going to be on your mind if you love the game,’’ Rondo said. “It’s frustrating being down 0-2, or losing any game.
“Regardless what we do individually, I’m sure it’ll be on everyone’s mind.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.