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Celtics can't lose their pride

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  May 5, 2011 10:29 AM

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A fast five on the Celtics and Heat while wondering if Erik Spoelstra ever says anything that doesn't sound like it was hastily cribbed from a Pat Riley motivational book . . .

finnbigbaby5311.jpg1. You know the situation. You know how grim it looks for the green. You've been force-fed all the gruesome numbers and probably shaken your head while calculating a few of your own.

You know the Celtics' odds of overcoming a 2-0 deficit are as long as Joel Anthony's wingspan, that it's been done just once in franchise history and 14 times in NBA history. You know the Heat's Big 3 has mauled the Celtics' Big 3 like a young lion claiming its territory and eventual throne from a proud, aging rival who happens to be suffering from back, chest, and Achilles' injuries. And as disappointing as it is to admit it, you know the days of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce as true championship contenders could well be entering their final days

But you also know them. When this trio of superstars assembled by Danny Ainge carried the Celtics to that elusive 17th banner three years ago, there was still a bit of a mercenary feel to the whole thing. Not now. Not after the peaks and valleys of the past couple of seasons -- KG's injury, their fierce raging against aging, stunning the Hollingers of the world by ending LeBron James's Cleveland career, even the crushing Game 7 loss in LA -- confirmed time and again that this was not just an impressive assemblage of talent, but a team in ownership of an extraordinary supply of determination. It's that characteristic that has helped them earn the utmost respect from discerning Celtics fans, and it's the one hope worth clinging to as the Celtics return home.

Yeah, it looks bleak. It is bleak. But you can find optimism if you're looking for it. It was 80-80 with roughly 7 minutes left Tuesday night. The Heat, save for Dwyane Wade, are a pack of habitual front-runners. Coming home and playing in front of fans who actually understand the fundamental concepts of basketball might provide a jolt.

Maybe the optimism really is a collection of fading delusions. Maybe the fear that "The Decision" might be vindicated is becoming reality before our eyes. But the least Celtics fans can do is allow all of the scenes to play out before presuming the movie has ended. Never doubt the will of this core of players. Even if the way may be hard to come by.

2. While it's hard to resist further pining for Kendrick Perkins after reading this from old friend Marc Spears, it should also be more evident than ever why Danny Ainge made the trade. As spotty -- to be kind -- as Jeff Green's performance has been, he's one of exactly two Celtics who can keep pace with the Heat's electric perimeter players athletically, a healthy and fully engaged Rajon Rondo of course being the other. Save for those two, the Celtics have to work for everything offensively against the relentless Heat.

Green was modestly effective in Game 2, scoring 11 points and finishing a team-best plus-5, and the effort if not the results are there when he's called upon to defend LeBron James, who has the quickest first step of any Fenway Sports Group partner. Not everyone can be Tony Allen. (Did I really just write that?)

The reality is that they don't miss Perk nearly as much as they miss Shaq. Unfortunately, there's probably about the same chance of seeing either one of them play for the Celtics in this series.

3. It's always a good policy to be skeptical -- even suspicious -- of certain NBA referees and their motivations depending upon that night's venue. And if you're skimming the surface for a reason the Celtics are down 2-0 in this series, the free-throw discrepancy (Miami has shot 68 to Boston's 40) might seem a good place to start.

But while I get as aggravated -- and occasionally enraged -- with the likes of Dick Bavetta and Bennett Salvatore as anyone this side of Tommy Heinsohn, I just can't see it being a reasonable gripe for Celtics fans thus far.

James and Wade, who have shot 39 of those free-throws, have earned their way to the line for the most part with their consistently aggressive forays to the hoop. They're getting fouled because the Celtics' defense often has no other alternative.

Superstars always get the benefit of the doubt with the whistles -- that might as well be the NBA's slogan -- but in this series so far the foul imbalance is about as justified as it can be.

MchaleKevinfinn5311.jpg4. There has been a seemingly endless chorus of fans and media taking whacks at Glen Davis this morning for his misguided attempt to mimic Kevin McHale Game 2 as that 80-80 tie turned into a spirit-crushing 94-80 deficit.

So what the heck, I'll sing a few bars, too.

While I appreciate the career Big Baby has carved out for himself as an effective NBA bench player despite being undersized and, coming out of LSU, significantly overweight, there are certain times when I can't stand his game. This is one of those times.

He had as many shot attempts (7) as Ray Allen last night, which under certain circumstances might be acceptable, like, say, if Allen had been abducted by aliens or forced to appear on a NESN cooking show or something. It did seem like Baby was breaking out of his slump and stopping with the Eeyore routine late in the Knicks series, but it's apparent he's either not sure of his role or not happy with it.

Until he figures it out -- or until he realizes that when Doc Rivers says, "We've got to get the ball to the right guys," that he's not talking about him -- he should probably just concentrate on setting decent screens for Allen and Paul Pierce until that eureka moment hits him and he realizes it's what he should have been doing all along.

5. If I had to guess at the NBA player who ripped Kevin Garnett as "a punk and a coward" under the pseudonym "Player X" in a recent ESPN Magazine column, I would probably rattle off the starting five for pretty much every other squad in the Eastern Conference before ever suspecting Chris Bosh.

Not only would that be out-of-character for the mellow alleged third member of Miami's Big 3, but there have been countless indications in recent seasons that he's so intimidated by Garnett that he'd tuck cotton balls in his ears if he could get away with it, just to dull the hurtful name-calling and cussing.

So from a green-and-white standpoint, one of the bigger disappointments of the series so far is that Bosh has slightly outplayed Garnett, averaging 12 points and 11.5 rebounds per game to KG's pedestrian 11 and 7.

Of all of the benefits of coming back to the Garden, the extra boost the crowd could give the ultra-emotional Garnett might be at the top of the list.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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