I'm not going to lie to you folks. I think Miami is going to win this series.
When you look at this objectively, the Celtics are just too banged up. Without Avery Bradley, their best scoring option off the bench (Ray Allen) is now starting. Their only other option is Mickael Pietrus, who needs offseason knee surgery. And Greg Stiemsma's foot problem means Ryan Hollins is forced to play meaningful minutes in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Faith can only go so far. Reality tells me the Big 3 era ends in this series.
But here's the thing: It has to end this series for the Celtics to have a chance at winning it.
The Big 3 era has been about Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen carrying the Celtics for long stretches. But for the Celtics to win, this has to be, without any shadow of a doubt, Rajon Rondo's team. So here are the the things that need to happen if the Celtics are going to beat the odds and go to the NBA Finals.
1: Rondo has to have the best series of his life.
He pretty much has to be a triple double threat every night. And not the triple double threat that he is on any given night where, if he's locked in, he can do it. I mean his play has to have people turning to their friends a minute into the game saying "holy Rondo… this guy's going for a trip-dub tonight."
We all know the story with Miami. They're weak at the point. We know it, they know it, everyone knows it. So they'll game-plan for it. Maybe LeBron and Wade take some turns on Rondo. Maybe they try a zone to clog the lane figuring they can get out on shooters. I don't know what it'll be, but they'll have a plan. Rondo needs to blow that plan up. Maybe sometimes he gets down into the post himself. Maybe sometimes it's off the dribble. Maybe sometimes its off the pick and roll. However he needs to do it, he needs to do it.
Rondo needs to be '09 Bulls series Rondo x 2. He needs to make the aggressive Rondo we know look passive.
No one can complain about getting a flow. No one can complain about the number of shots. This is Rondo doing work. And if he doesn't do work, the Celtics season is over.
2: KG can't miss
Rondo's not going to be terrorizing Miami every possession. There will be more than an ample opportunity for half court sets. But Paul Pierce's knee makes it extremely tough to take over and be "The Truth". Ray Allen's ankle makes it damn near impossible for him to be anything but a spot-up shooter. So it'll be on KG again… the guy who hits the worst shot in basketball better than anyone maybe ever has.
Garnett has AT LEAST be as good as he was against Philly… maybe better. Garnett has to be so accurate, William Tell would stand and give him the slow, dramatic clap. From wherever he is, be it in the post or on the pick-and-pop (probably mostly on the pick and pop), Garnett has to be dead-on with his shot.
We're asking the world of Rondo, but he needs outlets. If those outlets are off, then we won't see the electricity from Rondo the C's need.
3: Neither can Bass
Brandon Bass just needs to be Brandon Bass. Nothing fancy. Nothing too crazy. The guys that need to have out-of-body experiences are capable of doing so (well, we hope so anyway). Bass just needs to be himself. There's not much more to say. Just hitting the shots he normally hits at the rate at which he normally hits them will be just fine, but supremely important. He needs to create space.
4: Absolutely, positively, no turnovers.
… unless you enjoy being part of Miami's highlight package. Turnovers are are like hitting the Space Shuttle's ignition button for the Heat. And here's the thing with them, they're playing as well as they can possibly play in the open court. I'm not kidding. They are at a point where they don't even have to look to find each other. And I don't mean they're throwing the kind of no-look passes Magic Johnson used to throw… the kind where he sees you and knows you're there, looks away and throws it to you anyway. No, these guys are running to catch a long outlet pass and just throwing the ball to a spot without so much as a glance… and the other guy is there to finish the highlight.
Every live-ball turnover will end this way. Every single one. So that can't happen. I'd rather see 15 24-second violations than 15 bad passes that lead to transition opportunities.
I'll put it to you this way. If the Celtics turn the ball over the way they did earlier in the regular season… they're going to get swept. It's that important.
5: Defend the lane like Spartans
If they can't stop it, dribble penetration will doom the Celtics in this series.
They have to defend that lane like they're Spartans in a over-the-top Hollywood dramatization. Miami's offense is at its worst when it's LeBron-iso… Wade-iso… Lebron-iso…. Wade-iso…
So let them take turns. Let them shoot all the jumpers they want. But do not, under any circumstances, let them into the paint. That's like letting a roach into your basement. Once its in there, you're infested and overrun.
Miami might beat you with jumpers. That's possible. But they WILL beat you with penetration. If the Celtics can turn this into a jump shooting contest, they have a shot. I'll take Boston's jump shooting over Miami's any day.
Am I asking a lot of the Boston Celtics in this series? Yes. Too much? Maybe. But that's what it's going to take. It's going to take perfect execution. It's going to take the Boston Celtics not playing like the Boston Celtics of this season. They're going to have to find some way to get past the deficiencies they've shown that feed into Miami's strengths.
TONIGHT… WE DINE IN HELL!!!
Well, Miami. But it's really friggin' hot there and I'm sure there are plenty of Kardashians around… So, close enough