The Philadelphia 76ers would have likely been overmatched against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. But Sixers fans like myself could point out that the Boston Celtics looked just as overmatched and exhausted early on, at least until Game 3 on June 1. Now all of a sudden, the Celtics can go from being virtually dead to being dead even with the Heat in Game 4 on June 3 at Boston - but they failed in this position before.
When Miami and Boston faced off in the second round last year, the Celtics had a chance to even that series at 2-2 with a Game 4 win at home. Instead, the Heat took total control by breaking the Celtics' hearts in an overtime win, then predictably closed them out in Miami. That same history can repeat itself in 2012 - but if it doesn't, then there might be no way of knowing what will happen.
The last time the Heat faced this kind of adversity was in a Game 4 in the last round, although they were down by 2-1 at the time. Yet Miami rallied from an early deficit against the Indiana Pacers, evened that series and then cruised the rest of the way. Of course, the Heat aren't facing a 3-1 deficit in this Game 4 against the Celtics - although they probably should.
If not for that Game 2 rally on May 30, Miami would be down 2-1 and be in even bigger trouble than it was in Indiana. However, that isn't the case here, as a Game 4 win would virtually wrap up this series and a conference title for the Heat. They did it in Game 4 of last year's conference finals over the Chicago Bulls, although that overtime win came at home.
For the Celtics, they have a more problematic recent history in Game 4, given how they blew their fourth game against the Sixers so badly in the last round. They were already up by 2-1 in that series, so losing that Game 4 didn't kill them - yet it did keep Boston from moving on as quickly as it should have.
Losing this fourth game would kill the Celtics, like it did against the Heat last year. Technically, if last year's slightly younger Boston team couldn't even things up with Miami, this one shouldn't be able to do it on its last legs. But the 2011 Celtics came pretty close before faltering in overtime - so can the 2012 version get just one step closer?
If it does, then Boston will have taken quite a mental edge going back to Miami. The last time the Heat were in a 2-2 series, they had all the momentum and then took advantage of it. In this case, however, a 2-2 series would look disastrous for the Heat - and put this playoff showdown with the Celtics into brand new troubling territory.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan - who has become quite familiar with the Celtics in that time.
Other stories from this contributor
- Sports & Recreation
- Miami Heat
- Boston Celtics