After their 99-90 loss to the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, those of us who picked the Boston Celtics to win this series and advance to the NBA's Final Four had a slew of explanations for why those picks still made sense, why the opening frame was more the rare exception than the expected rule.
"James Jones won't pop for 25 points off the Miami bench again" was a popular one. "Paul Pierce won't get himself ejected twice" was another, and a lot of people liked Rajon Rondo's chances of shaking off a dicey Game 1 to fulfill the pre-series expectations that he'd torch Miami's point guards every trip down the court.
Following Tuesday night's convincing 102-91 victory, though, explanations — rationalizations, really — are growing harder and harder to find.
Having traveled to South Beach in search of a split to seize home-court advantage, the Celtics instead return to Boston facing an 0-2 deficit for the first time since Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen teamed up, as ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg noted. Danny Ainge united the three stars just four seasons back, but given the pace at which the NBA has evolved since they joined forces, it feels like it happened ages ago — which, as Dave Hyde wrote for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, is sort of Boston's problem in a nutshell right now:
One by one, they made Boston's stars grow old before us. [...]
Dwyane Wade made a magic move and —where'd he go? — Boston's Kevin Garnett was a lost child in the mall, turned completely around, as Wade blew by for a layup.
Wade then made another move, hitting the air brakes. Boston's Ray Allen couldn't stop. Allen fell to the ground, like a supplicant, watching Wade's three-point shot swish.
In Tuesday's 102-91 Heat win, the Heat's Big Three played Boston's Big Three like youth plays age. It was that simple.
For the Celtics, identifying solutions looks to be anything but.
Time and again, Miami's two signature stars displayed their physical advantages in Game 2, leaving Boston looking nearly as overmatched and outgunned as they made the New York Knicks look in their first-round sweep.
Whether it was a white-hot Dwyane Wade unveiling an evil Euro step on a backpedaling Garnett (the "lost child in the mall" play Hyde referenced) ...