Something is happening, and I’m becoming increasingly convinced that it ain’t a facade. It started midseason, then rose further, and then Game 1 in South Beach did nothing but make me nod my head and think: “I was right.”
Remember in the original Scarface when Tony Camonte started as a deputy in the crime world, learning everything he could from his mentor, Johnny Lovo? He was wildly ambitious yes, but he was a fanatical worker, he wasn’t afraid and didn’t care what people thought of him. Lovo was a father figure. He could laugh when Tony went after his woman because you know what? He was just a kid. He didn’t know any better. He wasn’t a threat.
But then, Tony bit off more than he could chew, and liked the taste. He started shooting up rival gangs and running his mouth in front of everyone. He stole his boss’ woman. The more Lovo told him to shut up, the more he pushed. A teenager gone awry.
Eventually, what had to happen did. Tony got too big. Lovo had do something, but before he could finish the job, Tony killed him. The old general was swallowed up and spit back out by the new king. It was a new day.
I’m starting to get this feeling that Boston might be on their way out; those little gnats, the Heat, a group of guys that even former Miami guard Carlos Arroyo admits have been obsessed with Boston all season long, have taken a few swings at the Celtics, and dizzied them up. They believe now. They believe it’s their time. Game 1 only reinforced it.
It’s like the Heat sensed something was amiss with the Celtics. Teams cheered when Kendrick Perkins was traded. Did the Heat? If Arroyo is right at all, after that trade, they probably all gathered for a celebratory night out with Pat Riley. When teams like Chicago and Derrick Rose started pounding Boston on national television, going right at Kevin Garnett, everyone on Miami probably started looking around with raised eyebrows. Then, Tony Allen turned up halfway across the country doing the most Celtic-like things for another team, and Miami was convinced. We got these dudes. So they went out in their final regular-season matchup and swung for the fences. The Celtics’ success took a shot at them, and it connected. Big time. After that game, a switch went on in Miami’s head: “Oh my God. If we play frenetic defense, run at every possible opportunity and completely disregard Boston’s old physical mojo, they will wilt.” They did it again on Sunday afternoon. Tony had shot down Lovo.
Miami is snowballing straight at the heart of Boston. For the Celtics, they have to make a stand now, tonight. Miami is brimming with confidence, and the more blowout wins they get, the more likely they will forget that they still don’t have a clue what to do in a close game and that they still field a lineup that includes guys you wouldn’t even sub in during a video game. Dwyane Wade went out on Sunday looking to show the Celtics couldn’t hold them down. He needed to forget about four regular-season games that saw him shoot 28 percent and average 12.8 points. He impressed even himself, scoring 38 points, frustrating Paul Pierce to an early exit, and Ray Allen and whomever else tried to guard him.
Then there’s that guy LeBron. The guy who said this series would be personal. He didn’t make Game 1 personal, only because he didn’t have to. But he’s the ultimate checkmate, the ace in the hole. When you have the single most talented player in the world, and he ain’t even your leading character, you have it good.
This is different than L.A. or Chicago losing Game 1. No one is afraid of Atlanta or Dallas, least of all the Lakers and the Bulls. They could lose, but the threat just isn’t the same. Miami is a different animal, hated for most of this year not just because of what they are and what they represent, but of what they have the chance to be. Boston never saw them as a threat, figured their experience would overwhelm them. This is our blueprint, they thought. No one else is gonna steal our blueprint and beat us at our own game.
But Miami has, and they are becoming increasingly comfortable ripping and pricking the Celtics until the old guard collapses. They are coming of age, shedding the labels of the summer and fall to become one of the most ferocious defensive teams we’ve seen in the last few years. Wade has had enough of the Celtics. He wants to beat them. James has had enough of them. He needs to beat them.
Still, the Celtics are good at this. They revel in the doubt. It makes them stronger. Their best players have all fought off doubts and injury and father time and haters to make it this far. They can talk the game about how Miami was too physical and was taking cheap shots in Game 1. But now it’s their turn to respond.
When will Rajon Rondo say “screw it, Mike Bibby IS NOT checking me?” When will Garnett decide he won’t Chris Bosh allow into the paint on his watch? When will Jeff Green wake up? When will Doc Rivers one-up “ubuntu?” When – will? – the Celtics stop this freight train before it’s too late?
Tonight has to be Lovo’s night. He has to take a shot and pray that it connects. If not, his control of Tony is over.
Are you convinced Miami is now the better team? Or will Boston find a way to beat them?
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