In Boston, there are two schools of thought regarding the Celtics-Heat Game 7 encounter Saturday night.
There are those who believe Paul Pierce and trust that the Celtics are where they want to be, the scrappy underdogs ready to pounce on the confident favorites with the surging superstar. Then there are those that don’t believe Paul Pierce and think that Boston’s opportunity came and went in a Game 6 loss at TD Bank Garden. They assume the finale in Miami will serve as the swan song for an admirable, but aging bunch.
Pierce, after shooting 4-for-18 and contributing to a defensive effort that allowed James to score 45 points, said that despite the Game 6 blowout the Celtics have "a perfect opportunity.” He continued: “We’ve been the underdog all year long.
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Going into Game 7 the underdog. We’re right where we want to be.”
He may be right. He may be crazy. In order for Pierce to prove wrong the glass-half-empty camp, Boston must find a way to stop James, or at least slow him down a bit. That one is obvious; James dominated Game 6 from the opening tip and never allowed the C’s to sniff a legitimate comeback in the second half.
Here are three other keys to winning Game 7 in Miami, which may or may not be right where the Celtics want to be.
That might sound unreasonable in a series that has seen teams blow large leads, but Game 6 was so one-sided that the Celts will need something out of the gate to get the bad taste out of their mouths. Also, we have seen how the Heat can tense up in big games at home. If Boston is up early and if LeBron is not unconscious again, the staid Miami fans will become, well, more staid.
The team that has won the first quarter has won four of the six games of the series. That is not a terribly convincing statistic, but Boston does not need to face an uphill climb again. It never got up that hill Thursday night.
Make open 3-pointers
The Celtics on Thursday had several opportunities to get the Garden crowd more into it when someone had an open look from beyond the arc. They just kept missing. If they have opportunities to take the AmericanAirlines Arena crowd out of it with open looks Saturday, they must convert. Boston is shooting 22.7 percent from 3-point range in the three losses and 33.9 percent in the three wins.
KJ, er, KG has to be KG
Rajon Rondo makes the Celtics world go around, but when Kevin Garnett has that look about him (you know the one), the Heat tend to shrink. They almost seem frightened of Garnett when he displays his aggressiveness, which seemed to be lacking Thursday night. Garnett had just five rebounds, tied for his 2012 playoff low, and did not get to the line for the first time in the postseason. He has averaged 21.5 points per game in wins during the playoffs, compared to 16.6 in losses.