The Celtics and Heat aren’t playing an actual postseason series. They’re just trading off games.
Can we please get some entertaining, or even just bearable, playoff basketball Wednesday night?
The NBA has a blowout problem. The last 10 contests leaguewide — including two Game 7s and eight conference finals matchups — have been decided by an average margin of 17.6 points. Boston and Miami are playing right into that troubling trend. The Celtics throttled the Heat 102-82 in Game 4, but frankly, the affair wasn’t even as close as the lopsided final score would indicate. Boston led 26-4 in the first quarter.
Nobody in attendance could be blamed if they made a very early exit back to the Harp.
Though Game 4 was the worst contest yet, this entire series has been a dud. There have been only four lead changes so far — and none in the fourth quarter. In Game 1, the Heat outscored the Celtics 39-14 in the third quarter and nursed a double-digit lead for the bulk of the fourth.
Two nights later, the Celtics built their lead to 34 points before exiting FTX Arena with a 25-point win.
The Heat got their payback in Game 3, building a 26-point lead in the first-half. Jayson Tatum’s apparent exaggeration of a shoulder injury was the most memorable detail from that snooze fest.
There are a few possible explanations for these woeful contests. The Celtics and Heat are both dealing with injuries — Bam Adebayo, Kyle Lowry and Tyler Herro are all dealing with ailments, Robert Williams missed Game 3 — and the every-other-night schedule doesn’t lend itself to rest and rehabilitation. But when the final scores are this askew, there are likely mental factors at play.
Take it from this basket case: the mind is the most powerful organ in the human body.
It’s easy to see how the Heat may have been content slow-walking through Game 4 and getting onto a plane back to Miami as quickly as possible. They already stole a contest from the Celtics on their home court in Game 3, meaning they could afford to sit back Monday. When they couldn’t hit a shot early — their first field goal came with 3:22 left in the first quarter — they probably just decided to pack it in.
Scott Foster was officiating the game, anyway. Calls going against the Heat seemed inevitable (the Celtics enjoyed a 38-14 advantage on the charity stripe).
The circumstances around Game 2 were similar. The Heat bullied the Celtics in the second half of Game 1. There was no need to sacrifice their bodies to try and engineer a miraculous comeback two days later.
Conversely, the Celtics were desperate in Games 2 and 4. It’s apparent they showed up to the arena committed to actually playing.
It’s a sad state of affairs when earning a trip to the NBA Finals apparently isn’t enough motivation to play hard every game. There are also tangible advantages to wrapping up the series early. The NBA Finals are slated to start June 2. If the Celtics played like the superior team they are through these four games, they would maybe have a chance to wrap things up Wednesday, on May 25.
That means they would receive six days off before playing for the championship. Marcus Smart’s right ankle and Williams’ left knee would probably benefit from that time off.
But instead, this series is destined to go at least six. With two wins each, maybe the Celtics and Heat will both play like teams desperate for a victory. It would make their roads a lot easier, and be rewarding for us, the poor people stuck waiting for 8:45 p.m. tips — only to have the game effectively end before the clock strikes 9:00 p.m.