MIAMI - Brace yourself for days and days of “the fix is in.’’
You know the drill. David Stern wants LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. The Celtics are getting jobbed by the refs. The Three Stooges called five technicals on the Celtics. The zebras are out to get the Celtics.
Please. Cry me a (Doc) Rivers.
Green Teamers and assorted talk-show callers will have a field day with this one. I caught wind of it in press row midway through the fourth quarter of Monday night’s 93-79 Game 1 Celtics loss when a TV guy (who shall remain nameless) folded up his laptop and said, “I have to get off Twitter. I can’t take it anymore. It’s just Celtic fans crying about the officials.’’
It’s nights like this that I miss Red Auerbach. Red would have been great after this one. Maybe even during the game. Wearing a plaid sports coat, chomping on a Hoyo de Monterrey, Red would have said, “They don’t want us in the Finals. They’re in love with LeBron. It’s obvious.’’
Green Teamers will be hot Tuesday. They saw gentleman Ray Allen get teed up. They saw Kevin Garnett get a delay of game T for slapping the ball after a Celtics basket. They saw a technical called for defensive three seconds. They saw Rajon Rondo get a T for nudging Shane Battier into the first row of the baseline seats. They saw Doc get T’d up by Ed Malloy for breathing too hard.
You remember Ed Malloy. He’s the guy who ejected Paul Pierce in the first game of last year’s series between the teams. Ed Malloy does not like the Celtics, right?
To his credit, Rivers did not use the officials as an excuse. He never does. But when he was asked if his team deserved all five technicals, he said, “I know mine wasn’t. I can tell you that much. I don’t know how long I’ve been in the league, but that has to rank as the worst I’ve ever had. I would love to have earned it.’’
It didn’t look like he earned this one. It looked like all he did was say, “Come on, Ed.’’
But it was not the reason the Celtics lost.
The hard truth is that at this stage of their basketball lives, the Heat are simply too much for the Celtics. The refs have nothing to do with LeBron (32 points, 13 rebounds) getting any shot he wants any time he wants it. The refs have nothing to do with the fact the Celtics are old, thin, exhausted, and bleeding to death. Never mind those inconvenient truths. It feels so much better to blame the officials.
Steering clear of the men with the whistles, Rivers said, “[The Heat] had way too many layups. We’ve got to do a better job protecting the paint. They crushed us in 50/50 balls. Anything loose, they got. Their speed at times overwhelmed us.’’
Rivers knows the deal. He knows the Heat are younger, more athletic, better. He’s throwing sand bags at the South Beach tide and it can be a fool’s errand.
The Heat outrebounded the Celtics, 48-33. The Heat blocked 11 Celtics shots to Boston’s one. The Heat shot 50 percent to Boston’s 39.5 percent. Ray Allen shot 1 of 7 from the floor, missed four free throws, and is taking on the look of Willie Mays in the 1973 World Series. Winning Game 7 against the Sixers was nice, but is this what Celtics fans really wanted?
If you want to go back to the argument that the fix is in, explain why the Heat were called for two more personal fouls than the Celtics (21-19). Explain why the Celtics missed 10 of their 21 free throws. Was that the ghost of Jake O’Donnell at work?
The score was tied four times, but it never felt like the Celtics were truly competitive. It felt like the Heat toyed with the Celtics, just as it often felt like the Celtics toyed with the Sixers. James and Wade have combined to score 251 points in the Heat’s last four games. The Celtics look incapable of stopping them.
It’s easier to complain about the officials. It’s easier to buy into the David Stern conspiracy theory.
“Everybody has to keep their composure,’’ Rivers said.
That means you, too, Celtics fans. Get a grip. This game was not about the officials.