For the second time in as many weeks, the Boston Celtics delivered a forearm shiver to the collective psyche of the Miami Heat.
Two different venues, two different styles of play, yet the result is all the same: The Heat walking off with their heads down and the Celtics feeling stronger and stronger about their playoff chances.
I’m not a big believer in regular-season statement games. There’s way too many factors, too many variables that won’t apply come May, while the aspect of playing the same opponent every day for two weeks breeds a certain type of knowledge and contempt that can’t be measured in even the most meaningful regular-season game.
But even those who buried the Celtics around the All-Star break have to believe they have a much better chance to get to the conference finals; the way they’ve been playing is hard to deny.
Rajon Rondo is playing at the highest level of his career, moving Avery Bradley to shooting guard and bringing Ray Allen off the bench has paid immediate dividends and moving Kevin Garnett to the middle has maximized his production.
For the Heat, their ultimate judgment comes in June, provided they get there. I was never going to be one who got all up in arms about anything positive they did before the playoffs, so I’ll be fair and not go overboard in the other direction.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh could be going through the dog days of the season, merely waiting for the playoffs to ratchet up the intensity.
But even in going through the motions, they could be creating a monster in Beantown that can bite them where it hurts, when it hurts.