MIAMI (AP) — They’re expecting 19,600 fans to come see the Miami Heat try to save their season, the overwhelming majority of them sure to be dressed in black at the team’s urging.
And those ticketholders will be booing someone.
— Maybe Kevin Garnett, back for Boston after a one-game suspension for elbowing Quentin Richardson.
— Maybe Rajon Rondo, who said the Celtics are planning to win twice in Miami and finish off a first-round sweep.
— Maybe the Heat themselves, who are down 0-2 in their best-of-seven series after wasting two opportunities in Boston.
Answers shall be forthcoming Friday night when Miami hosts Boston in Game 3, the Celtics looking to move one win away from the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs and the Heat aiming for just one glimmer of hope that could quickly turn this series back their way.
“It’s our turn to come out with a game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said as practice was ending on Thursday. “It starts with just one win. Let’s get this win tomorrow night, whatever it takes, and then we move on from there. We can’t play both games tomorrow night. So let’s take care of Game 3.”
No one need remind Miami of how vital Game 3 is, since no team has ever rallied from an 0-3 deficit in NBA playoff history.
At the same time, no one was making any decrees or guarantees at practice Thursday, where somehow — after a 34-10 run in the second half helped give Boston a comeback victory in Game 1, and a wild 44-8 burst turned Game 2 into a Celtics rout — the Heat mood remained upbeat.
“You’ve got to keep in perspective that a series doesn’t start until a team wins on the other team’s court, so we’ve got to come home and take care of our home court,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said Thursday. “We played well toward the end of the year at home and we should be very confident here. The crowd is going to be amazing, so we have to use that to get ourselves an edge.”
Confidence won’t be a problem for Boston, either. Especially after the way the first two games of this series went.
The Celtics have now beaten Miami in 13 of the last 14 meetings between the teams, and in the one loss, neither Garnett nor Rondo played. Both will be in the lineup Friday, and Garnett’s return makes a team that just embarrassed the Heat by 29 on Tuesday night will get stronger for Game 3.
“Well, I don’t expect any of us to get any cheers down there and I’m no different from that,” said Garnett, who has played in 36 road playoff games in his career, being part of wins in only eight of those contests. “I’m not sitting here saying, you know, the villain or the hero. I could care less. I’ve played on the road before. … It is what it is. I care less.”
Garnett has never seen a Miami crowd in the playoffs before, at least not as up-close-and-personal as he will Friday.
That being said, Garnett said he still remembers what the place was like when he watched the Heat run to the 2006 NBA title, especially how much the home court was a factor when Miami ousted Detroit that year in the Eastern Conference finals.
“We’re figuring their backs are against the wall and they’re thinking that if they don’t get Game 3 then this is pretty much over,” Garnett said. “I know that’s what I would be thinking so we’re going to have to be ready for that.”
Scheme-wise, there isn’t likely to be wholesale changes.
Boston probably won’t change anything. Rondo said it’s been his decision when to use full-court pressure against Miami’s ballhandlers, a move that essentially forced the Heat into using Wade at the point more in Games 1 and 2 than they would have liked. Ray Allen shot 7 of 9 from 3-point range in the Game 2 rout, and when Boston has had Glen Davis on the floor in this series, it has outscored Miami by 39.
Miami, maybe surprisingly, isn’t likely to make a bunch of dramatic adjustments, either. The Heat game plan worked to a point in Game 1, as it carried them to a 14-point lead midway through the third quarter before the shots simply stopped falling. And when Miami endured the same offensive blackout in Game 2, the score got away quickly.
“Minor adjustments, of course, but energy, effort, mental, things like that. Those are the things we’ve been so good at so far this year,” Heat forward Udonis Haslem said. “We’ve got to get back to that.”
One other reason for the Celtics to have some swagger when they come to Miami: They actually won more games on the road in the regular season (26) than at home (24), making them the only playoff team to pull off that statistical rarity.
“It’s great to know that you can win on the road, but again, Miami could care less about our regular season record on the road,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “And we should care less about it. We have to come to play and earn it. The playoffs are a different beast.”