Have Celtics passed their expiry date?

Celtics head coach Doc Rivers talks to Rajon Rondo in Game One of the Eastern Conference semi...

Celtics head coach Doc Rivers talks to Rajon Rondo in Game One of the Eastern Conference semi against the Heat. The Celtics desperately need a win in Game 3 Saturday as no NBA team has ever rebounded from a 0-3 series deficit. (Isaac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images/AFP)

, Last Updated: 4:07 AM ET

BOSTON — The obituaries have already begun to circulate, the end in sight because there’s no chance of turning back the clock.

The Boston Celtics have heard it before, but at no point since the arrival of the Big 3 have the concerns been so rampant and justified.

In losing two straight in Miami, Boston did look old, at least old when compared to the athletic, young legs of the Heat.

In falling behind 2-0, a deficit history has shown to be near catastrophic, the Celtics were unable to display all that poise and precision that made them such a serious title contender.

Whether it was Dwyane Wade in Game 1 or LeBron James in Game 2, the Celtics couldn’t summon anything to stop a star player from dominating.

Three days between games and three days for the national media to sharpen its knives and begin to carve up the Celtics as too old, too vulnerable and not good enough to win four of five games against the Heat.

The challenge, while daunting, is not insurmountable.

The odds, while long, aren’t providing any sleepless nights.

The atmosphere for Saturday’s Game 3 will be a lot more appealing for Boston, a team that can use any break when none has been earned.

“When I got here in ’07, everyone was saying: ‘Is this your chance, your year?’ And now it’s four years later,’’ Ray Allen began. “Every year after ’07 and ’08 is the same question, so it’s really between me, Kevin (Garnett) and Paul (Pierce).”

Boston’s fate does rest in the hands of its Big 3, the team’s heart and soul, players whom teammates lean on in times of difficulty.

Four times in past post-seasons, the Big 3 has come back to claim Game 2 after dropping the series opener.

It couldn’t in Miami, which in part has fuelled this growing theme that Boston’s time will soon expire, not just for this spring but for good.

As quickly as they’ve been buried, the Celtics can come back, but it must begin with a win in Game 3.

Bad enough that Boston has to rebound from its 0-2 hole, but no team has ever come back when trailing 0-3.

“We feel good about who we are,’’ Allen added. “We’ve won a lot of games and we feel we can continue to do it for many more years.”

It’s a belief Allen must embrace, but a win can help cure a lot that ails the banged-up Celtics

“Forget all the X and O stuff,” head coach Doc Rivers said. “I really thought Miami played harder in a lot of ways, all the loose balls, they finished at the basket (going) through us and they got three-point plays (that) we didn’t.”

Whether it’s retrieving a loose ball or applying pressure on a defence, each is a function of athleticism.

In Miami, the Heat’s athletic edge was huge, a disparity that can be managed only if Boston finds a way to slow down the game.

In basketball, the term shrinking the court is often applied, a term Rivers used following Tuesday’s Game 2 loss as a means to contain Wade and James.

Despite the setback, improvement came in Boston yielding 16 fewer points off turnovers to Miami, completely shutting down James Jones, the X factor in Game 1 who lit up the Celtics from beyond the three-point arc, and Rajon Rondo.

Pierce maintains the treatment on his Achilles tendon has been helpful, which is a good sign if you’re a Boston fan going into Saturday night’s tip.

“The urgency is there,” Garnett said. “This is it. We’ve used all of our lifelines. This is it. I hate to say it like that, but it’s true.”

Celtic pride will be put to its sternest test.

“I like our chances, especially with our backs against the wall,” Pierce said. “We’ve been a team that’s responded well the last few years when we’ve come across adversity. I expect us to respond in a very positive manner.”

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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