BOSTON — The Boston Celtics can wait a day or two before developing anxiety attacks over LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers, who will be their next opponent in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
In the meantime, they should take a minute to send a thank you note to Quentin Richardson of the Miami Heat. "Q," as Celtics forward Kevin Garnett calls him, might have awakened a proud old team.
The Celts were listless, lackadaisical and going nowhere with a late regular season slide. However, when Richardson baited Garnett into an altercation in Game 1 of their first round series and KG was suspended for Game 2, the Celts seemed to regain some of the competitive edge and fire that had been their trademark when they won the NBA title two years ago.
Granted, Boston isn't seen as The Team To Beat in this year's playoffs, but the Celts did take move on to the second round last night with a 96-86 thumping of the Miami Heat before 18,624 fans at the TD Garden.
This was a very strange game. You might even call it a "disturbing" because the Celts gave away a 21-point lead in the third quarter, letting the Heat get to within three on some sizzling shooting by Mario Chalmers (20) and the redoubtable Dwayne Wade (31).
But Ray Allen (24 points, including 5-for-6 from three point land), Paul Pierce (21 points) and the always pesky Rajon Rondo (16 points, 12 assists, 8 rebounds) were primarily responsible for putting the Heat away.
If you're looking for a silver lining to the Celts' shaky season, you have it with this series.
Two years ago, when the Celtics were clearly the favorite to win it, it took them seven games to get rid of the Atlanta Hawks in the opening round. Last year, when they were banged up and without Garnett, it again took them the maximum number of games to shake the Chicago Bulls in the first round.