Mike Berardino: Don't count out Celtics just yet, Heat fans

May 31 2012 - 6:58pm

MIAMI - Warning, Heat fans.

That wasn't defeat I sensed in the Celtics' locker room in the wee hours after Game 2.

It was defiance.

It was growing confidence, too, which should give pause to anyone who might be tempted to think that was a kill shot the home team delivered in overtime of Wednesday night's 115-111 classic.

"Definitely a winnable game for us," said Celtics forward Paul Pierce, who fouled out late in regulation. "If we continue to play with that effort and that passion, I really like our chances."

True, the Heat survived an epic outburst from Rajon Rondo, who became the first player in playoff history to put together a 44-point, 10-assist, eight-rebound performance.

But if Rondo could shred them like that once - making 16 of 24 shots from the field, including both three-point attempts - what makes you think he can't do it again back at TD Garden?

If he could will himself through all 53 minutes of this overtime duel, what makes you think Rondo will spend even a second on the bench the rest of the way?

"Rondo was absolutely amazing," LeBron James said. "He showed why he's an all-pro and one of the superstars in this league. He's a unique player, an unbelievable player."

And he'll still be that sort of weapon come Game 3 on Friday in Boston. Only with even more of a chip on his shoulder after an overtime no-call on Dwyane Wade that had Rondo seething as he left the floor.

Again, defiance is a dangerous attribute in any opponent, and these Celtics definitely have plenty of that.

Doc Rivers, their inventive and inspirational coach, pointed out LeBron took nearly as many free throws (24) as the entire Celtics team (29).

Keyon Dooling, pride of Dillard High, mentioned the "free-throw disparity" that saw the Heat take 47 free throws in all, thanks to a 33-18 foul differential against the Celtics.

You think that's going to continue this weekend on the parquet?

"We're going home now," Celtics forward Mickael Pietrus said. "Our jersey is going to be white. They got two. Fine. Good for them. But we're going home now."

He smiled. Surveyed the assembled media.

"You know what that means," he asked rhetorically, "when somebody says, 'We're going home?' "

Well, the Celtics are going home, where they are 6-1 in these playoffs, the one loss coming by a single point to the Sixers in Game 2 of the last round.

What's that? There's no way, you say, the Big Three should even be ambulatory after Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen all played at least 43 minutes?

OK, fair point. But don't tell me you aren't at least a little concerned Allen, playing on a bum foot, found his jump shot for the first time this postseason.

If he could drill that game-tying triple with 34 seconds left in regulation, what makes you believe he can't heat up again in Boston?

"He's a warrior," Pierce said. "He's going to keep fighting. We're going to keep believing in him. He's been in these moments. When you've got a great player in these moments, you never can count him out."

Same goes for these creaky old Celtics and their "championship DNA," as Heat coach Erik Spoelstra likes to say.

Just because they blew a 15-point first-half lead, that doesn't mean it will happen that way the next time these Celtics string together 20 minutes of turn-back-the-clock efficiency.

If the Shamrock Crew can fire up the Wayback Machine and ride it as long as they did in Game 2, you'd better believe that thing will still be operational in Leprechaun Land.

"We don't have any surrender or retreat in us," Dooling said. "We're a grind-it-out team. We're going to fight, we're going to claw, we're going to scratch. We're going to do whatever we have to do to win basketball games."

See what I mean?

Defiance.

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