By A. Sherrod Blakely
BOSTON For most, Father Time slowly creeps up and whisks you away when you least expect it.
To that end, the Boston Celtics should feel fortunate.
Their basketball mortality is literally right in their face - better known to you and I as the Miami Heat.
There is little doubt there will come a time when the NBA will be ruled by the Heat.
Miami's Big Three are too talented, too motivated to be denied much longer.
But the Celtics and their talented triumvirate of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen have some say in when the Heat reign will begin.
And that is why Game 3 is so pivotal.
For the Celtics, a win gets them back into a series that seems to be slipping from their grasp with each passing moment.
A loss would put them in a 3-0 hole, the kind of ditch no team in NBA history has ever climbed out of to emerge victorious.
More than that, it would unofficially signal the end of the Celtics' Big Three era.
Regardless of whether there's a lockout next year, regardless of whether the Celtics have a roster that includes all three next season, their Big Dog status in the NBA will no longer be valid.
Too many teams have emerged with younger, more athletic squads that now have the benefit of experience in their quest to be among the NBA's best.
While most draw parallels between what the Miami Heat are trying to do and what the Celtics did in 2008 - the first year of the C's Big Three - Garnett doesn't see the situation being the same between his Big Three and Miami's talented threesome.
"Two totally different situations," Garnett said. "Different variables. There are some similarities, but totally different."
Maybe so, but the larger-than-life expectations placed upon Boston's Big Three in 2007, are very much alive and well with this younger, sleeker 2011 model that resides in Miami.
Boston's Big Three have taken great pride in being able to handle the ups and downs that come with the lofty expectations placed upon them.
They are each great players, who came together to achieve collective greatness.
It's a noble pursuit, for sure.
And while they all would agree that they have faced great challenges both individually and as a collective unit, this one has to rank among the greatest.
This is the first playoff series they have been in where you can't look at a single head-to-head matchup they're in, and say that they have the advantage.
In fact, you could argue the only matchup that's relatively close has been Kevin Garnett's duel with Chris Bosh.
Ray Allen has always been viewed as the third member of Boston's Big Three, despite being the one who has arguably hit more late-game, backbone-breaking shots while playing for the Green team.
He'll be the first to tell you that the Celtics have yet to play their best, or even an average game thus far.
And while he knows there are many who have already counted the Celtics out of this series, it wouldn't be the first time when they have had their share of skeptics.
"It's fun to me; just looking at the situation," Allen said. "We found different ways to rise from the ashes, so to speak. Winning championships is never a clear cut formula how to do it. We talk about having resolve all year. We've proven we have it. Now we're just in a playoff situation where we have to prove that we have it."
If they do in fact manage to rally back and win this series, it will add yet another impressive chapter to the Celtics' Big Three run.
Still, Boston emerging from this series will only delay the inevitable, as Father Time - and the Miami Heat - close in quickly.