By A. Sherrod Blakely
WALTHAM Since dropping Games 1 and 2 in Miami, the Boston Celtics have talked about a lack of effort in both games, and the team's sense of urgency not being where it should have been.
Neither should be an issue in Saturday's Game 3 matchup, a game the Celtics desperately need to win in order to get back into this series.
And while players have talked about having a sense of urgency before Games 1 and 2, they know that it's put-up or shut-up time now.
"This is it," said Boston's Kevin Garnett. "We've used all our life lines. This is it. I hate to say it like that, but it's true."
Coming back from a 2-0 deficit will be a daunting challenge, evident by only 14 teams in NBA history ever doing so.
A 3-0 hole has proven too steep a hole for any team to climb out of and claim success.
Even before they fell behind 2-0 to the Heat, the Celtics anticipated this series would be challenging.
"Winning championships is never a clear-cut formula how to do it," said Celtics guard Ray Allen. "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."
That won't be easy, not against a Heat team that's starting to live up to its lofty billing at the beginning of the season.
While the Celtics acknowledge they haven't played their best basketball of the season, that doesn't mean returning to Garden will in itself cure all that ails them.
"You can't just hope that because you haven't played well, now if you play well things will work out for you," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "You have to deal with them now. They have great confidence, and we gave that to them."
And dealings with the Heat will challenge the C's mental toughness which for years, has been one of the team's greatest strengths.
"I always think new situations brings on new reactions," Garnett said. "You can always learn something. In order to want to learn, you have to be open to it. You can always learn something about yourself."
While that may be true, it doesn't take away from the sting of being down 2-0.
"Losing hurts," Garnett said. "It's not like you can just turn around and play back-to-back, play (in) two days. You have to prepare, and that's what we've been doing. Now it's about taking what we've done in practice, and apply it to the game."
That's much easier said than done against a Heat that is feeling good about its chances of winning in Boston despite losing its last 10 on Celtic soil.
"We're taking their best shot," Garnett said. "I still think we haven't played our best basketball. We have to do that. We can't just come out here and be talking about it. We're not in the white sands of the beach no more, we're back in the jungle. Hopefully that'll be good for us. We'll figure it out.
Garnett added, "I told you man, we're all in. I've got two pocket kings and I'm all in. Let's do it."