By A.Sherrod Blakely
MIAMI The Boston Celtics' Big Four share an NBA title from 2008, and came within a few minutes of a second championship last year.
The Celtics have won nearly 75 percent of the regular season games (233-92) played since Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett joined forces with Paul Pierce and an up-and-coming point guard, some guy named Rajon Rondo.
You don't have that kind of success without understanding how to perform in big games.
And Sunday's game against the Miami Heat?
They don't get much bigger than that for the Celtics before the playoffs.
Both teams share the No. 2 spot in the East with identical 55-24 records.
But the Celtics hold the tie-breaker because they swept the first three games of the regular season series. Because of that, the C's would get the higher seed if they finished in a tie.
Which brings us back to Sunday's game.
Knowing what's at stake, it's a given the Celtics would come out with great energy and focus.
But as we've come to find with this team, nothing should be taken for granted.
That's why Celtics head coach Doc Rivers isn't too keen on proclaiming that his team will be ready to play at a high enough level to win on Sunday.
"It does bother me because if we would have done our job, this would have been decided," Rivers said. "And that's what bothers me. Now, we've put ourselves in this position."
And only they can get themselves out of it.
To do so, Boston will have to continue its dominance of the Heat. Boston has won its last three road games against Miami, and seven of the last eight at America Airlines Arena.
But those games featured a different team.
And the stakes back then weren't nearly as high as they are now.
The Celtics players know that there have been times lately when their sense of urgency deserves to be questioned.
But they don't see that as an issue on Sunday.
"I expect everybody to be ready," said Boston's Allen. "A game like that I don't look over my shoulder, wondering if guys are going to be ready to play."
Pierce had similar thoughts on the C's approach to Sunday's nationally televised matchup.
"This is a big game for us," Pierce said. "That's what we are playing for, for the home court advantage. Not only for the first round, but hopefully we will see them in the second round. This is a big game for us when you are talking about seeds and trying to advance in the playoffs. It's huge."
And while the Celtics have shown a certain dominance over the Heat, even with all their highly regarded additions, there's no mistaking that the Miami Heat team they see on Sunday will come in with a playoff-like mentality.
"You are going to get an extremely hungry team in Miami for a lot of reasons," Rivers said. "We're going into a hornet's nest and we're going to have to deal with it."