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ASK IRA: Is Heat-Celtics becoming a matter of foul or fair?

Q: So the NBA wants Boston and Golden State in the NBA Finals, but do they have to make it so obvious? The Heat played terribly, but it’s physically impossible to overcome a deficit when the game is being called so one-sided. No way to establish any kind of rhythm. Plus, the integrity of the game is in question when Stephen A. Smith says, “The Celtics will be getting all the calls tonight,” during the pre-game show. Erik Spoelstra needs to take a page out of Pat Riley’s book and call them out. The hell with that fine. – Steven, Cutler Bay.

A: First, thank you for this submission, because it allows me to address dual peeves. First, when you fall behind 18-1 and can’t make a shot, that is not on the referees, nor is it when you settle for jumpers. Jimmy Butler was correct on that aspect. Second, Stephen A. Smith is a wonderful entertainer, but he is not an analyst, or a journalist. So he says whatever is expedient enough to draw attention. His carnival barking has nothing to do with the game, just the entertainment aspect. The Heat get to the foul line when in attack mode, both Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler. That was not the case Monday night at TD Garden. Thus the lack of whistles. And, yes, Celtics-Warriors certainly would be the more marketable series for the NBA. But that does not stand in the way of the Heat making shots. They missed. They lost. They move on. As, all the while, the carnival barkers try to get someone to look their way.

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Q: Ira, we’re tied 2-2 in this series heading home. Why does it feel like we’re down 3.5 to zero? (Hey at least we won a quarter! For those who count that sort of thing . . .) – Phillip, San Francisco.

A: Because the losses have been devastating and the victories exhilarating. Such is the reality of the stakes when you reach this level of the postseason. The key is to regroup, shake it off, and hopefully get healthier. And, yes, amid the incessant talk of quarters won in this series, the Heat not only “won” Monday’s fourth quarter 30-26, but they tied the third 19-19, which means they also “won” the second half. I believe those two trophies will be presented just before Wednesday night’s opening tip.

Q: All year long we’ve heard how deep the Heat is. Outside of garbage time, the Celtics have thoroughly outplayed the Heat’s bench. Time to quit talking about awards won or lost and put up or shut up. – Joel, Fort Lauderdale.

A: Actually, it is exactly time to start talking about awards won, since it was Tyler Herro who won 2022 NBA Sixth Man of the Year. Ultimately, he could prove to be the swing vote in this series (as he somewhat was when the Heat defeated the Celtics in the 2020 East finals). He needs at least one big game. And that means he needs to get healthy.


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