NEW YORK – Which images grabbed or repelled you the most Saturday night as the bent and battered Ancient Men of the C’s farewell tour proved no endurance challenge to the Stones, and the Heat hopscotched to The Finals for the second straight season since LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh ganged up on the rest of the NBA?
Ray Allen, who clearly represented the Celtics for the last time (15 points), and Doc Rivers choking back tears at the podium?
What about LeBron’s chase down of Rajon Rondo for a resounding invalidation?
Or his 3-point sling shot from 9 meters to beat the 24-second clock midway through the fourth quarter that enlarged Miami’s spread to 91-84?
How about Chris Bosh’s flicks of the left wrist for a career high trio of threes?
Rondo’s wrong-foot, wrong-hand spins off the glass for layups?
Alonzo Mourning presenting the Eastern Conference trophy to owner Mickey Arison?
LeBron whispering sweet nothings in Rivers’ ear moments after the Heat had won their first Game 7 since 2004, Wade’s rookie season?
Kevin Garnett and Rondo leaving the court for the locker room seconds before the 101-88 verdict was official?
The Heat dancing in their dressing room as cameras rolled?
Somehow I can’t imagine the Celtics of any era, or the Lakers, Spurs or any team used to winning, seventh game and comeback from a 2-3 deficit aside, celebrating prematurely and immaturely like that.
By this time, you would think LeBron and Wade would know how to pretend that Saturday’s successful advance to the Supreme Court was expected . . . even if it took some award-winning acting.
Prancing around like that makes me believe the Heat were seriously unsure about reaching the Finals. Then again, maybe I’m simply showing my age by taking their fun and frolic far too seriously.
Evidently, I learned little from The Sly And The Family Stone song, “Everyday People” though I have managed to retain some of the lyrics. “And different strokes for different folks, and so on and so, and scooby doobe doo be oh sha sha, we got to live together.”
Evidently, Heat hierarchy is playing with the weight of the world on its shoulders.
Who am I to criticize, nitpick and quibble?
On third thought, I wouldn’t have stayed in business this long if I didn’t criticize, nitpick and quibble.
That’s leads us, finally, to the Finals on the rocks, with twist and a splash. This time around, LeBron’s third incursion, once with the Cavaliers, the villainous Heat come in as a decided underdog . . . with good reason: The Thunder have taken all the requisite steps to earn the right to sit at the adult table; two seasons ago, playoffs; last season, Western Conference Finals; this season, dismembering two outclassed opponents — the defending champion Mavericks and Kobe’s Lakers; before steamrolling the Spurs in four straight after being down 0-2.
The Oklahomans have been ebulliently efficient, as in a post-season best 102.3 points per game. They feature the game’s best economical superstar in Kevin Durant (27.6 ppg while averaging just 18.6 shots) . . . any number of supporting snipers to break out the silencer when the league’s leading scorer is swarmed . . . take care of the ball (three more steals vs. three fewer turnover per game) . . . can’t be intentionally hacked (84 percent from the check-cashing line) . . . boast enough depth, quickness and length to disrupt opposing offenses . . . and rarely lose at home, a potent plus since they own that crowd and court advantage.
Here’s my main concern about the Heat: As unconscious as LeBron was in the final two games (76 points, 27 rebounds) against the Celtics, the prevailing sentiment remains — correct until proven otherwise — get them in a close game and they can gag, take their eyes and interest off their objective and brain lock with anybody.
To be fair, that was also a season-long knock against the Thunder, that is, until the barbershop quartet of wins against San Antonio.
The Heat, through every fault of their own, had to play an extra game against a vastly inferior Knicks team, then found themselves having to play catch-up to close out both Indiana and Boston.
Just look at Miami’s aggregate playoff scoreboard . . . win three, lose one, win two, lose two, win five, lose three, win two.
Certainly a lot of the Heat’s roller-coaster resume came with Chris Bosh sidelined. But that remains an awful big margin of mood swings for a championship contender. And that was against the noticeably weaker Eastern Bloc.
Now, they get a younger, rested (six nights off before this series begins Tuesday in Oklahoma City) Spaghetti Western Thunder posse which routinely runs roughshod over the score sheet.
Does this mean LeBron has to go for 40 a night, trying to seize control from the outset and damn all that “let the game come to me” talk?
Probably not considering how well his trusty companions Wade (23) and Bosh (19) did in the closer. For whatever it’s worthless, I like the Heat in six.
Magic Johnson isn’t quite so decisive. He says the series is a toss-up. I believe I overheard him state, “I would have fired both Scott Brooks and Erik Spoelstra had I played for them.”
Personally, I only plan to watch for the mouth-watering Lazar Hayward- Dexter Pittman matchup.
Peter Vecsey covers the NBA for the New York Post.