Time to worry? Miami up 3-2, but loss in Boston has Heat facing historic playoff collapse | Opinion

Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports

Are you worried yet, Miami Heat fans? Do you have any concern your franchise will end up on the wrong side of historic ignominy?

The answer should be yes, if we are being honest. Not that you’d allow yourself to admit it out loud, but maybe deep inside?

One night after the neighboring Florida Panthers swept Carolina to reach the NHL’s Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1996, the Heat lost a second straight closeout game to the Boston Celtics.

After failing to complete the sweep at home Tuesday night the Heat fell hard in Boston Thursday, 110-97, and what once seemed a waltz into the NBA Finals for Miami has turned into a bit of a mosh pit. The Heat had 16 turnovers and never led. It was a spanking.

Miami was off. When Jimmy Butler takes only 10 shots and scores 14 points, the Heat is in trouble.

“We’ll play much better on Saturday,” assured coach Erik Spoelstra of Game 6. “That’s all we just have to focus on right now. We’re a gnarly group.”

The Heat star Butler seemed unfazed.

“We can and will win this series,” he said. “The last two games are not who we are. We stopped playing defensively. We just have to close it out at home.”

(Look out, Namath. Jimmy Guarantees Series Win!)

Bam Adebayo joined in.

“Why would we lose confidence?” he said. “Nobody believed in us. Nobody believed we’d win the first round, nobody thought we’d win the second round, and now here we are one win away.”

Miami will host Game 6 Saturday night and it will (and should) have a must-win feel in order to avoid a Game 7 back in Boston.

“They let us get two,” said the Celtics’ Jaylen Brown, “so don’t let us get another one.”

It’s amazing/amusing how the national narrative had flipped entering this Game 5.

At 3-0, Heat: It’s done. Change is bearing down on the Celtics like a tsunami off Lake Charles. Joe Mazzulla can’t coach. Time to break up the Jayson Tatum/Jaylen Brown duo and retool.

At 3-1 entering Thursday: Whoa, Miami. Uh oh. Mighty Boston is back! The national media (Chowderhead Division) fell in love again during the third period of Game 4 and is convinced NBA history is happening.

Now, the Heat still is up 3-2 but it hardly seems so.

Suddenly it feels like the onus and pressure is squarely on Miami to rise up in Saturday night’s Game 6 at home and avoid a deciding game on the road.

Suddenly, off two straight lopsided losses , it feels like Miami is the underdog No. 8 seed again, not the coalescing power that eliminated mighty Milwaukee and then the New York Knicks to get this far.

History is telling Heat fans not to worry ... yet.

After all, Miami led this series 3-0. Teams that led a series 3-0 like Miami are 151-0 all-time in NBA history, and 112-0 since the advent of the current 16-team playoff format.

Then Miami led 3-1. Teams up 3-1 have a record of 178-9 advancing, or 95.2 percent.

Now Miami is up 3-2. Teams up 3-2 historically are 194-35 advancing, or 84.7 percent

So why do those trends seem to paint too rosy a picture for Heat fans right now?

Boston dominated the second half in the previous game and the entire game Thursday.

The Celtics had four players with 20 or more points. Made 16 3’s.

The Heat’s leading scorer with 18 was Duncan Robinson. Never a good sign. Playoff Jimmy was AWOL. Butler had 14 points. Bam Adebayo rallied for 16.

The first half was a continuation of Boston’s domination from late in Game 4. Celtics led 61-44 and all you had to do was look at each team’s stars. Butler and Adebayo combined for 14 points. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown totaled 27. Boston sank 11 3’s to Miami’s four.

Gabe Vincent, the Heat’s third-leading scorer this postseason, sat out with a sprained ankle but could return for the now-necessary Game 6. Miami already is missing a main-piece starter in Tyler Herro and a valuable rotation guy in Victor Oladipo to injuries.

The Heat, as is, must count much too heavily on Butler to be Playoff Jimmy every night, and to hope the Adebayo they get is the Good Bam, not the other one. This team relies too heavily on one of the undrafted overachievers to come the rescue with a hot hand.

Butler not playing heroically, Bam quiet and nobody else stepping up big equals an average team, not one a win away from the NBA Finals. Spoelstra called the Heat’s offense’”disjointed” Thursday night and said it lacked “intention, poise and force.”

No matter. No excuses.

The Heat had a 3-0 lead over Boston.

They limp back home clinging to a 3-2 edge, and counting on their home crowd to lift them.

A couple of days ago Heat fans were thinking sweep.

The thought now is closer to survival.