Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals was either the Celtics’ way of stage-managing the perfect setup for their eventual dramatic, age-defying, status quo-rattling victory over the Heat, or it was a sign we should all curl up with a good book in the nights between the potentially fascinating Spurs-Thunder series because the plot here isn’t going to change much.

If this was indeed, Act 1 of a long series, it did not successfully introduce much suspense.The Celtics stayed totally in character as the team that’s too old and can’t shoot straight and to win, they are going to have to become the never-say-die tough guys and the Heat are going to have to cooperate and become the over-hyped, emotionally unstable superstars; LeBron James is going to have to remember he shies from big moments and owns the tragic flaw of never being able to redeem his overwhelming talent. If the odds on that were fairly long to start with, they just got a lot longer.

Because when the Celtics tried to snarl at James to set some sort of tone, he laughed it off, writes Brian Windhorst on ESPN.com. He didn’t then turn around and have a heroic night (by James’s standards), but he didn’t have to. Dwyane Wade was good enough, and so was the cast of actors around them, writes Linda Robertson in The Miami Herald, and the Celtics hadn’t yet mustered any fight, writes Ken Berger on CBSSports.com. It wasn’t until Heat had polished this off while barely breaking a sweat that the Celtics promised a dramatic turn by getting more physical, writes Adrian Wojnarowski on Yahoo.com, and as Billy Witz writes on Foxsports.com, their only hope seems to lie in complaining to the officials and mucking up the games. As Steve Bulpett writes in The Boston Herald, it would help if Kevin Garnett weren’t out there tilting at the windmills on his own.

Boston Coach Doc Rivers certainly got a jump on the criticizing-the-officials theme after a head-scratching technical foul, but hey, if Rivers needs cheering up, someone can remind him he could be attempting to coach Metta World Peace, who wished everyone a happy Labor Day on Monday.

Still idling offstage in this series is the Heat’s third wheel, Chris Bosh, who practiced on Monday but gave no hint when he will play, his absence with an abdominal injury on hand for dramatic purposes if the Celtics can make anything of this series.

The plus side of skipping this series and heading to bed early would be waking up to watch the early rounds of the French Open, where 10 American women have already advanced to the second round. Yes, it takes a truly die-hard tennis fan to name all of those 10 American women and Serena Williams wasn’t even one of them (she plays Tuesday), but it does represent tiny little green shoots of optimism, writes Richard Evans on Foxsports.com. On the men’s side, Novak Djokovic is tackling the task of rekindling the magic of last year, writes Ravi Ubha on ESPN.com, and Roger Federer is still etching his name in the history books with his record-tying 233rd Grand Slam victory.

In baseball, the Angels’ early-season struggles have seemed to dissipate as they won their seventh straight, but nothing is going to get easier for Torii Hunter’s fatherhood dilemma, writes Tim Brown on Yahoo.com. Hunter returned to the team after spending two weeks with his teenaged son, who has been accused of sexual assault.

There will be nothing easy for boxer Paul Williams, either, after a motorcycle crash has left him paralyzed.

If you’re looking for a happier tale, you would find it at Loyola, which won its first ever N.C.A.A. lacrosse title.

If it’s basketball drama you prefer, you could still hold out hope for the Heat-Celtics series. No matter how slowly it started.

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Source : Leading Off: In Act 1, Celtics Stumble – New York Times (blog)

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