TSF Eastern Conference Finals Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat

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Best believe Black Pharaoh is telling The King the NBA is still his throne

Familiar foes meet in the East. In the Conference semis last season, Rajon Rondo dislocated his elbow in Game 3 and still led the Celtics to a 97-81 win after losing the first two games in Miami. Champion all universe heart stuff but it was the only game the Celtics would win and the Heat won in 5. In 2010, Boston defeated Dwyane Wade’s Miami squad by the same margin. With All Star Chris Bosh uncertain for the series (with that injury, I don’t see him coming back but I’m no doc), how with the Eastern Conference Finals shake out this year with a berth in the NBA Finals on the line?

Miami punked the upstart Pacers after Indiana attempted to intimidate the Heat. They were down 9 points late in Game 4 and escaped going down 3-1 to tie the series 2-2. Big turning point. LeBron James and Wade went on a scoring barrage the rest of the series and Indiana was done. James and Wade attacked the rim relentlessly despite Wade’s sore ankle and both had 40 point games in the series. After Game 3, LeBron averaged 32 and Wade 33.

Boston was stretched to seven by an inspired Philadelphia team. A nagging ankle injury limited Ray Allen’s mobility (shooting 27% in the playoffs) and the Sixers went after Ray throughout the series. Boston is averaging 88 points in the playoffs and to win this series they must keep Miami close to that number. Paul Pierce was doubled vs. Philly and his scoring was down but hit big shots when Boston needed him to. It is imperative Kevin Garnett continues his great postseason play by exploiting his match up with a depleted Heat front court. Defensively, KG will call out everything down low (interior pick and rolls, coverages) because this will have to be a team effort to will out a series victory given injuries have become a Boston factor.

Rondo will do everything he can to get into Miami’s collective heads. He says last season is in the past but that elbow injury had to work on his psyche whenever the Heat were mentioned thereafter.

Guards:

Rajon Rondo is 4th all time behind Magic Johnson (30), Jason Kidd (11) and Larry Bird (10) in playoff Oscars (triple doubles) with 9 (tied with Wilt Chamberlain). He has a big advantage over Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole at the point. Expect him to remain virtually unstoppable and most likely average an Oscar the entire series. Avery Bradley is out for the remainder of the playoffs with a dislocated shoulder. Big loss defensively because he defended the opposition’s best guard. Will Ray Allen be able to stay with Wade? Not likely and Mickael Pietrus will be called on often to defend the all world two super scorer.

Forwards:

LeBron James will have the ball in his hands most of the series and will also post up when necessary. No player on Boston has the ability to stop him and Boston hopes LeBron will be lazy and put the ball up from the perimeter. Cornbread Maxwell is not walking through that door. With Paul Pierce also dinged up, Boston’s only hope is that LeBron has an off series. That ain’t happening and LeBron, like Rondo, will have close to Oscar numbers throughout. He will also guard Rondo in spurts. Behind LeBron, Miami will run at every opportunity because Boston is running on “old”. Brandon Bass could be seen as saving Boston’s season just when it looked the Sixers might take control. His 27 points won Game 5. Shane Battier will start in Chris Bosh’s stead and his versatile defensive presence will be critical. Haslem will pop his 12 foot jumpers all series as he’s done his entire career in South Beach. His muscle will also be evident when things “get familiar”. Expect a battle of wills to go down and hard fouls will be commonplace inside. I would guess Haslem will be the defender of choice on Bass. Yes, injuries are also a Miami factor and with Bosh out, will Miami get anything from the front court in terms of buckets? Not likely outside of Battier corner and wing threes.

Centers:

Black Pharaoh will get off. He was the best player in series vs. Philadelphia and now that the Larry O’Brien trophy is a little closer, his competitiveness will be heightened. KG lives for these moments. Whether or not he can keep up what his soul desires for one more series (maybe two) remains to be seen. Ronny Turiaf just doesn’t have anything for KG on either side of the ball. KG will see this as a last hurrah despite that possibly not being the case. Anything for inspiration out of one of the most passionate professional athletes ever. He wants that second ring and knows anything is possible this time of the year so expect him to obviously go all out.

Bench:

Mike Miller, Battier and Joel Anthony anchored Miami’s bench all season. Miller will spread the floor this series where Philadelphia could not. He’s that good a shooter. Anthony will block everything he can down low. With Shane pushed into the starting five, Spolestra will look even further down his bench in a search of winning 2nd team match ups. Will Juwan Howard of Michigan’s Fab Five get some burn and yet one more shot at the Finals?

Keyon Dooling will pop a three ever so often and back up Rondo when needed. He’s tough and won’t back down when things get chippy. Greg Stiemsma and Ryan Hollins will do the dirty work for the 2nd unit.

Coaches:

Doc Rivers is great at making adjustments. He is a coach that morphs in between offense and defense with an elite and fluid mind. His team will be ready despite all the aforementioned injuries. Erik Spolestra searches for respect, not by action but by perception. Until the Heat win it all, that respect will not be given. The chess match with Doc Rivers is now at hand. I thought the Heat should have used LeBron and Wade in the pick and roll more since the superstar unit has been brought together. If Boston imposes a defensive will on Miami, maybe this series?

Boston won season series 3-1:

11/27/11: 115-107 Miami

4/1/12: 91-72 Boston

4/10/12: 115-107 Boston

4/12/12: 78-66 Boston (last game of season. Stars sat out)

Eastern Conference Finals Schedule:

Game 1: Monday, May 28, Boston Celtics at Miami Heat, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Game 2: Wednesday, May 30, Boston Celtics at Miami Heat, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Game 3: Friday, June 1, Miami Heat at Boston Celtics, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Game 4: Sunday, June 3, Miami Heat at Boston Celtics, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Game 5: Tuesday, June 5, Boston Celtics at Miami Heat, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN (if necessary)

Game 6: Thursday, June 7, Miami Heat at Boston Celtics, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN (if necessary)

Game 7: Saturday, June 9, Boston Celtics at Miami Heat, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN (if necessary)

Prediction:

As noted above, these teams have played the last three years in the playoffs. You know what they say of familiarity right? Well this year will not be any different and the vision to your right will be seen possibly multiple times because pride is on the line. Shoulder chips are at a premium and competitive edges will be sought out. There is no tomorrow in any of these player’s heads and as a result, this series will be as physical as the refs allow. The Heat nor the Celtics have given up 100 points this playoffs. Boston defended the pick and roll vs. Philly with a strong physical hand and will also do the same vs. Miami. Put the microscope on Garnett when pick and rolls offensively materialize on Boston’s side of the ball. An offensive foul call on KG was the deciding play in a Game 2 loss vs. Philly. I’m sure Erik Spolestra has already alerted the refs of KG’s physical moving screens. LeBron and Wade will be too much for Boston despite their championship pedigree. This is where the Big Three get off the train at the last stop in the east and are celebrated for giving Beantown yet another ring on their shiny as hell mantle. The Celtics Big Three came together to win a championship and they did so but 2008 was 4 years ago. Their hearts won’t let this current Boston legacy die, but KG and Rondo just won’t be enough and be assured Pierce and Allen will be on lock by the much more athletic Heat (because of injuries). Miami will also get to the line often if not scoring in the paint and will not rely on jumpers because a sense of urgency is at hand. They have been here before and do not want to hear whispers that became all out screams after the Finals loss from the sports world any longer. Boston outside of Rondo, will have to hit consistently from the outside and despite all the mention of injuries, Boston will never use that as an excuse, not should they. This will be an interesting go around because Boston will not go down easy, so expect unique things to happen this series. Yet and still, Miami simply has too much heat.

Miami in 5

Western Conference Preview

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