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Winderman: Celtics advantages came courtesy Riley, Heat

Apr 26, 2011, 12:13 PM EDT

Boston Celtics v New York Knicks - Game Three Getty Images

Rare is the NBA playoff series when the opposition opens with a 3-0 lead without playing a game.

That, however, essentially, will be the case with the impending Heat-Celtics Eastern Conference semifinal series. The Heat will take on the Celtics with a decided deficit at center, point guard and backup power forward.

In each case, a potential Heat answer can be found on the Celtics’ roster, an answer the Heat had within their grasp at one stage.

At center, the Heat allowed Jermaine O’Neal to walk last summer without as much as a free-agent offer. While O’Neal says he turned down a Heat contract, word from within the Heat was that none was extended. If you look back at last year’s Heat-Celtics first-round playoff series, you probably could appreciate why: O’Neal shot 20.5 percent, averaging 4.2 points and 5.6 rebounds, as if on his last legs.

Yet, you look at O’Neal’s re-emergence against the Knicks and then at the Heat’s current mix in the middle, and it sure seems like advantage Boston, even if Shaquille O’Neal can’t make it all the way back, even with Kendrick Perkins out of the Celtics mix. For the Heat, the choices are current starter Zydrunas Ilgauskas, banished starter Erick Dampier, resident thug Jamaal Magloire and Joel Anthony, a player whose energy is essential to the second unit.

Then there is the issue at point guard, and the frightening things Rajon Rondo is about to do. In March, the Heat summarily dispatched Carlos Arroyo to the waiver wire in order to add Mike Bibby to the mix. Bibby currently can be found in the midst of shooting misery. Beyond that, there is Mario Chalmers, who is wildly on and off again.

While Arroyo is an afterthought for the Celtics, the Heat played their most efficient ball of the season when Arroyo was the starter. Now the Heat will have to face that reality head to head.

Then there is the issue at reserve power forward behind Chris Bosh. With Udonis Haslem yet to make it back from his November foot surgery, the best the Heat can offer as a counter to what Boston delivers in Glen Davis is Juwan Howard. Asked and answered.

But there was another option for the Heat at the buyout deadline, when Pat Riley added Bibby. At the time, Troy Murphy‘s options where whittled down to the Heat and Celtics. Danny Ainge won that one, in what currently comes off as more of a blocking move than any overwhelming need for Murphy, who has been bench-bound since.

The irony in Celtics-Heat is that three Boston afterthoughts — O’Neal, Arroyo and Murphy — could have been usable pieces for the Heat in what is about to follow.

Advantage Ainge.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.

  1. thekingdave - Apr 26, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    TheKingDave: Another insightful, exclusive scoop

  2. pff - Apr 26, 2011 at 12:38 PM

    so having arroyo, oneal, and troy murphy (2 of those players don’t even sniff the court) is a big advantage for the C’s, eh?

    dolt

    • andyhr17 - Apr 26, 2011 at 1:25 PM

      So apparently you just read the names Arroyo, O’Neal, and Murphy and didn’t bother to read the rest of the article? He didn’t say that the Celtics having those guys on floor was the advantage.

      O’Neal – Heat have no real proven center. Re-signing O’Neal would’ve benefited the Heat.

      Arroyo – The Heat played their best ball when he was their starter

      Murphy – This was a block move. The Celtics would rather have him on their bench than have him playing for another team.

      • pff - Apr 26, 2011 at 7:04 PM

        It is right there in the headline, chief:

        “Winderman: Celtics advantages came courtesy Riley, Heat”

        also…resign Oneal or get Wade, Lebron, and Bosh under contract. hmmm…tough call, Andy

  3. bigfootcomblog - Apr 26, 2011 at 1:09 PM

    procelticstalk.com

  4. passerby23 - Apr 26, 2011 at 1:38 PM

    I know the pundits and “experts” like to microanalyze individual matchups to determine who has the edge, but unless there is a glaring weakness such as Rondo at the point, then most of the other stuff is moot. This series will come down to whether Lebron and Wade can make the plays in crunch time when it counts. Should be a great series.

  5. j0esixpack - Apr 26, 2011 at 1:51 PM

    As a Celtics fan, this article is worth a laugh… no one is writing off the Heat – let alone Celitcs players or their fans.

    Yes, it’s ironic that O’Neal is finally contributing after the Heat let him walk – but no one is going to bank on O’Neal contributing in the playoffs, even though he did against the Knicks and its critical for the Celts that he do so against the Heat – especially if Shaq isn’t 100%

    Bibby was a good signing for the Heat despite his slump. Slumps happen – ask Ray Allen. No one thinks Murphy’s going to be a difference, though he could have been for the Heat.

    Should be an interesting series – a flawed Celtics team against a flawed Heat team.

    • hnirobert3 - Apr 26, 2011 at 2:52 PM

      Did the Heat let him walk or did they offer him veterans minimum (all they could offer) while the Celts offered the mid level? With JO, it’s all about the dollas.

      • bceltics1010 - Apr 26, 2011 at 4:35 PM

        What professional athlete isn’t all about the money? I can name a few, but honestly, we know the truth.

      • rapmusicmademedoit - Apr 27, 2011 at 7:01 PM

        I agree, professional athletes should ask for beans rather than money, I will only sign for
        3 million red beans, 3 million Lentel Peas and 8 million chick peas.I refuse to accept
        money for my talent.

    • Kansachusetts - Apr 26, 2011 at 6:29 PM

      JO’s contributions against the Knicks turned the Celtics around. Finally (or until he gets injured) they have a big man who can block shots and use his muscle, and has learned to set some picks too.

      So don’t knock him. I hated the Perkins trade, but J.O. could prove just what the doctor ordered (until he gets hurt).

    • frankvzappa - Apr 26, 2011 at 6:42 PM

      you are wrong, because im writing off the heat…its going to be a glorious four games, i already got my broom out…

    • ku62 - May 1, 2011 at 2:13 AM

      I share your interest. Just thinking, though, that Shaq at 100% only amounts to 15-18 minutes . . .

      The point of the article wasn’t what any of these players do for Celts, but rather that none of them
      will be doing anything for Heat (unless Bibby starts hitting from a rocking chair).

  6. rapmusicmademedoit - Apr 27, 2011 at 6:58 PM

    Celtics may get some 5 point possessions and two second calls and a few dubious fouls as Clyde called them the other night in New York.I still rather see the Heat, I hate Boston.

  7. thesolprovider - Apr 28, 2011 at 9:45 AM

    The Heat went on that run against under.500 teams. The Heat’s 5 game losing streak came when they were working Bibby into the lineup.

    I like Arroyo however he was a defensive liability and doesn’t shoot the three. Bibby plays D however he is just small and a step slow against 22 year olds.Bibby also has one of the highest 3 point FG%’s in the league.

    The NY D would make any center look good. Jermaine O’Neal thought his career was over and sat out most of the season this year. How would that have helped the Heat? I’ll take a defensive stopper like Anthony against most of the “Centers” in the league. (A depleted position in todays NBA)

    BTW…..The Celtics got us Eddie House as well.

    Either way, it will be a great series.

    I think the Celtic’s will unveil Shaq for this one. We all knew that for the vet minimum Shaq was only going to play in the playoffs.

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