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Eastern Conference Round 2 Playoff Preview: Boston vs. Miami

Apr 28, 2011, 1:37 AM EDT

Heat's Wade and Celtics' Pierce shove each other during their NBA basketball game in Miami

SEASON RECORDS
Heat: 58-24 (No. 2 seed)
Celtics: 56-26 (No. 3 seed)

PLAYOFF SERIES:
Heat: defeated Philadelphia 4-1
Celtics: defeated New York 4-0

SERIES SCHEDULE
Game 1: Sun., May 1 at Miami, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
Game 2: Tue., May 3 at Miami, Time TBD (TNT)
Game 3: Sat., May 7 at Boston, 8:00 p.m. (ABC)
Game 4: Mon., May 9 at Boston, TBD (TNT)
Game 5: Wed., May 11 at Miami, TBD (TNT)
Game 6: Fri., May 13 at Boston, TBD (ESPN)
Game 7: Mon., May 16 at Miami, 8:00 p.m. (TNT)

SEASON SERIES
Celtics 3-1, two of those games were in the first weeks of the season. The final game in April was a complete and total blowout by the Heat, 100-77.

KEY INJURIES
Heat: Udonis Haslem, who has not played since November when he tore a ligament in his left. He’s been working out to try and get back for this series, and the Heat could seriously use his depth up front.

Celtics: Shaquille O’Neal, has played only 5 minutes since Feb. 1 due to calf and Achilles injuries. But Boston needs him how. If the goal of the Celtics is to punish the Heat in the paint — and that is the goal — then they need Shaq because he is their best offensive center by a long shot.

OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKING (points per possession)
Heat: Offense 109.3 (3rd in NBA); Defense: 100.8 (5th in NBA)
Celtics: Offense 104.4 (16th in NBA); Defense. 97.7 (2nd in NBA)

THREE KEY HEAT

LeBron James. Obviously he must go on any list of key Heat players for any series, but he had particularly big games against Boston: 31 in the first meeting, 35 in the second and 27 in the Heat’s win in April. In the four meetings between these teams he shot 49 percent. The Celtics have a hard time stopping him, and he may be the guy leading the charge in this series.

Dwyane Wade:On the season he averaged 25.5 points per game but against the Celtics it was just 12.8 points on 28 percent shooting. The Heat need to get two-thirds of their big three going on any night and Chris Bosh is going to have Kevin Garnett in his face every game. Wade simply is going to have to give more.

Mario Chalmers. The first guard off the bench represents the entire Heat bench here — Miami has to get good play out of their subs. Against the 76ers the Heat were better with Chalmers and Joel Anthony on the floors in their starters. Which says more about the starters, really. But the Celtics will roll out quality players like Jeff Green, Glen Davis and Delonte West. The Heat are going to have to find a way to match some of that production.

THREE KEY CELTICS

Ray Allen. He was the guy the Heat could not account for in the first two wins — the Celtics shot the three ball particularly well against the Heat and Allen was a key part of that. Allen also outplayed Wade in the team’s meeting this summer at both ends of the floor. Allen was red hot from deep in the first round against the Knicks and if he carries that on the Heat will not be able to leave him on the perimeter.

Shaquille O’Neal. He his stat line not particularly impressive in either of the games he played against Miami, with 14 points and 14 boards combined. However, the Big Four of the Celtics are much, much better on offense when Shaq plays. He creates spacing on the floor because he is a threat inside. And, Boston needs the inside points. Also, his rebounding was key in those games.

Rajon Rondo. Put simply, he should destroy Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers. He average 12 assists a game against the Heat this season and he is the guy that is going to have to create shots for others in the face of the perimeter pressure the Heat want to employ. If he can get into the teens in assists, score some and not turn the ball over then the Celtics will be getting looks that they like and they always knock those out.

OUTLOOK: Now we’ve got the series that everybody has looked forward to since the seedings started to shake out.

For all the talent on the court, this is going to be a grind-it-out series with two of the better defensive teams in the league slowing each other down. Outside of Miami getting to 100 in a blowout win in the final game, these were lower scoring games with slow paces when they met this season. Expect that again.

LeBron James did a lot of the shot creation for the Heat when these teams played, and he continued to do that in the first round of the playoffs. He’s going to be the man. But he’s got to get other guys involved and get some help, Boston’s defense is too good to let one man beat them. It will be hard for Chris Bosh to get going with Garnett draped all over him. That leaves it for Wade to step up and as we noted he struggled against the Celtics this season. Well, Miami could count on someone off the Heat bench. Like a huge night from James Jones. Hey, they can dream, don’t laugh because it’s nearly impossible.

The one shot and stat to watch — Boston and the corner three. This is the one shot Boston got and hit at a 72 percent clip in their meetings this season and it was particularly deadly in the first couple Celtics wins. The thing is, to get that they needs spacing, they need a threat in the paint, and that is where Shaquille O’Neal comes in. Boston needs him. If he comes back and comes back healthy — well, healthy enough — and is a real threat in the paint, the Celtics have an advantage.

The Celtics are also the deeper team by far. Miami’s starters got outscored and outplayed by the 76ers starters in that series. Miami does that against Boston’s starters and they are toast. They will not win this bench battle.

PREDICTION: This could go either way. It’s almost a coin flip. Honestly, I’ve thought about this for a couple days now, and I think it’s the Celtics because of the execution and depth, and I think they’ll get enough out of Jermaine and Shaquille O’Neal to have more balance. But as me again in three days and I may think differently.

Celtics in 6.

  1. zrbk - Apr 28, 2011 at 7:54 AM

    If Shaq is back and stays healthy (enough), Heat probably won’t stand a chance. Nonetheless, Lebron and Wade can destroy their opponents when they’re hot. I’d say Celtics in 6.

  2. kast2l - Apr 28, 2011 at 9:58 AM

    The real key to Celtics winning is rondo, simply put, if they can’t contain and keep rondo out of the paint and I’m kinda reiterating what Kurt says but the series will be over and I was surprised at how well Jermaine O’neal played against the knicks and I don’t see why that can’t continue against the heat. Worse case scenario is you put wade on rondo to help keep him out of the paint but then you’ll def get limited offense from wade. I picked heat to come out of the east vs okc but ill agree wit zrbk, celtics in 6.

  3. delfi2 - Apr 28, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    Heat in 6….maybe 5!

    • passerby23 - Apr 28, 2011 at 3:46 PM

      Heat in 5??

  4. pff - Apr 28, 2011 at 1:43 PM

    “Miami’s starters got outscored and outplayed by the 76ers starters in that series.”

    uh…may want to do your homework on this one before writing such drivel. look up the numbers and get back to me, Kurt

    • passerby23 - Apr 28, 2011 at 3:45 PM

      I think he means to say the 76ers bench outplayed the Heat’s bench. I enjoy reading these columns but there are a lot of grammatical and factual errors.

      As for the series, I’m still not sold on Miami’s late game execution and we’ll see whether depth becomes an issue. For that reason, I will also take the Celtics in 6.

      • Rob Mahoney - Apr 28, 2011 at 10:12 PM

        @passerby and pff: No, Kurt means starters. Per John Schuhmann of NBA.com, Miami’s starters were outscored 110-64 by Philly’s starters over the course of the series. The fact that the Heat got off to a slow start in almost every game was no coincidence..

      • adeedothatswho - Apr 29, 2011 at 3:26 AM

        BOO-YAH! Maybe before telling people to look up the numbers you should look them up yourself. It’s called, Google, assclown.

      • pff - Apr 29, 2011 at 3:51 PM

        “Miami’s starters were outscored 110-64 ”

        pal…you have to be kidding me. Lebron and Wade alone scored nearly 64…PER GAME. I did look it up, dipsh*t.

        this guy is a moron…

    • cuzzenbud - May 1, 2011 at 5:58 AM

      The 76ers bench outscored the Heat’s bench 162-97 and The Heat’s starters outscored the 76ers starters 373-271.

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