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Eastern Confernence finals preview: Celtics vs. Heat

May 28, 2012, 8:50 AM EST

LeBron James, Kevin Garnett AP

SEASON RECORDS

Miami 46-20 (No. 2 seed)
Boston: 39-27 (No. 5 seed)

SEASON SERIES

Boston won the season series 3-1. In their second to final game before the playoffs the Heat did not play any of their big three against the Celtics, so toss that one out.

KEY INJURIES
Celtics: Starting two guard Avery Bradley is out after having surgery on both shoulders last week, and his defense will be missed. That moves Ray Allen into the starting lineup but he battling through ankle pain that may need surgery after the season. Paul Pierce has a sprained knee that will not be right until this summer.

Heat: Chris Bosh is still out with a strained abdomen and you shouldn’t expect to see him this series. Dwyane Wade has a knee issue and had to have it drained during the last series. Mike Miller has more things wrong with him than that guy on the table in the game operation, but he will be out there.

OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS (points per 100 possession)

Heat: Offense 106.6 (8th in NBA); Defense 100.2 (4th in NBA)
Celtics: Offense 101.0 (27th in NBA); Defense 98.2 (1st in NBA)

THREE KEY CELTICS:

Rajon Rondo: When the pressure was on he played his best late in Game 7 against Philly — now he’s going to have to replicate that every game against the Heat for the Celtics to have a chance. They need his penetration to set up the other Celtics, particularly Brandon Bass cutting baseline or knocking down the midrange jumper. They need his jumper to fall. They need his defense. They need him to have the best playoff series of his life

Kevin Garnett: The Heat don’t have the size to exploit the Celtics when they go smaller and play KG at the five, which is good for Boston. Garnett’s offense was good against Philly but Boston needs more — he simply has to get deep post position and bring it on offense. Without Bosh to defend him Garnett has to put up big numbers for the Celtics to score enough in this series.

Paul Pierce: He had Andre Iguodala on him last series, if he gets hot at all in this one he’ll get LeBron James. Great. But again it comes down to scoring — we know the Celtics will defend well and as talented as the Heat are they will not score as much as normal. The problem is that Boston needs to put up more points than they have in the playoffs and they are about to face the best defense they’ve gone against yet.

THREE KEY HEAT:

LeBron James: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra pulled no punches the other day — LeBron and Dwyane Wade are going to have to play at the level the duo did for the last three games of the Pacers series for the Heat to have a chance in this one. Boston plays great team defense but LeBron can get his and has to get his for the Heat to be successful. Also, he likely will have Paul Pierce to defend late in games, he has to shut down The Truth.

Dwyane Wade: Read what Spoelstra said above — the Heat need his scoring. They will need his defense and steals that create transition offense. They need the Wade that is one of the elite players in the NBA, anything less and they are thin.

Udonis Haslem: He’s got work to do at both ends of the floor. Defensively he’s going to get some time matched up on Garnett, and that could include key times in the game. They need his defense (and not his flagrant fouls, because the Celtics will be physical). On the other end, they need him to space the floor, to knock down the midrange jumper when Wade drives the lane and kicks it out. Like Haslem did in Game 5. They need that guy.

OUTLOOK

In their regular season meetings, the Celtics offense torched the Heat defense. Even if you throw out the final meeting when the Heat just rolled out the subs for 48 minutes.

Boston put up 117 in a game on Miami and racked up incredible shooting numbers in the regular season. The Celtics hit 76 percent of their corner threes against the Heat, with Ray Allen and others getting good looks (Boston shot 44 percent from there for the season). In their four meetings Boston shot 66.7 percent on long twos (20 feet to the arc). That’s the worst shot in basketball and they killed it from there. (Stats via NBA.com).

I don’t think they can come close to replicating that for four out of seven games. First off, two Boston wins came in April when they caught Miami during its “we’re just waiting for the playoffs to start” malaise. Also, against the Sixers last round the Celtics were not hitting those shots consistently. Ray Allen is not shooting like Ray Allen right now because of that ankle injury.

Instead I expect the Celtics will work hard to establish Garnett on the block, especially with Bosh not there to defend. He is going to have to have a monster series for the Celtics to have a chance. Also, Rondo is going to have to get into the teeth of the defense and create open looks for Garnett and Bass, who need to knock them down.

Miami’s defense is like a better version of the Sixers — they just have athletes all over the floor that pressure, gamble and try to force you into mistakes they turn into transition points. If Boston is to have any chance they have to break that pressure and put up points.

On offense, Miami is going to count on huge series from Wade and LeBron, who are attacking off the pick and roll. Boston lacks someone the size of Roy Hibbert on the back line but still no team was better during the regular season at containing the ball-handler coming off the pick. The Celtics need to get the attack-minded duo to hesitate and ultimately give up the ball.

What makes Miami dangerous is when Wade and Lebron can trust guys like Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier and Mike Miller to knock down kickout shots (this is also where they miss Chris Bosh). And it should go without saying, you have to slow the Heat’s transition game. Well, you can say it but doing it is something else entirely.

PREDICTION

Miami in 5.

The truth is the Heat already beat the second best team in the East last round (after the Derrick Rose injury changed the landscape). Boston if they were healthy all the way around would have some pieces to challenge Miami but without Bradley’s defense and a steady Allen they don’t have the guys on the wings to defend the Heat. Boston’s defense is good, but their offense will not be able to keep up with what the Heat put on the board.

  1. paintman34 - May 28, 2012 at 8:57 AM

    You forgot about Mario Chalmers
    , and didnt even mention that ray allen will hace to guard Wade

  2. patinozz - May 28, 2012 at 9:15 AM

    “In their second to final game before the playoffs the Heat did not play any of their big three against the Celtics, so toss that one out.”

    Great journalism Kurt…
    Why didn’t you mention that Rondo, Garnett, Allen, Pietrus etc. didn’t play in that game either. It was basically bench against bench and deserves attention since the bench is gonna become a factor in the Finals sooner or later.

    • mornelithe - May 28, 2012 at 7:30 PM

      Rondo also sat, in fact the only starter to play that game was Avery Bradley.

  3. ihateclevelandandphillyandbaltimore - May 28, 2012 at 9:16 AM

    I’m not making any predictions this time……..heat in 6

  4. passerby23 - May 28, 2012 at 9:20 AM

    Heat in 5. With a healthy Avery Bradley and Ray Allen, I would actually favor the Celtics in 7, but I think the loss of Bradley is devastating for Boston. It will look a lot like last year. Heat win two convincing games at home, followed by an inspired Celtics performance in Game 3, and then get closed out in 2 competitive games.

  5. jh4prez - May 28, 2012 at 9:39 AM

    Lebrons about to destroy the celtics dynasty

  6. legeisyaj - May 28, 2012 at 9:40 AM

    Celts backer here. Unfortunately I see no way the good guys win here.

    • giselleisasucubus - May 28, 2012 at 2:09 PM

      Why? The C’s have major advantages at the two most important positions on the court. Don’t listen to the “experts”, they know nothing. Have faith, Celts are winning the East. Celts in 6.

    • kjereld615 - May 28, 2012 at 3:42 PM

      It all depends on game one or two. If the Celtics could steal one of those two or both then we may have a chance. Allen knocked down his last two 3′s now you cant really look too much into that and say “oh Ray Allen is back” but there is hope. Now for the loss of Bradley yeah that hurts but remember we have Pietrus (i bet i just butchered his name) who is a good defender so we have someone other than Allen to guard Wade. Now do i think the Celtics can win yeah damn right I do, but who wouldn’t back their team in the Conf. Finals. Now do i think it will be easy? god no, i believe this will go to a game 6-7 and like i said who ever can pull away with game one or two could win this series in my opinion.

  7. thestudiokida - May 28, 2012 at 9:44 AM

    Where are you getting your numbers? Hoopdata has the following

    Boston: Offense 98.9/24th Defense 95.5/2nd
    Miami: Offense 104.3/6th Defense 97.1/4th

    That’s PTS * 100 / (FGA – OREB + TO + FTA*0.44)

  8. lakerluver - May 28, 2012 at 9:46 AM

    The East sucks. That, “put your head down and bully you’re way to the rim” style of bball might work in that conference but it won’t work out West. The Thunder would beat the East Champ in 6 or 7 games. The Spurs would beat them in 5 or 6. Man, the looks on the Heatles mugs are gonna be priceless after they get clowned in the Finals AGAIN this season!

    • jimeejohnson - May 28, 2012 at 12:35 PM

      What time does the Lakers game start NEXT SEASON?

  9. thecrowesnestri - May 28, 2012 at 10:09 AM

    Don’t forget that in the last Heat/Celtics game, Boston didn’t play their stars either. It was an ugly game so throw it for that reason, not just the Heat not playing their guys.

  10. jh4prez - May 28, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    Nothngs stopping the king this time!

  11. ezmagic - May 28, 2012 at 10:55 AM

    I been a magic fan since 1989 and a fan of whoever plays the heat in the playoffs. Go celtics! F_ _ K THE HEAT! Yes I’m a heat hater and proud of it

    • miamatt - May 28, 2012 at 11:54 AM

      At least you’re honest about it. I can respect that.

      Heat fan since ’88. I’ve got no love for the Magic, but I can’t stand watching Dwight Howard F@#K that franchise. Lebron’s Cleveland departure pales in comparision.

      • tampajoey - May 28, 2012 at 12:03 PM

        Lebron will always be a little b!tch.

    • kjereld615 - May 28, 2012 at 3:47 PM

      “heat hater”….damn would not want to say that ten times fast

  12. reddolfan66 - May 28, 2012 at 11:37 AM

    I hope Howard ends up in Miami, so ezmagic can hate the heat even more!!! Heat in 6

    • kjereld615 - May 28, 2012 at 3:32 PM

      Haha Howard has a better chance of being a Mav than a Heat. The Heat have nothing to trade for Howard and the Magic is certainly not going to want anything that doesn’t involve either Lebron or Wade.

  13. ceschatz - May 28, 2012 at 11:53 AM

    Gotta love the bitter Lakers fan in here hating on the East. Your beloved Kobe is done and washed up, time to suck it up and get over it

    • jimeejohnson - May 28, 2012 at 12:37 PM

      Are you going to watch the Lakers NEXT SEASON?

  14. j0esixpack - May 28, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    Miami will continue to “bully their way to the basket” in this series because they know the Celts are too injured old and tired to stop them at this point (I don’t think they’ll try that in the finals however)

    With a healthy Bradley, even with Pierce and Allen playing injured, this could have been an interesting series. Without him I’m thinking 5 games is just about right.

    The only good thing about the Celts and Heat winning is it made bozosforall STFU for a little while, especially after he backed off on his bold prediction of Miami making it to the finals once Bosh was out and they were down 2-1.

    The second the Celtics lose a game he’ll be back with his predictable homophobic rants

  15. jimeejohnson - May 28, 2012 at 12:48 PM

    Celtics and Heat are still alive this season. Thunder and Spurs look great. Those Lakers: not so much. Metta World War symbolizes the Lakers: pathetic! By the way, James Harden says “you lose”, World War chump! At least the Los Angeles Kings are playing for a championship, while the Lakers play with their toys. Dodgers look real good now and for the foreseeable future. The Lakers: not so much. While the Celtics and Heat continue to be the class of the East, and the Spurs and Thunder the class of the west, the Lakers are like the Pacers and Sixers: just not good enough.

  16. giselleisasucubus - May 28, 2012 at 2:05 PM

    Heat in 5? Are you high? Is everyone nuts? Maybe I’m wrong, but Chris Bosh is hurt, right? This isn’t an alternate universe? Listen, the Bradley injury hurts. The Bosh injury is just as bad, if not worse. OK, Bradley matched up on Wade. Well, Bosh matched up on KG. Now, the C’s have a major advantage up front and at the point. Rondo can cover Wade, and the C’s used zone this year against Miami, and it worked well.

    Boston in 6.

  17. lakerluver - May 28, 2012 at 2:10 PM

    The LAKERS have won 10, that’s TEN, titles since 1979. That means we’ve celebrated a Championship almost every 3 years. The Heat will NEVER win even anything remotely close to that. As for the Celtics, most of their titles were won in the era of black and white tv! Hate all you want, the LAKERS are the best franchise in the NBA, by far. The Buss family will never allow the LAKERS to become irrelevant, like the Heat were before last season (and will soon be again after LBJ takes his talents elsewhere), and as the C’s were from the late 80′s til 2008. Furthermore, if the Heatles don’t win it all this season, they will never win a title with the “Big 3″. In case you Heat fans haven’t noticed Okc is better, deeper, AND younger than the Heatles. And Boston next season you’ll be left with Rondo and Pierce after KG leaves. That means 20 more years of irrelevancy because SURELY no free agents of note will go there. Have a good day watching the J. V. game today!!

  18. lakerluver - May 28, 2012 at 2:26 PM

    Maybe I’ll take a ride when this game starts. I hope Boston wins the series but I gotta admit watching Posh collapse in tears again this season after getting dismantled by the Spurs would be sweet.

  19. ceschatz - May 28, 2012 at 3:03 PM

    Lakers fans living in the past. Hey if its all you got why not

  20. mungman69 - May 28, 2012 at 5:51 PM

    Hey legeisyaj: Do you mean that the celtics are the good guys? What planet have you been on for the last 50 years?

  21. rodge1 - May 28, 2012 at 6:06 PM

    tampajoey will always be a b!tch

    • tampajoey - May 28, 2012 at 7:10 PM

      ah…. did i insult your lover. Does that make you the King’s Queen?

  22. rodge1 - May 29, 2012 at 7:57 AM

    @tampajoey

    I’m just telling the truth. You write bitter comments like a scorned ex-girlfriend, making you a b!tch. I write things directly to you so you can see, unlike b!tches like you. Is that clear enough b!tch?

    • tampajoey - May 29, 2012 at 6:21 PM

      @rodge1.. Go fcuk yourself you bandwagon frontrunner Heat fan! I suppose you’re a Yankees fan too frontrunner. Like I give two cents what a loser bandwagon fan like you thinks. Every real NBA throughout the country hates your team and all of their bandwagon fans. You get no respect because you’ve earned no respect. Now go kill yourself loser Heat fan!

    • tampajoey - May 29, 2012 at 6:23 PM

      Go wipe your chin off… you got Lebron’s love juice all over your mouth.

  23. mickey1120 - May 30, 2012 at 9:07 AM

    Reblogged this on Mickey1120's Blog.

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