Let’s be clear the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics are not long time rivals. However, the signing of LeBron James and Chris Bosh by the Heat this past summer made the Heat instant rivals, just add water. The rivalry is not quite as hate driven as that group who don that god-awful purple and gold in L.A. but it is getting there. What this match-up lacks in history it makes up for in talent and drama amidst the huge personalities that flash their hall of fame credentials in this series. (Excuse the forecasting on the Heat players who should eventually have H.O.F. credentials, one day.) The collective egos of both teams are enough to have outsiders wishing there was a way that they could both lose and not move on. Wishful thinking will not prevail and what we are about to witness is one of the most anticipated playoff series in NBA history. And that is no overstatement. The NBA might feel it necessary to call in legendary ring announcer, Michael Buffer, to introduce the starting lineups throughout the series (or at least for game 1). OK, that is a slight overstatement. So if I may borrow a phrase without being sued “Let’s get ready to rumble!”
The match ups in this series are intriguing and will make for great theater for even the most casual of NBA fans. The starters, bench, coaches, and intangibles will all play vital roles in the outcome of this series. Allow me to take a brief look at each with some honest analysis.
PG: Rajon Rondo vs. Mike Bibby: This is a match-up that clearly favors the Celtics. In one of the only positions where the Celtics have the youthful advantage, Rondo is head and shoulders better than Mike Bibby at this stage of their careers. Even if the Heat start Mario Chalmers, Rondo owns the point guard match-up. When he rebounds and initiates the Celtics break, Boston is near the top of the league in offensive efficiency. Playing the passing lanes and staying with Bibby or Chalmers behind the 3 point line will be Rondo’s defensive responsibilities. Advantage Boston.
SG: Ray Allen vs. Dwayne Wade: Allen has had the advantage for the better part of their battles this year. While Ray’s shooting prowess is unmatched by anybody in the league, its Wade’s overall game that makes him one of top 5 best players in the NBA. Wade did a remarkable job defending Allen on April 10 when the two teams met for the final time in the regular season. That defensive intensity took something out of Wade offensively but he skilled enough to still be effective. His ability to create off the dribble, rebound, and even block the occasional shot give him the slight nod over Allen. Advantage Miami.
SF: Paul Pierce vs. LeBron James: The uncrowned “king” is a basketball talent like few others. He drives the lane like a run-away train leaving most defenders behind and intimidated. James will not be defended by “most” defenders in this series. The Captain, Paul Pierce, is not intimidated by James in the least and has traditionally played LeBron well in previous playoff battles. James is the muscle car, sleek and fast while Pierce is the luxury performance sedan. Both players get the jobs done for their respective teams just in very different ways. While LeBron is more athletic it is Pierce who is the better closer. No advantage to either team as I believe these two great players cancel each other out.
PF: Kevin Garnett vs. Chris Bosh: KG by and large is the heart and soul of the Celtic defense. Bosh is the underrated 3rd wheel in the Miami Heat attack. Bosh’s ability or inability to play well in this series could be the difference in multiple games. Garnett is just too tough, rugged and intense to be out played by the likes of Bosh throughout the series. KG’s commitment to rebounding will need to be similar to his efforts in the New York series where he averaged 11.2 rebounds per game as Miami knows they need to crash the glass against the Celtics. Advantage Boston.
C: Jermaine O’neal vs. Zydrunas Ilgauskas: The ability of Illgauskas to stretch the floor is key for Miami. If he is able to keep JO or Shaq out on the perimeter with his jumper, that would spell disaster for the Boston defense. The Celtic centers need to be able to clog the paint and deter potential drives from the likes of James and Wade. Miami is not consistent in their play at center and in the final Celtic Heat game of the regular season it was Joel Anthony who Miami turned to at center. It’s not likely Anthony will start but his play changes Miami’s defensive and rebounding capabilities greatly. We don’t know if the Celtics will get Shaq back or if the same Jermaine O’neal will be present in this series. No clear advantage can be given to either team but healthy Oneal’s would push the scales towards the Celtics.
Bench: Delonte West, Jeff Green, & Glenn Davis vs. Joel Anthony, James Jones, and Mario Chalmers: These six players are the key reserves for both teams in this series. Miami pretty much knows what it’s going to get with their bench while the Celtics bench production changes like the weather. Man for man Boston has the advantage on paper but “that’s why they play the game”.
Coaching: Doc Rivers vs. Eric Spolestra: Doc has been doing this coaching thing for a little while now and his experience in the playoffs far surpasses that of Spolestra. The Heat’s sideline general is still learning how to manage the massive egos of his 3 superstars while Rivers immediately commanded the respect of his. Rivers is 2nd to maybe only Gregg Popovich of the Spurs, when it comes to late game X’s and O’s and preparation. Advantage Celtics.
Having swept the Knicks in the first round has given the Celtics a full week of practice time, which is especially key for the Celtic reserves. Look for Boston to be at its cohesive best and for Miami to push them like no other team has outside of the Los Angeles Lakers.
The fat lady is starting to warm up her vocals unsure of which locker room she will be delivering her dreaded performance for when this series ends. In the meantime these two teams will dance like its their last, lets hope the “old legs” of the Celtics can keep up.
About the Author
Written by Warren Shaw
I am an avid Basketball fan who has worked for the New York Knicks, Alonzo Mourning Charities and various other sports organizations. Having covered many NBA and various professional sporting events has given me the opportunity to provide insight with an unbiased but flavor driven view. I look forward to providing NBA content and interacting with knowledgeable fans and readers. Follow me on Twitter @shawsports or Email your questions to me at Warrenshaw@prosportsblogging.com