Doyle Rader: We finally know who will compete in the Eastern Conference Finals, however, when Derrick Rose went down in the first round this match up was all but inevitable. The Boston Celtics finally defeated a Sixers team that Doc Rivers described as “a pain in the ass.” Now they will face the Miami Heat who, despite the loss of Chris Bosh in their series against the Indiana Pacers, look every bit as dominant as the team that moved on to the Finals last season. When it comes to this series, the regular season meetings mean nothing. Boston owned the regular season series between the two clubs for the last two years but has only mustered one win against the Heat in the playoffs during that time. What are the keys for both teams in this series?
Travis Huse: The absence of Chris Bosh. The Heat is left with only two big names on their roster, and they need another offensive threat. Bosh’s outside game also would help to bring Kevin Garnett out of the middle, freeing up space for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. For Boston, they need some monster performances from Ray Allen, as LeBron’s defense can be otherworldly on Paul Pierce. Rajon Rondo‘s consistent ability to have triple-doubles in playoff games will be tested here, as well. I think it’s interesting that we have the two scariest defensive teams vying for the East, while in the West it’s a shoot-out.
DR: Missing Bosh could pose a problem but at the same time it could open up an emphasis on the transition game for Miami. When this team gets out running it the open court it is game over: Flying Death Machine.
As for Garnett, his defense will of course be a factor but his offense is what could hurt his team. He is a spot up midrange jump shooter off the pick and is effective at little else, especially if he has to put the ball on the floor. Yes, Garnett can still post up but is so predictable in the post, Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm pointed out that he posts up on the left block 60 percent of the time, goes to his right shoulder 40 percent of the time, and shoots a jumper 86 percent of the time from the block. That is the definition of predictability. However, it will be interesting to see who guards him. I imagine that the Heat will throw Udonis Haslem, Ronny Turiaf, Joel Anthony, and even Shane Battier, who could draw the bulk of the defensive assignment.
I’m just not sure that Jesus Shuttlesworth has anything left in the tank. He has looked terrible during playoffs and he has to still be hurt. If he can shake off the rust and put it together offensively he will have to contend with Dwyane Wade. Wade has been phenomenal on defense, as per usual, and will harass Allen all over the court.
In the postgame show after the Heat knocked out the Pacers, Jeff Van Gundy, who saved the program from its usual absurdist rhetoric, stated that this series will hinge on the play of Rondo and his ability to shutdown or limit Mario Chalmers and pace the Celtics. I have felt for two years now that this is Rondo’s team and this series will further fuel this idea. For the Celtics to find success if will be on the back of Rondo and let’s hope he keeps rocking those Nike Huarache Basketball 2012’s in the Volt colorway.
TH: This is definitely Rondo’s team, which makes the rest of the Celtics his weapons. His lack of a jump shot is rendered useless when he is able to work Brandon Bass into the equation. As a Mavs fan, you can’t look at Bass this postseason and grimace.
DR: Bass is playing strong and has played the fourth most minutes for the Celtics in the postseason thus far and is totaling 11.7 points per game. On a team that struggles to rebound the ball, Bass collects 5.1 boards. He is the fourth best player on the Celtics. If the Heat can neutralize him the Celtics will be in trouble.
What really hurts the Celtics is the loss of Avery Bradley. When he and Rondo were paired in the backcourt together their defensive numbers were amazing. In terms of slowing Wade, missing Bradley is huge. Keyon Dooling and Mickael Pietrus have their work cut out for them. Oh, or maybe they’ll make me happy and we’ll get to see a little Marquis Daniels on the floor.
TH: Well, as of now, they’re real thin at SG. That lends itself to more minutes for Daniels, so we’re probably in luck. He’s going to be stretched to the hilt against Wade, but we already know Doc Rivers has groomed him for this situation all year. That’s the kind of thing he does, socking away money in Staples Center. This team is so well coached that they can weather these injuries as well as any other NBA team. There are just so many variables on this Celtics team, and the outcome of each game defined by so many questionable players, it’s very hard to predict. The Heat is full of shaky players, as well, but the strength of Wade and James makes them so much more stable.
DR: Daniels usually plays the three, unless Don Nelson appears and tries to make him run point (ahh, the memories), but if Doc gets desperate Daniels could definitely get spot minutes against Wade. Indiana was a better team than the Celtics and they could not slow down the Wade and James tandem. Frank Vogel said it best, “Chris Bosh is a fantastic player, but when he goes down, that means more touches for LeBron and Wade.” Those touches ignited the Heat and propelled them to three consecutive wins. The Death Machine found its wings. However, we must wait to see if those wings are fashioned by Daedalus and whether the Heat chooses to fly too close to the sun.
That said, the Heat will win this series 4-2. Hopefully, they won’t imitate last season’s celebration when they win.
TH: After what I saw in the Heat-Pacers series, I’m going to go Celtics in 7. It goes against my head, but let me explain. The best way to beat Miami is to get them rattled, and if the Celtics manage to rattle one of the Heat’s two stars for three games, they have a chance. If there’s any team that hypes its strangeness, it’s Boston. These guys are WEIRDOS. I’m thinking the Eastern Conference Finals might strongly resemble when Will Smith smacked the reporter for kissing him. KG should probably kiss LeBron right before tip-off in game 1. I wouldn’t put it past him.
But in all seriousness, with a long series, Doc could seriously dismantle this squad. I’m probably going to lose this one, but that’s what I’m sticking with. Celtics in 7.