#3 Boston Celtics vs. #2 Miami Heat Series Preview and Pick
The Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics have had quite the rivalry with one another over the course of this season. Boston won three battles in the regular season, but it was the Heat that ultimately won the war by snaring the last and decisive game in the regular season tussle to gain home court advantage.
#3 Boston Celtics (60-26 SU, 40-44-2 ATS)
How They Got Here: If anyone really thought that the Celtics were going to lay down and just get trounced in the playoffs, they’re sorely mistaken. Boston really played well in the first round of the postseason, but there is still some concern about the way that the team came out of the blocks. The first two games against the New York Knicks were rough, but it’s hard to complain about a team that posted a four game sweep of any other postseason team.
Player to Watch: We know that Ray Allen and Paul Pierce are the assassins, and we know that both of these men are going to be huge in the scoring department in this series, but the man that really makes this team go is Rajon Rondo. Rondo was a triple-double type of guy this year, averaging 10.6 points, 11.2 assists, and 4.4 boards per game. He was almost overlooked in Game 3 against the Knicks, the real statement game of the series. Allen and Pierce filled up the stat sheet with points, but Rondo was the man getting them the ball. He dished out 20 assists that day, and he averaged 19.0 points, 12.0 assists, and 7.2 rebounds per game in the series. Of course, we know that the Heat are going to match up significantly differently against Rondo than the Knicks did and his stats will go down, but that doesn’t downplay his importance to the team.
The Celtics Can Win This Series If…: They really buckle down defensively. The 76ers proved that the Heat can be beaten, and it is clear that the talent level is there for Boston, unlike with Philly. The C’s held Miami in the 80s twice this year and won both games. The two in the 100s worked out significantly better for the Heat.
#2 Miami Heat (62-25 SU, 42-44-1 ATS)
How They Got Here: Lunch is now served in the main dining room in South Beach. “Breakfast,” as LeBron James called it, was finished up on Wednesday night against the Philadelphia 76ers in a series that really wasn’t all that impressive in spite of the 4-1 score line. Still, the Heat really look to be hitting the right cylinders at the right time, and they are going to be a tough, tough team to oust here in the second round.
Player to Watch: This series is all about LeBron. James was brought into Miami to win series like this one, and considering the fact that this was the team that essentially closed the door on the LeBron era in Cleveland, there has to be a huge desire there for him to beat his nemesis. It should come as no surprise that James led the team in scoring, rebounding, and assists in the first round of the playoffs with 24.2, 10.6, and 6.2 respectively. Especially with the weakness on the inside for Boston, LeBron getting to the hole could be the difference.
The Heat Can Win This Series If…: They get into the paint and exploit the fact that Kendrick Perkins is no longer in Beantown. Who knows whether Shaquille O’Neal will or will not play in this series, but either way, the Celtics definitely have a shortage of big men that can clog the middle in a huge game like this one. Whether it’s Chris Bosh, Joel Anthony, LeBron, or some other bigs, Head Coach Erik Spoelstra knows that this is the key to victory.
Analyzing the NBA Series Odds: Separating these two teams is just brutally hard in these playoffs. The two are really so evenly matched and basically have the exact same teams. Toughness in the post is crucial though, and Miami definitely has that edge at this point unless Shaq finds the Fountain of Youth at some point between now and Sunday. We don’t figure that happening. The Heat won the critical game between these two teams at the end of the regular season to lock up home court advantage throughout this series, and they’ll take full advantage of that by winning a tight one all the way through. Heat in 7