Sunday, May 27, 2012

ECF: Heat vs. Celtics

It's The Big Three vs. The Big Three 2, Round Two. Miami slayed the beast of the East in last year's five-game semifinal series. Now they reconvene in the Eastern Conference Finals with a bevy of intriguing matchups and variables.

Miami Heat (2) vs. Boston Celtics (4)

Chris Bosh needs to at least occupy Kevin Garnett.
The only reason Miami is even here is because Dwyane Wade and LeBron James went all Shaq & Kobe on the Indiana Pacers last series. Over the final three games against Indy, James averaged 32.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 8 assists per game on 61.3 percent True Shooting and Wade averaged 33 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game on 64.4 percent True Shooting. Ridiculous.

But that isn't sustainable against Boston. Kevin Garnett can roam around since Miami doesn't have a big man to attack with. Remember how Roy Hibbert was supposed to do that in the Indiana series but didn't because he's an overrated, plodding, soft big man who didn't deserve to be an All-Star this year? Well, KG can get it done. Boston's playoff-leading defense (94.2 defensive rating) should stifle their new opponent.

Miami's stingy defense should do the same against Boston's anemic offense. With Avery Bradley hurt and Rajon Rondo being a poor shooter - save for the final five minutes of game seven against Philly (Poor Doug Collins)- Miami's playoff-leading ability to force turnovers will provide them with easy transition buckets. LeBron James has shut down Carmelo Anthony and Danny Granger this postseason and has shut down a healthy Paul Pierce in the playoffs before; handling a hobbled Pierce won't be a problem. And for all the talk of Boston's success from behind the arc against Miami this season, the Heat's playoff opponents have shot below 30 percent from 3-point land in the playoffs. Miami is paying attention to closeouts in the playoffs.

Kevin Garnett will get his; he's the matchup advantage Boston has to milk. Rondo is smart enough to get him the ball.

The big variable here is the health of Chris Bosh. Does he play? If he plays, can he give 60-70 percent of his average performance? They need him to at least be a presence, at least pull a Willis Reed by occupying the other team's frontcourt despite an injury. KG has historically owned Bosh, but if he can simply be enough of an offensive threat to deflect attention from Wade and James, they can take care of the rest.

Miami is the superior basketball team, and if both teams were fully healthy, it'd be an easy call. The Bosh injury plays, however. After watching him cry last year following the NBA Finals loss, one must believe he'll fight through pain and try to help his team. Two-and-a-half solid games from him is really all Miami needs.

Pick: Heat in 6

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