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5-on-5: Heat-Celtics Preview & Predictions

 
1. Chris Bosh will miss at least a portion of the series with his abdominal strain. Where will Boston be able to take advantage of his absence, if at all? 

Hayes Davenport: 8 feet out. The inimitable Kirk Goldsberry of the CourtVision blog discovered that this is where Bosh is better than anyone else in the NBA, and it’s the kind of low-percentage opportunity to which the Celtics deliberately try to funnel their opponents. The Heat offense is just much less potent without Bosh Bailing out James and Wade from there. Doesn’t hurt that Joel Anthony is probably the worst player in the world to be taking that shot in his place.

Ryan DeGama: It’s a major advantage for Boston’s defense for a few reasons. The inclination is to zone up, pack the paint and force jumpers because, of Miami’s big three, Bosh is the best mid-range shooter and any possession where Wade or Lebron takes a long two is a success for Boston. His absence also frees up KG as a help defender because there’s nobody else Miami can consistently throw at Garnett who demands the defensive attention Bosh does.

Chris Forsberg: The Celtics’ typical game plan against Miami is to let Dwyane Wade and LeBron James get theirs (within reason), then challenge the supporting cast to beat them. Not having Bosh forces others on Miami’s not-so-deep roster to step up. At the other end, it gives Kevin Garnett — the best player on the floor in the Celtics’ semifinal win over the 76ers — a chance to really put his stamp on this series. Boston absolutely needs Garnett to be greedy around the basket in order to have a chance in this series.

Greg Payne: Chris Bosh was never particularly good at defending Kevin Garnett in the post, but his absence still counts as one less body for KG to go through when he heads down to the block to initiate offense. Additionally, it allows guys like Garnett and Bass to provide better help defense on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, and potentially even double-team them if needed.

Brian Robb: This will help Boston in two main areas. First, defensively they have one less major threat to key on, allowing Kevin Garnett to roam more freely in the interior and on pick-and-rolls instead of being preoccupied with limiting Bosh. In addition, Bosh is one of Miami’s best rebounders and he averaged a double-double against Boston in their playoff matchup last year. For as vulnerable as Boston is on the glass, having Bosh off the floor helps tremendously in that area and forces James and Wade to work harder down low. 


2. With Avery Bradley out, and Ray Allen hobbled, do the Celtics have an answer for Dwayne Wade?

Davenport: I think Pietrus can guard him. In fact, Wade is exactly the kind of giant two-guard Pietrus was built to check. On the other end, I think Rondo can score on him, because at his best Rondo can score on anybody. The only potential Wade play they can’t answer to is the breaking of one of their bones.

DeGama: No, they don’t. It’s just a matter of mitigating the damage he does, which will involve things like zone defenses and Sasha Pavlovic. Gimpiness aside, Allen will probably still get the majority of minutes on Wade, if only because they need his offense (or the threat of it) to spread the floor against Miami’s excellent perimeter D. One thing’s for sure: Doc Rivers is going to earn his salary trying to neutralize Wade over the next two weeks.

Forsberg: No. When his right knee isn’t bothering him, Mickael Pietrus is capable of providing quality defense, but he’s been up and down this postseason when the injury flares up. The key is going to be finding a way to mask Allen’s defensive deficiencies, a not-so easy task even when he’s got Garnett behind him. C’s might have to give someone like Sasha Pavlovic a chance to provide some defense in small bursts to make up for the lack of Avery Bradley.

Payne: I don’t think they have an answer, but they’ll most likely resort to Rajon Rondo, Marquis Daniels, Keyon Dooling at times, and, yes, even Sasha Pavlovic. It’ll be defense by committee. It’s a shame Bradley’s out. Watching him hound Wade would have been a lot of fun.

Robb: They will have an answer for a game or two, through a mix of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Mickael Pietrus and some zone defense potentially, but expecting Boston to keep Wade at bay for most of the series is too tall a task for this group. The Celts’ will need to make Wade work hard on both ends of the floor in order to help limit the havoc he can wreak against Boston on the offensive end all series long.

3. Who is Boston’s X-factor? Miami’s?

Davenport: Boston’s x-factor is Brandon Bass, who will take his shots no matter what and just make everyone hope they go in. Miami’s x-factor is the three-headed three monster of Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller, and James Jones for the same reason. The stars of both teams need these players to supplement their scoring, because they usually can’t break 75 on their own.

DeGama: There’s a real argument here that Pietrus should start over Allen because he can take a run at Wade and do time on LeBron in switches or when Pierce goes to the bench with foul trouble. His minutes could easily creep up towards 30 a game if his body can handle it. On Miami’s side, the x-factor is probably Haslem. If he gets in foul trouble, Erik Spoelstra is down to an even more comical selection of backup bigs than Boston, which is a pretty amusing accomplishment.

Forsberg: The Celtics have exploitable matchups with Rajon Rondo and Garnett, they simply need to take advantage of them. That means having an always-engaged Rondo and a selfish-with-the-ball Garnett (no guarantee with either guy, as Celtics fans know all too well). Miami’s X-factor might simply be their ability to generate turnovers. We all know the story there: Give the ball up against this team and it’s immediate points. Boston absolutely has to value the ball as not to give Wade and James any free fuel.

Payne: Mickael Pietrus. He has the potential to really impact this series on both sides of the ball. He’ll be tasked with defending James at times, and he really needs to come through with a host of 3-pointers on the other end.

Robb: Rajon Rondo for Boston. It’s the easy answer, but there’s no getting around how pivotal he will be for the Celtics in this series. He plays the position that the Heat have no real answer on the defensive end, and Rondo’s play defensively between keeping Heat guards out of the paint and hitting the defensive glass will be just as crucial. For Miami, it’s Udonis Haslem. He’s a tough defender who could neutralize Garnett without Bosh available. Plus, if his jumper is falling, the Heat become much tougher to defend.


4. Do we finally see a front-to-back great series from Rajon Rondo?

Davenport:  I’ve come to accept that Rondo is so good BECAUSE he’s sometimes bad: that his low moments really stand out when they’re put up right next to the highs. So no, I think he’ll drop a couple games, if only to punish us the next game for thinking he wasn’t the best player we had.

DeGama: Far be it from me to whittle a player’s value down to a single series, but the shorthanded C’s have never needed from Rondo what they will against the Heat. As a result, I consider this a litmus test for whether he can carry this team and truly earn all those ‘best player in green’ accolades. Rondo needs to create consistent pace on offense, score early and often enough to open space on the floor and then find open men all game long. And he’ll have to stop Chalmers on defense, too. Can he do it? He has it in him, but his focus can’t waver. And usually it does.

Forsberg: If Boston wants to win this series, it better hope so. But last round suggests he will still be prone to lulls and outbursts. Rondo should have plenty of motivation, particularly after dislocating his elbow and not being able to fully contribute in last year’s playoff matchup. Forget the triple-double numbers, the key for Rondo in this series starts defensively. He needs to play like a legit NBA All-Defensive second-teamer if Boston is to have any chance of beating the Heat.

Payne: Yes. This will be Rondo’s series when it’s all said and done. His ability to take control of Game 7 against Philly was remarkable and I’m fully expecting him to average a triple-double for the entire series, because Boston will need it if it wants to make it to the Finals.

Robb: I expect a hiccup or two from Rondo within the series, but it will be as close to a consistent series from Rondo as we’ve seen all year. The fun little secret about the C’s All-Star point guard in 2012 is how much better he has become putting up the big numbers this team needs to succeed. Three triple-doubles and six double-doubles in 12 postseason games so far this year is incredibly impressive. A fully healthy series against a Miami team this year is when I think he takes the next step.


5. Prediction time: What happens in Game 1? And who wins the series?

Davenport: Miami leans on their rest and second-round momentum to pick up Game 1. In a series this seemingly tight, the lower seed plans for Game 2. As for the series: Miami in 6. Will anyone accept that as a reverse jinx?

DeGama: I think game one will provide the template for the series. Boston stays within a couple of possessions of Miami with a Herculean defensive effort and just enough shotmaking. And then the Heat pull away from an exhausted batch of Celtics down the stretch. I had Boston in 6 against Atlanta and Boston in 7 against Philly but I’m really hoping to be wrong this round because I’ve got Miami in 5.

Forsberg: The quick turnaround really shouldn’t be that big of an issue for Boston in Game 1. Extended rest has been a rarity this postseason, so the Celtics have to simply hope the momentum from that Game 7 win over the 76ers spills into this next round. Boston would love to put Miami on its heels by stealing Game 1, but I see the Heat winning on Monday night and taking this series in 6. Boston’s health — for the fourth straight year — proves to be too much of an issue to overcome and the Celtics are left to ponder, yet again, what could have been.

Payne: The Celtics lose Game 1 by 8-10 points, largely due to not having enough recuperation time following their last series. But they rebound and win Game 2 and go on to win the series in 6 games, prompting LeBron and co. to be bailed out by the ‘Chris Bosh wasn’t healthy!’ excuse.

Robb: All signs point to a Miami series win here. However, this Celtics team has made a believer out of me. The Heat takes Game 1 in a close battle, but Boston steals Game 2, setting up a back and forth battle the rest of the way. And since we’re going seven games, why not go out on a limb. Celtics in 7.


  • High Rollers

    C’s have to insist on taking at least one of two in Miami. Nothing less will do.

  • JWhitt

    Everyone is doubting my celtics.i I feel that this series will come down to coaching and Doc Rivers will figure out the stagedy to put out the fire on the Miami Heat!

  • Jwhitt48

    Everyone is doubting my C's.I feel that this series will come down to coaching and the starting 5 showing up and showing out. I truly believe Doc Rivers will figure out the strategy to put out the fire on the Miami Heat!

  • guest

    Miami will sweep your ASSES

    • http://twitter.com/M_DeVelaine @M_DeVelaine

      Clearly someone who's afraid of the backlash. I wish there was a way to wipe all forum trolls from the internet.

  • Celtic Guest

    Okay all the pundits are writing off the Celtics since Lebron and Wade finally snapped out of their stupor during the Indiana series. True. But how quickly we forget what happened when Miami beat the Cs in five games. If revenge is order, this is the series. Does anyone remember Rondo and Wade scrapping on the floor for a loose ball when Wade purposely, yes purposely, took out Rondo's arm. Bounty hunting anyone? Yes, it's not only the Saints that are guilty of this offense. In my estimation, Wade is the dirtiest player in the league. He also knew that Rondo was the key to winning that series so if I take him out, we win, and unfortunately he was right. No slur on Paul, KG, and Ray, but as in the series that starts tonight, Rondo will be the key if the Celtics are to move on to the Finals. Unfortunately, Avery Bradley is out since we could have used his defense and offense for that matter. But our boys are going to have to suck it up and try to contain Lebron and Wade as much as possible. I like the fact that everyone is writing off the Celtics and calling them old and slow. Besides getting revenge on the Bounty Hunter, what better motivation can we have.

  • Lantrell Walker

    If there were ever a series tailor-made for KG down low on the box, this is it. With Bosh out & KG not having to exert energy & focus guarding him, he should be able to get whatever he wants offensively in the paint & be a free safety and have his hands in a lot of pies defensively. As for Rondo, I'm looking for him not only to terrorize the Miami guards on both ends of the floor, but I'm expecting him to have the tempo of this series on a leash (he & CP3 are the two best at controlling the tempo of any game). Rondo has gotta be big for us in terms on neutralizing Miami's up-tempo game & creating easy baskets for the C's on the run as well. I believe in this team & I know they have the heart of a warrior lion that's experienced many barfights, Celtics in 6-7.

    #WeBelieveIn18

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  • sk35

    I really hope Pierce can do more v. LeBron than he could v. Iggy. Hopefully this series will seem easier for him without having to deal with Philly's D. I wish his knee was better too. Also, Allen and/or Pietrus have to start making 3s in order for the offense to have spacing. The Celts were terrible from 3 v. Philly and need to improve because they'll need all the points they can get.

    Also, as for X-factors, I like the answers by Davenport and DeGama – Bass or Pietrus. KG and Rondo have to be outstanding for them to have a chance so I don't see them as X-factors. They play well, they have a chance. If they don't, no chance. Bass and/or Pietrus will help decide the game if KG and RR play well.

  • No one important

    Realistically the NBA has been looking to get some different teams in the finals. Miami and Oaklahoma are two medium sized market teams that the league would like to see become established money makers to broaden the leagues profit base. There are too many money losing franchises. I think you can read between the lines that the Spurs and the Celtics wouldn't fulfill any business objectives for the league, and that they aren't likely to be benefiting from any of the marginal calls from the referees. The on again off again application of the defensive 3 second rule, and the traveling call are two of the more subtle ways they can end up favoring one team's style of play, and then there are always the inexplicable calls at key moments like the sixth foul on Pierce in game 7 vs Philadelphia. The Celtics (and the Spurs) will have to demonstrably out play their opponents to advance to the finals,
    That said, Pierce has been effective containing James before, and he can do it again, the Heat have no one to match up with Garnet, and Rondo can run Wade's legs off, which would be helpful because the Celts will have their work cut out for them driving Wade off the 3 point line without letting him into the lane.

    Taking advantage of Miami's sudden weakness in the center will require Doc Rivers to be willing to get more minutes and playoff performance from players he doesn't gravitate toward either because of their youth, style, or his stated preference to develop players whose ethnic group was historically disadvantaged. (which is an understandable urge but it isn't always in the team's best interest.) Its hard to pump up veterans and settle down rookies at the same time, but there's no way Boston can get to the finals playing just a 7 or 8 man rotation.

    Doc Rivers has had his greatest successes coaxing veteran stars to set aside their star status egos recall their glory days, dig down and give him the kind of performance their bodies can no longer sustain. The Celts don't have a roster stuffed with almost retired stars this year, which is a pity, because this years short season might have been ideal for the strategy which failed them after 2008 as injuries sidelined overworked older bodies season after season. Docs tendency to overplay his veterans one at a time (eg Ray Allen's unnecessary minutes without breaks in his first game back and his subsequent diminished performance) has weakened them many times.
    The Celts chances are good if Doc can get those good 3 or 4 minute stretches from players like Pavlovich, Williams, Daniels, Stiemsma, and Dooling – and avoid using only Pietrus and Hollins (Especially Hollins whose instincts put him in the one place on the floor that unintentionally unravels the team's strategy. He looks good doing it, and he's a good player but its a fatal attraction until they can have some coaching sessions to drill the team strategies into him. ) Unfortunately I'd have to concede Johnson and Moore aren't going to be able to contribute much beyond "garbage time" in this series, but any minutes they can be played save wear and tear on the veteran starters and bench players.
    Given the injury and wear and tear dynamics, the Celts may also have to be strategic about player minutes in games they aren't going to win. It isn't good TV, but they can't afford to wear down their starting lineup if reducing their minutes makes a next game win more likely. James and Wade are simply going to be good for more minutes than any of the Celts.
    Rondo is both a key advantage and a key weakness right now with no one available as a good sub he's likely to play too many minutes and have either injury or foul trouble.

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