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Eastern Conference Finals: Heat/Celtics Series Preview

Dec. 27, 2011; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) dunks past Boston Celtics center Jermaine O

December 27: Boston @ Miami

These two clashed at the beginning of the regular season in South Beach. In a game where the big three combined for 68 points, it was rookie guard Norris Cole that sealed the deal with a couple free throws at the end. Cole scored 14 of his 20 points in the 4th quarter in just his 2nd NBA game, and the Heat held home court with a 115-107 victory.

Miami had 20 turnovers, but Boston turned the ball over 24 times and the Heat converted those into 33 fastbreak points. LeBron James led Miami with 26 points, Chris Bosh contributed a double-double (18 points, 11 rebounds), and Dwyane Wade hustled for 24 points, 8 assists, and 4 blocks. James Jones hit three treys off the bench.

Paul Pierce was sidelined but Rajon Rondo steered the Celtics with a near triple-double: 22 points, 12 assists, 8 rebounds, but was forced into 7 turnovers. Ray Allen caught fire with six threes and stroked 28 points.  Kevin Garnett was limited to a dozen point, only grabbing 5 boards, but he did get a few steals. The Celtics got some bench production: Brandon Bass had 13 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks, while Keyon Dooling added 18 to the scoreboard.

April 1, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo (9) drives between Miami Heat forward/center Joel Anthony (50) and point guard Mario Chalmers (15) during the first quarter at TD Banknorth Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

April 1: Miami @ Boston

Tonight belonged to Rajon Rondo and the Celtics’ defense. This time around he messed around and got a triple-double: 16 points, 14 assists, and 11 rebounds. Coach Doc Rivers wanted Rondo to be aggressive and look to score, he did that and more. Rondo’s penetration set his teammates up for open shots and the Celtics hit 47% en route to a 91-72 blowout. Boston started to pull away in the third quarter, where Rondo dropped 8 dimes and they outscored Miami 31-12.

Boston’s starting five all reach double figures in scoring. Paul Pierce hit 23 and added 7 boards. Brandon Bass notched a 16 points, 10 rebound double-double. Ray Allen sat out, and Kevin Garnett was again contained to 10 points and 8 rebounds.

Miami played at Boston’s tempo and the game slowed down. LeBron James scored 23 but he didn’t get his usual productivity. Dwyane Wade struggled to find his stroke with 15 points, but he worked for 8 boards and three blocks. Chris Bosh grabbed 11 boards but was silenced, shooting 2-11 and 4 points. Shane Battier came off the bench with 11 points.

April 10, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Boston Celtics small forward Paul Pierce (34) against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

April 10: Boston @ Miami

Boston shot 61%,Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett went off for 51 points, and they the Heat 115-107. This was the 18th game Rajon rondo dropped double-digit assists. Rondo scored 18 and Ray Allen hit 9, but the team’s shooting effort was maximized by liming turnovers. They only turned the ball over 7 times, forcing a dozen Miami turnovers.

The big three for Miami scored 69 points and Mario Chalmers contributed 18, but it wasn’t enough on this night.

LeBron James and Paul Pierce had their battles, as did Chris Bosh and Kevin Garnett. Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade made their presence felt, but Boston got the best of the Heat and their role players created the gap. The Celtics shared the ball beautifully and beat Miami’s defensive rotations resulting in 9 three-pointers and a shooting clinic.

April 24, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard/forward Marquis Daniels (4) celebrates with guard/forward Sasha Pavlovic (11) after a basket during the fourth quarter against the Miami Heat at TD Banknorth Garden. The Boston Celtics won 78-66. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

April 24: Miami @ Boston

This game featured the role players and the bench. The stars got the night off because the playoff picture was already decided, with everyone in the Eastern conference slated into their respective seeds. Nonetheless, Sasha Pavlovic paved the way for an ugly win 78-66.

In the fourth quarter, the Celtics shot 50% while the Heat were forced into a  season-high, 25 turnovers.

Pavlovic scored a game-high 16 points on 7-10 shooting. Marquis Daniels hit 13, and E’Twaun Moore came off the bench for 7 points and rebounds.

For the Heat, Dexter Pittman hit 12 points and Udonis Haslem hustled for 13 rebounds. Juwon Howard notched 6 points and 9 boards, and James Jones added 11 and 6.

April 1, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) drives between Boston Celtics center Greg Stiemsma (54) and small forward Paul Pierce (34) during the third quarter at TD Banknorth Garden. Boston won 91-72. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

ECF:

Boston need vintage Kevin Garnett to win this series, especially in the absence of Chris Bosh. Brandon Bass has to be consistent, and these two bigs will have to do more damage than David West and Roy Hibbert did. With that said, if Rajon Rondo can score the basketball with consistency he would force Wade or James to guard him. Rondo is a pass-first playmaker, so if he can get James to guard him instead of Pierce for example, the Celtics have a real shot. Going deeper into the bench, Greg Stiemsma could make a difference inside since Miami’s front line is thin.

You know Boston wants and needs to slow the game down. No team had a rebounding edge in the regular season, and for the most part they played even basketball. Miami is as good as a team can be in transition. Both team frustrate you with their hounding defense.

May 7, 2011; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo (9) and Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade (3) both react in the first half in game three of the second round of the 2011 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE

The Heat need Wade to play like he did at the end of the Pacers’ series. With Bosh in the lineup Wade can be assertive, without Bosh he has to be aggressive. You know what you’re going to get from James. He’s going to be the workhorse and fill the stat sheets. The dynamic duo is going to need help. Could they do it alone? Sure, they are great but it will exhaust all their effort, so it’ll be interesting to see if they try to spot teammates up for open shots early. Udonis Haslem will have to step up like he did in game 5 vs Indiana, by hitting open mid-range shots off the pick and getting easy put-backs around the rim. Mario Chalmers, if he plays well this series could be a breeze.

Rondo can take his game to the next level and show he is a franchise player in this series. Boston has the defense and the coaching advantage, but I don’t trust their offense and those veteran legs. They will have to hit threes with consistency and limit turnovers. Miami is great on both ends of the court and even without Bosh, I expect their defense to give them the fastbreak advantage and that will be the difference in this series. If Bosh plays, I don’t give Boston a chance. This will be another physical series with hard fouls and technicals. You hate to think about injuries, but with the Heat already being short-handed, any hard foul to Wade (who’s been on and off injured all year) could sideline him for a game.

So on that note, take the Heat in 6 games en route to the NBA Finals and redemption.

Topics: Eastern Conference Finals, Ecf, May 2012, National Basketball Association, NBA, Playoffs, Postseason, Regular Season Review

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