And here we thought the days of Miami Heat rivalries were finished.
From the New York Knicks of the 1990’s to the Detroit Pistons of the mid-2000’s, the Heat’s rivalry with other NBA teams have been thin with the exception of those two. You could argue against the Pistons rivalry, however, because of how short-lived it was, featuring two playoff matchup’s between the two with Detroit winning in 2005 and Miami in 2006. The Heat’s rivalry with the Knicks was sparked by four consecutive postseason matchup’s, with the Knicks winning three.
The rivalry wasn’t exactly rekindled in 2012. The Carmelo Anthony-led Knicks hardly hold a candle to those Knicks teams with Allan Houston and Patrick Ewing that terrorized the Heat to no ends.
With Miami’s ascension to the top of the East, they’ve come across competing teams who wish to challenge them for that top spot. The Chicago Bulls appeared ready for a few Conference Final’s meetings with the Heat, but the torn ACL of Derrick Rose and the overhaul of the bench has put a damper on that idea. Now that Chicago is essentially out of the running, Miami has found a rivalry worth watching against the Boston Celtics.
Miami has played Boston in the postseason for three consecutive season. The first featured the Celtics winning 4-1 over an inexperienced Heat team led by Dwyane Wade, Michael Beasley and Jermaine O’Neal. They would meet again next this, with the roles reversing as the Heat took a second-round matchup 4-1 thanks in part to significant improvement in the form of LeBron James and Chris Bosh.
This past season featured the most heated and entertaining series of the two. Miami possessed a 2-0 series, only to lose three consecutive games. Fortunately, LeBron James scored 77 points combined in Games 6 and 7 to make up for the ailing Wade and Chris Bosh. It was the first time a series between the two went seven games and the first time the Heat’s ‘Big Three’ had been in Game 7 type situation.
Plenty of barbs have been exchanged by both sides, as well. Kevin Garnett was infamously remembered for elbowing Quentin Richardson, Paul Pierce was ejected for throwing a hard screen on Wade, Jermaine O’Neal and LeBron James had an altercation and Dwyane Wade dislocated Rajon Rondo’s arm to name a few.
These teams don’t like each other when they get on the court. And now Ray Allen has switched sides from Boston to Miami? And Jason Terry, a notorious villain of Miami Heat lore, has taken his spot? It just gets juicier and juicier.
The idea of a feud between Allen and the Celtics has been blown out of proportion. The media is doing whatever they can to entice both sides into saying something quote worthy. Evidence has been, with the exceptions being Kevin Garnett deleting Allen’s phone number and Rondo acting like he didn’t know who Allen was. Rondo did also say, however, that the feud has been overblown.
There’s no doubt that it is overblown. But that probably won’t be the case come October 30th when these teams face off in a season opener down in Miami. It’ll be the second consecutive season the Heat have opened at home against the Celtics; they won last year’s hotly-contested meeting thanks to several clutch baskets from Norris Cole.
They’re going to meet up in the playoffs whether we like it or not. Miami’s progression through the postseason is extremely unlikely to be impeded and the Celtics have kept stride with the rest of their division, each team vastly improving. Boston may have lost the likes of Allen, Keyon Dooling and Mickael Pietrus, but they add on rookies in Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo, as well as veterans in Courtney Lee, Chris Wilcox and Jason Collins.
They’ll also be getting Jeff Green and Avery Bradley back. Green sat out all of last season following heart surgery and Bradley was lost in last year’s Conference Finals due to shoulder surgery, which will also keep him out possibly December.
Miami has added on Allen, Rashard Lewis, and possibly another shooter in center Josh Harrellson if he excels in training camp and preseason.
This rivalry can last for only so many more years. Although Rajon Rondo has proven to be the team’s primary catalyst against the Heat, he is still heavily supported by his veteran teammates, specifically the clutch shooting ability of Paul Pierce and the defensive capabilities of Kevin Garnett. However, Pierce is turning 35 in October and Garnett recently turned 36. Surely Garnett will continue to persevere, but Pierce’s age truly began to show against LeBron last year.
Pierce averaged 18 points per, but was held to abysmal shooting percentages: 34 percent from the field and 26 percent from beyond the arc. LeBron James, on the other hand, finished with averages of 33.6 points and 11 rebounds per, while shooting 53 percent from the field.
Boston may have replaced Ray Allen, but they still don’t have a defender who can compete with James. In fact, they may have allowed their only defensive hope walk away in the form of Pietrus. They’ll have to look forward to Pierce, Green and the slower Brandon Bass defending him, with Garnett sure to be busy attempting to corral Bosh.
Having LeBron James has an advantage is one thing, but not having one LeBron-stopper is another. The Celtics prepared poorly for this upcoming season, simply assuming that the comeback of Green or adding inexperienced and underachieving size would be enough to prevent LeBron from devastating the paint another year.
Boston and Miami may have created a rivalry without knowing it, but it’s going to be one-sided as long as the Celtics have the roster they currently have and LeBron James is on the Heat.