June 9, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) reacts next to Boston Celtics small forward Paul Pierce (34) during the second quarter in game seven of the 2012 NBA Eastern Conference finals at the American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Season opener preview - Heat take on the Celtics

Today is a special day for all basketball fans – the NBA regular season finally gets under way. Our own Miami Heat will start the season off against one of the team’s biggest contemporary rivals and threat for supremacy in the Eastern Conference – the Boston Celtics.

June 9, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade (3) dribbles between Boston Celtics small forward Paul Pierce (34) and Mickael Pietrus (28) during the fourth quarter in game seven of the 2012 NBA Eastern Conference finals at the American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Before the game the Heat will share a special moment with their fans, as the last year’s NBA champions will finally receive their championship rings. This ceremony will allow the Heat to dwell in the past for one last time, before truly putting last year behind them to face a season of new challenges.

What better way to start the season, other than having an Eastern Conference finals rematch at American Airlines Arena. Last year, the Heat were on the brink of elimination in the Eastern Conference finals, being down 3-2 to the Celtics. Thanks to LeBron James’ heroics, the team survived the match up and eventually won the championship. Both teams have improved since last year so let’s examine how the teams match up today.

The biggest change for the Heat is obviously the arrival of Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen. Both players will contribute greatly to the Heat’s offense by spreading the floor, and opening up driving lanes for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Adding these two players won’t really change the way the Heat play, but make the team more dangerous and versatile nonetheless.

The Celtics were undoubtedly banged up in last year’s conference finals. Jeff Green was out following heart surgery, Avery Bradley injured his shoulder, Chris Wilcox was out and Ray Allen played on a bad foot. This year the Celtics are a lot deeper. Avery Bradley is still recovering and should be back sometime in December, but the front office added some great pieces around Rondo, Garnett and Pierce. Fab Melo and Jared Sullinger were both solid draft picks. Jason Terry, who the Heat know very well after the 2011 NBA finals, was brought in to fill the gap left by Ray Allen at the two-guard spot. Jeff Green is back playing and the team also signed players like Courtney Lee, Leandro Barbosa and Darko Milicic to fill out the roster.

June 5, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Boston Celtics power forward Kevin Garnett (5) is pressured by Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) during the second half in game five of the Eastern Conference finals of the 2012 NBA playoffs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Keys to the game:

The Heat will have to make sure they can contain the Celtics backcourt. Rajon Rondo is going to be running the show as per usual, while Jason Terry can heat up and burn you at any time in the game, which means the Heat will have to remain extremely vigilant on defense. Barbosa is one of the quickest players in the league, so limiting his drives to the basket will be important. If Rondo starts the game off well, expect the Heat to throw different defenders at him, including LeBron James.

The Celtics’ frontcourt is also looking more dangerous with Jeff Green back in the lineup. With Kevin Garnett at the 5 the Celtics like to play small, much like the Heat. Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass can both spread the floor as they are excellent mid-range shooters, which makes the team so much harder to guard.

A key for the Heat will definitely be getting into the right mindset. Having the ring ceremony right before the game will definitely bring back memories and emotions, so it will be important not to get complacent and start the game off well.

Dwyane Wade is still not a 100% healthy but looked good enough in preseason, and he will have to control the backcourt together with Mario Chalmers. Chalmers practiced on Monday and should be in the starting lineup, but it will be interesting to see how quickly he can shake off the rust, coming off hamstring issues.

Chris Bosh has looked extremely confident and has been playing well in this preseason, and should cause a lot of problems for the Celtics. LeBron James will have to dominate the game on both ends of the floor as usual. James is capable of guarding any player on Celtics’ roster, and Erik Spoelstra should use that to his advantage tonight.

 

 

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Tags: Boston Celtics Chris Bosh Dwyane Wade Kevin Garnett Lebron James Miami Heat Rajon Rondo Ray Allen

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