Monday, May 28, 2012
Eastern Conference Semifinals Preview: Boston Vs. Miami
Well here we are, on the brink of the Eastern Conference Finals as Boston opens up with Game 1 at Miami's American Airlines Arena tomorrow night (8:30 p.m., ESPN). The Celtics haven't made it easy on themselves by any means (which isn't a new trend), slogging through a six-game series against Atlanta in the first round and surviving seven games with Philadelphia in the semifinals.
The Celtics are old, they're banged up and they have to be completely drained. These aren't excuses, they are widely recognized facts. Still, the reason that Boston fans have a sliver of hope in this upcoming series is two-fold: 1) LeBron James might be the best basketball player in the world but he simply can't consistently close in big games against quality opponents. Rather, he turns into a puddle. 2) Kevin Garnett is playing very well and Chris Bosh's status is completely up in the air for the series. I'll also throw in that if he wants to, Rajon Rondo could dominate this series and be the top player that decides the eventual outcome.
I can't really tell you anything about the Heat that you don't already know. They have absolutely no depth and I've never seen an NBA team rely more on three guys (two if Bosh is out) and that's not a good thing. Dwyane Wade was hurt early in the Indiana series but rallied to play out of his mind as they eliminated the Pacers in six games.
Not having Avery Bradley to check Wade could prove to be fatal for the Celtics. All we can hope is that Ray Allen's fourth quarter resurgence last night in Game 7 against the Sixers gives him a little boost of confidence and energy to overcome what has been a terrible postseason for the greatest 3-point shooter in NBA history.
Paul Pierce usually does a serviceable job covering LeBron so I'm not too worried about that matchup. LeBron will get his numbers either way. The good news for Boston is that they have more X-factors in the series, meaning guys that could have great games (Brandon Bass style in Game 5 against Philly) out of nowhere.
It's hard to say who needs to have a better series for the C's to win: Rondo or KG. Let's settle for both of them playing about as well as they possibly can. It is going to take a nearly superhuman effort to put away the Heat and Boston will have to steal a game or two (yeah right) in Miami where the Heat are nearly unbeatable.
As I said in the immediate aftermath of winning Game 7 vs. the Sixers, all the pressure will be on Miami. To borrow Bill Simmons' tired cliche, the Celtics are playing with house money at this point. There are only two ways that teams in this situation usually turn out: they quickly fold or they keep the magic going longer than most expected. Needless to say, we're all hoping for the latter. If not for our pleasure, the world doesn't deserve to see the Heat in the NBA Finals for the second straight season.
Game 1-Monday, 8:30 p.m. in Miami
Game 2-Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. in Miami
Game 3-Friday, 8:30 p.m. in Boston
Game 4-Sunday, 8:30 p.m. in Boston