Breaking Down How Boston Celtics Can Compete with Miami Heat
Look, it's probably not happening. The 2011-2012 Celtics came closest to upending Miami, but they looked outclassed upon Chris Bosh's return. In all likelihood, the Heat are returning to the Finals. It is rare to favor one team against a field, but Derrick Rose's injury and Dwight Howard's Western departure have ushered in a sense of Eastern Conference inevitability.
But if there is one team that's best equipped to matchup against Miami, it's the Celtics. This has nothing to do with the notion of Boston as LeBron James' nemesis, a trope cultivated from years of Cavaliers frustration. This also has nothing to do with "heart," "toughness," "experience" or even "Ubuntu."
This is more a functional basketball matter related to KG's evolution. Kevin Garnett is now a center, a fantastic move for one of the game's (formerly) most most athletic power forwards. The center spot is replete with lumbering lugs, so even an aging KG looks spry at that position.
This move also means that Miami can't press any special advantage by shifting James to the four spot and placing Chris Bosh at the five. Garnett is well-equipped to guard Bosh. Well, I should say that he's well-equipped to guard Bosh so long as Chris isn't bombing three pointers.
While I'm not entirely sure how KG might handle a possible Bosh three-point shooter evolution, Garnett is one of the best at guarding CB under normal circumstances. It is rare that the Miami big man faces someone with superior length who also happens to be immune to Bosh's pump fakes.
At power forward, the Celtics have a variety of options. They can go "small," placing Paul Pierce at power forward. This is not ideal, but the decrease in rebounding may be worth Pierce's stingy dogged on LeBron. The Celtics can also put Brandon Bass at this spot, a move that was a bit too criticized in Game 7 on the Eastern Conference Finals.
Impressions were colored by LeBron James unleashing one memorable dunk after blowing by Bass. Overall, I think Boston's power forward does a passable job when marking the NBA's best player. The Celtics also plan on using 3/4 combo hopeful Jeff Green. I am less sanguine on Green's chances, but Boston has a good recent track record of improving the talents of seemingly marginal performers. Who knew Avery Bradley was a starter? Who knew Greg Stiemsma could play NBA basketball?
Boston's advantage, in short, is that Miami can't put it at a strategic disadvantage. The Celtics have also reloaded over the offseason. Jason Terry comes as someone who can both spell Rajon Rondo and work well with Rajon off the ball. Courtney Lee comes in as a three-point shooter who can boast capable defense at the two-spot.
Of course, the Celtics need Rajon Rondo to show out for an upset to be even remotely possible. Rondo had a spectacular playoffs last year, but he must build on that to give his team a plausible chance. Boston's offense sputtered last season, and it's incumbent on the passing savant to fix what ails it. The best way to do that would be shooting better, and more often.
The errant jumper is what keeps Rondo (a fine passer, defender and rebounder) from a superstar's impact. The good news is that shooting often improves with age. If Rondo gets better at this skill, he might more than compensate for his team's aging.
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