How They Got Here: In the most accurate sense possible, the Heat got here firmly on the back of G Dwyane Wade. He averaged well over a quarter of the team’s points per game, putting up 26.6 of them on the normal night. Miami also made it to this point by playing strong defense, as 94.2 points per game allowed and a 43.9 percent opposing shooting percentage were both good enough for #2 in the NBA.
Player To Watch: Wade. Period. At times, he feels like a one-man wrecking crew for the Heat and really has been that way since the team won the NBA Championship several seasons ago. If for whatever reason, Flash is off of his game, Miami is finished.
X-Factor: It’s not normal that you call your second leading scorer an X-Factor, but F Michael Beasley has some real superstar capabilities. He may be asked to be the man in Miami next year if Wade leaves town, and what better way to proclaim himself to the world than by taking over in the playoffs? We don’t know if it’ll happen or not, but Beasley can be the difference maker for the Heat.
Key To Victory: Someone aside from Wade is going to have to do some damage at some point. We fully expect to see D-Wade scoring 30-35 points on a nightly basis, but somehow, another 60-65 points need to get on the board. If someone else can do that, Miami will succeed. If not, it will fail.
How They Got Here: Saying that Boston got here by default just doesn’t sound right, but at times, the Atlantic Division champs really looked like an average team in a miserable division. Age may be catching up to this team, especially in the starting five, where only G Rajon Rondo wouldn’t qualify for basketball’s version of AARP. Still, this is a team that plays great defense and has a ton of veteran leadership which can carry it through the toughest of situations.
Player To Watch: No matter how old he is, the lifelong Celtic, F Paul Pierce is the man to keep an eye on. Scoring 18.3 points per game this year was rather par for the course, but what makes Pierce special is his ability to take over a game. He shoots 41.4 percent from beyond the arc and hardly ever misses a free throw, two things that really makes him lethal down the stretch in close games.
X-Factor: Many already accept G Rajon Rondo as one of the best point guards in the NBA, and he’s going to have to prove it once again against the Heat over these next couple of weeks. The Kentucky product dished out 9.8 assists per game against just over three turnovers per game, and if that ratio stays above 3-1, the C’s are going to be hard to beat.
Key To Victory: HC Doc Rivers just has to manage this team properly to get out of the first round of the playoffs. The veterans shouldn’t allow a game that Wade takes over to ruin their spirits, because inevitably, it’s going to happen. This series won’t be a sweep. The question is whether or not the Celtics can rebound from that. Rivers is the key to winning.
The Final Word : We just don’t believe in the Heat right now. One man can’t win an NBA Championship, as F LeBron James proved in Cleveland over the last few seasons. Unless there’s a Herculean effort coming from somewhere aside from Wade for Miami, the Celtics should survive in a relatively tight series, setting up the much anticipated showdown with the Cavs.
Celtics in 6