A new kid full of potential walked down a dark alley to get to his final destination. Four men stopped him in his tracks, mugged him, and sent him back from where he came from. The four men are the Boston Celtics. The new kid is LeBron James. He's back, and he's bringing two buddies to help him get to his final destination.
We have anticipated this series ever since "The Decision" in July of 2010, and now here it is, right before us. Boston. Miami. C's. Heatles. The grizzled veterans that have been around the block a few times. The new boys on the block, ready to prove to the basketball world that they are legit. It starts on Sunday night, and an entire nation is ready to witness seven knock-down, drag-out brawls (if necessary).
The Boston Celtics. Hate them or love them, they are who they are. Two years in a row, they have fooled the nation. They limped their way into the playoffs, but they start off the postseason with a brand new leg. Trading away a member of their family, the Celtics seemed lost for the majority of the second half of the season. But during their first round series against the New York Knicks, the C's woke up. Jermaine O'Neal is looking like he could be the solution to the Boston Big Man problem. Rajon Rondo, after looking lost and hopeless after Kendrick Perkins departed the squad, has now found himself when it matters most. Make no mistake, the Boston Celtics are back.
The Miami Heat. Hate them or love them, they are who they are, as well. If you love Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, or the Miami Heat, you love them. If you're a fan of anything else in the NBA, chances are you hate them. Rip the Big Three for joining forces and 'taking the easy way out' all you want, they are the #2 team in the East and poised at making a run at the title. It took the Heat a while to get used to playing with each other and sharing one ball with three superstars, but the Heat have made it work.......until the final minutes of the fourth quarter. While the Heat are the #2 seed in the East, they were 1-3 against the C's in the regular season, but now it's anybody's series. Win four, or go home.
Who will advance to the Eastern Conference Finals?
Many of us basketball fans projected this matchup to happen in the Conference Finals, but Derrick Rose had other ideas. Nevertheless, the stakes are just as high in the Conference Semifinals as they would be in the Conference Finals. Win, you keep going. Lose, have a nice seat on the sofa for the rest of the postseason. The fact that these two are meeting one series early does not effect the altitude of how great this series should be.
Prediction? That's a tough one. So tough that I will project two specific things that I think might happen. 1) The Boston Celtics do what they have done best over the past couple of years, and that is fool us into thinking they're too old to contend for the title again, and they'll win in 6 games. The C's beat the Heat 3-1 in the regular season, and during the one loss, Boston pretty much closed the playbook. But again, that was then and this is now. The x-factor for Boston will be Jermaine O'Neal. The media made Kendrick Perkins sound like Bill Russell. He wasn't. Jermaine O'Neal will fill the 5 and give Boston the big man that they need to advance past the Heat. Or 2) LeBron James develops that killer instinct and finally slays the Celtics. He needs to play pissed. This is the same team that embarrassed him and knocked him out of the playoffs last year. What a better stage to create your killer instinct and make your mark in basketball history? If LeBron plays mad and steps up, the Heat will win in 7 games. One or the other will happen. That is my prediction.
My only hope is this. I hope this series is as great as we've hyped it up to be. If so, this will truly be one of those series' that you can tell your children and grandchildren about down the road. May the best team win.