The matchup is interesting for a few reasons. First of all, these two Eastern Conference powerhouses get it done on both ends of the court in totally different ways.
Boston tries to grind you into the ground by playing the half-court game. Miami tries to run you off the court by taking advantage of every transition opportunity they get. Boston will go inside on the block to get some of their offense.
Miami rarely goes to the low post, unless Wade or LeBron have a huge advantage on their man. Bosh is not a consistent low-post threat. The Celtics know how to use their size to their advantage, while the Heat know how to use their speed and athleticism to win games.
This is a classic matchup with very contrasting styles. There is one common denominator, though: Both of these teams know how to play defense.
Their success hinges on getting stops. This will be a tough series to call, but let's see what the matchups say.
Rajon Rondo vs. Mike Bibby/Mario Chalmers
Boston has a decided edge here as Rondo is the catalyst of the team, and doesn't have to score a lot of points to control the game.
Chalmers will have to make sure that Rondo doesn't have the ability to roam free like he did with the Knicks. His passing lanes were not shut down, and he went unhindered to the basket.
Chalmers and Bibby will have to hit a high percentage of their outside shots to make sure Rondo can't help out on Wade and LeBron. They will have to figure out how much room to give Rondo in the half-court offense.
If they want to be successful, they should not give him much room at all. Rondo won't beat you with his jump shot, but if you give him too much room he will use the passing lanes to kill you with assists.
Edge: Big edge for Rondo
Ray Allen vs. Dwyane Wade
Probably the most intriguing matchup of the series. Wade is an excellent defender, but he takes chances. He has to stay at home to make sure Allen doesn't have uncontested threes.
Allen's offense will be affected by the defense he has to play on Wade, so I don't expect him to put up the numbers he did against the Knicks. The Heat have to win this matchup to win the series.
Wade has to slash to the basket early and often, especially now that the Celtics are less intimidating in the paint area without Kendrick Perkins.
Wade should be successful at getting to the rack and creating for his teammates. He is one of the best finishers in the league, so he will get a lot of attention from Allen and the rest of the Celtics.
Allen will have to get a lot of his points in transition, which he is very good at.
Paul Pierce vs. LeBron James
Paul Pierce is Mr. Clutch for the Celtics. If a big basket is needed, they are going to him first. He is their finisher, and has done a great job in that respect the last four years.
LeBron is simply the best all-around player in the league. He is unstoppable in transition, but in crunch time he has been found wanting. Instead of deferring to Wade, who has been better than he has at closing out games, he continues to take control of those last-second offensive sets.
He has become their defacto point guard. LeBron has to defend Pierce by forcing him to shoot fadeaways with a hand in his face. Pierce will not have to guard LeBron by himself.
Boston's team approach to defense will be their biggest weapon against Miami in the half court. They do not allow any of their players to be exposed. That is what LeBron and Wade will face.
A swarming, help-oriented defense will have to make up for a the Celtics being a little softer than they were last year.
Edge: Even. Don't be shocked. I am calling this even because Pierce has been more clutch in the final seconds of games.
Bosh has to show up big time against a Kevin Garnett that is only a shell of the player he was four years ago. He doesn't intimidate any more. He doesn't get in your face any more.
He is just solid, and when you need a play on either side of the floor, he can get it for you. His defense will be key, because if he can control Bosh, that puts extra pressure on Wade and LeBron to do all the scoring.
Miami can't win without Bosh being a consistent contributor. He has to take KG in the paint and be a viable low post option. If not, Miami will be a 100 percent perimeter team, which would play right into Boston's hands.
KG has to make this a physical matchup, because Bosh shy's away from that type of game. They are both skilled big men. Sometimes you need more than skill. You need to have equal parts heart and desire to get you over the hump.
Advantage KG in that area.
Edge: Garnett. When in doubt, go with the experience, especially in the playoffs.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas vs. Jermaine O'Neal
O'Neal didn't look that bad versus the Knicks, and scored some big baskets inside. Whatever they get from him will be a big bonus. He did show that he is a willing post defender and rebounder.
Ilgauskas has pretty much been a no-show for most of the playoffs, but he can hit the outside shot if left alone. He tries to mix it up on the inside, but is not coordinated enough to really make a difference.
Edge: O'Neal. He looks better now that he has some games under his belt.
Big edge for the Celtics. Big Baby Davis, Nenad Krstic, Delonte West, Jeff Green and maybe even Shaq form a bench that Miami can't match.
James Jones is a reliable three-point threat, while Chalmers is an excellent defender and streaky shooter. Joel Anthony provides defense and rebounding, but may find himself overmatched by the length and depth of the Celtic front court.
The Celtics' bench is more reliable than Miami's. Jones will have to do a lot of scoring to offset what Davis, West and Green can do. Mike Miller's injury issues have made Miami's bench weaker.
Miami needs as many shooters on the floor for Wade and LeBron to kick it to when they drive and the lane is shut down.
The matchups say that Boston should win this series in six games. Anything is possible when you have two of the top five players in the league, though.
For the Heat to have a chance they will have to turn each game into a track meet to offset the size differential. Should be a great series.
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