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The Miami Heat ran into a pesky Philadelphia Sixers team that gave them a better series than they expected. That series most likely helped the Heat prepare for the next round, because they had to step up their game early than expected.
The Boston Celtics ran through a battered New York Knicks squad. The Knicks were just not ready for the Celtics—and the Celtics exposed their weaknesses. With Boston's biggest weakness at center, the Knicks were the perfect first-round match for them. Ronny Turiaf is serviceable, but he is not a premier center.
The Knicks dealt with injuries all series, including Chauncey Billups and Amar'e Stoudemire. With those two healthy, this series could have been much different.
Miami lost their first three matchups against the Celtics, but towards the end of the season they were able to grab the last game of the series. That last game was also the first time Miami faced the Celtics after the Kendrick Perkins trade.
Without Perkins, the Celtics have not been them same team. They do not have the same inside presence on defense. If Shaquille O'Neal can come back for the series, he can really help Boston in the middle.
Another player possibly returning for the series is Heat forward Udonis Haslem. If Haslem comes back during the series, he can help the Heat in rebounding and defending Kevin Garnett.
Overall, this should be one of the best series of this year's playoffs. The keys for the Heat have to be keeping Rajon Rondo out of the paint where he can score or distribute and keep Ray Allen from getting open looks from downtown.
The keys for the Celtics should be keeping Dwyane Wade from getting scoring opportunities in the paint. Once Wade is in the paint, he is hard to stop.
LeBron James scores better against the Celtics than any team in the league, so the Celtics need to keep him from having an impact everywhere else including distributing the basketball.
Lastly, both teams need to keep each other from getting easy buckets in transition. Wade and James on the break are the best combination in the league and Rondo can find an open man on the break just as well as anyone in the league.
Prediction: Even though the Heat lost the season series against Boston, I liked the way they played that fourth game after Boston had traded away Perkins. In that game, they chased players off the three-point line and crashed the boards better than they had in the previous matchups.
This season could easily go seven games, and since Miami was able to edge out Boston for the home-court advantage, it could play a huge role in the series. Miami was also tied for the most road wins in the league this season, so don't be surprised if they steal on in Boston.