Most NBA fans, TV analysts and seasoned sports writers have this formidable Heat team as favorites over Boston. Over any team, as a matter of fact.
But tonight's contest might prove to be way too close for comfort, on both sides—even if team captain Paul Pierce, the quintessential Celtic, is out again with a game-time decision.
The new, and also formidable, Knicks team just got a taste of it: a two-point win, on the road, decided in the closing seconds.
Underestimating this veteran Celtics team would be foolish, to say the least. They still seem to be highly motivated. Under an excellent Coach Doc Rivers, they have the sweet taste of victory still fresh in their minds.
Granted, they lost a key piece in the middle, Kendrick Perkins. Granted, the Miami Heat dispatched a similar Celtics team last season in five games.
Still, even without Paul Pierce, don't expect an easy game tonight.
Matchups will be crucial: Rajon Rondo is at the top of his game, still underrated. He is one of the premier true point guards on the planet right now. He still looks hungry and motivated. This Heat team will have trouble against him, much like New York just did.
Norris Cole or Mario Chalmers are not anywhere near Rondo's proven pedigree at the point guard position. Not even close.
Neither team has an NBA quality Center now with Kendrick Perkins and Shaquille O'Neal long gone.
They will both probably utilize their power forwards for extended minutes in the middle. Chris Bosh vs. Kevin Garnet. I like the tougher and taller Garnet in that matchup.
Then, of course, you have guys like Mr. D. Wade or LeBron James, facing laughable players like Marquis Daniels at guard positions. Much like Carmelo Anthony, they will have their way, easily scoring in double figures, or double-doubles against Boston.
Then again, you have Ray Allen, arguably the smoothest pure shooter this NBA league has ever seen, right up there with guys like Reggie Miller. And at his age, he's still deadly from the perimeter and an underrated defender.
The Miami Heat had a taste of that, when they lost to the Celtics in 2008.
Sure, they are older. Probably no Paul Pierce. No Kendrick Perkins.
But they might give the Miami Heat all they can handle in tonight's game.
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