Can the Celtics Beat the HEAT?
As far as Eastern Conference Semifinals are concerned, that Boston/Philadelphia series was about as ugly as they come. Game 7 was just like every other game in that 7-game set—ugly, physical, and barely watchable—but the Boston Celtics came out of it alive thanks to some crunch-time play (and yet another triple-double) from Rajon Rondo. Now they’ll be given the opportunity to face to the Miami HEAT in the Conference Finals, but do they have any sort of chance to defeat them and get back to the Finals?
For starters, the HEAT could be without Chris Bosh, still nursing that abdominal strain, for the entire series. The Celtics are not a big team, with Kevin Garnett having played center for the season’s most successful stretches, so Miami entering the series down their most talented big guy has to be considered an advantage for the Celtics. Garnett has been arguably the team’s best player in the first two rounds, playing like a much young man than he is, and he’d almost certainly rather face up against Joel Anthony or Udonis Haslem than Chris Bosh.
At the same time, it’s a good thing for the HEAT that Garnett is all they have to really worry about in the frontcourt. As we saw at times in the Indiana series, teams with a strong inside presence at both the power forward and center positions can get the better of the HEAT. Boston is thin in their own frontcourt, as well, so if Miami can minimize the damage done by Garnett, the rest of the HEAT are obviously more than capable of making up for Bosh’s loss. Remember that Dwyane Wade and LeBron James’s 197 points in the final three games of the Indy series was the most those two have ever scored in a three-game stretch as teammates. Heaven help the Celtics if they keep that momentum.
However, it would be ridiculous to count them out of the series before it even begins. Boston is one of the best teams in the league at slowing down the game, and their excellent half-court defense is exactly the sort of thing to frustrate Miami’s legendary transition game. In the playoffs, the Celtics have held teams to a measly 83.9 ppg and haven’t given up more than 92 at any point in the first two rounds.
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