Tag Archives: Shaquille O’Neal

LeBron, Miami look to finally beat the Celtics in the playoffs

1 May

LeBron and D-Wade look to end their losing ways vs. the Celtics / Keith Allison

After LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade last summer, many christened the Miami Heat as “the team to beat in the East”. Some even predicted they would break the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ record of 72 wins in a season. This was in spite of the fact that the Boston Celtics were the defending Eastern Conference Champs, and had won it all just two years prior.

The first game of the NBA season was also the “Heatles” first opportunity to prove their championship worth, as the league scheduled them to face the Celtics. Boston won 88-80. In their next two games against one another, Boston also won. But in their final regular season meeting, the Heat manhandled the Celtics 100-77.

Now they face each other in the second round. Last season, the Celtics knocked Miami out in the first round, 4 games to 1. That was before LeBron. But he has history with these Celtics too. In two of the last three seasons, Boston eliminated the LeBrons the Cavs in the second round. Now equipped with teammates actually worth mentioning, he’ll look to avenge those losses.

With the series about to begin, let’s look at the positional matchups.

Centre

Everyone’s been making a big deal since Boston trade Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City. While the trade didn’t improve the team, it doesn’t necessarily matter in this series. Sure, it would be nice to have some additional defense against LeBron in the post, but Jermaine O’Neal, Glen Davis, or whoever else will be playing Centre for Boston, don’t have to worry about their Miami counterparts. Erick Dampier and Zydrunas Ilgauskas wouldn’t start for any other playoff team that’s still alive.  I’ve heard a lot about how a healthy Shaquille O’Neal would help the Celtics, but in 2011, a healthy Shaq is an oxymoron.

Forward

LeBron James is the best player in the league. Don’t even get me started on Derrick Rose or anyone else. LeBron James is the best player in the league. We all know the problems the Heat have had this year. Who should be the primary ball-handler? Who should take the winning shot? But all that doesn’t matter. The Heat, much like the Cavs used to, will live and die with LeBron James. He can score massive amounts of points, be your best defender, and average 8 assists per game. And he’ll need to do that for the Heat to win.

Paul Pierce will look to contain the NBA's top player, LeBron James / Keith Allison

His main opponent will be the versatile Paul Pierce, who can score in the paint and from outside the arc. While Pierce isn’t LeBron’s equal by any stretch of the imagination, LeBron will need to be dominant, because he’ll have to offset the results of the Kevin Garnett-Chris Bosh matchup. At this point in his career, Garnett is not the type of scorer that Bosh is. However, Garnett is still a superior defender.

Guards

Rajon Rondo had another big year, averaging 11.2 assists per game. And although he’s known for his passing, like the rest of the Celtics, he plays D (being a 1st or 2nd All-Defensive team member the previous two seasons). Much like the Knicks in the first round, or the Lakers in last year’s finals, he’s going to pose problems for Miami.

Don’t get me wrong, D-Wade is premier scorer and will get his points. And he can stop Rondo. But then who’s guarding Ray Allen?

Mike Bibby? There’s a reason the Atlanta Hawks, a team that believes they can compete with the big boys in the East, dumped him at the trade deadline.

Mike Miller? Well, at least he can shoot some threes…

Kobe has struggled to guard Ray Allen in the playoffs. Whoever is joining D-Wade in the backcourt, is going to get torched.

Prediction

Of the last 20 NBA champions, 16 of them have had a top-10 defense. This season, Boston was number one (only allowing 91.1 PPG). On the other hand, the notion that Miami only scores isn’t true. While Miami scored 102.1 PPG (6th in the NBA) this season, they only allowed 94.6 – good for sixth in the league. Simply looking at point totals actually goes in Miami’s favour. However, Boston owns the season series (3-1), can present problems in the backcourt, and has more talent off the bench. I don’t value experience nearly as much as I value talent, but Boston has more of both. If Udonis Haslem was able to play, maybe it’s a different story. I think LeBron and Co. will have to wait another year in their quest to win the first of their eight championships.

Celtics in 7.