NBA’s battle of the East
Today at 10:30am Miami will begin their quest for a second straight NBA Finals appearance against the Boston Celtics.
It is extremely disappointing that the Chicago Bulls are not fit enough to take on the Heat. That’s old news now and I am moving on.
The Miami Heat are coming off a tough series against the Indiana Pacers. The Heat struggled at times with the size of the Pacers and had to rely heavily on their big two. LeBron and Wade came up big time in their four wins.
Dwayne Wade was incredible in game six. He literally put them on his back and took them to the Eastern Conference finals. There were a few incidents of note in that series:
Lance Stephenson giving the Heat the choking signal during their game three victory at home. Who on earth do you think you are? You woke up the dead. Why give the Heat inspiration?
The Boston Celtics had a very tough time taking care of the pesky Philadelphia 76ers. It took them 7 whole games to finish them off. It could have gone either way when Paul Pierce got fouled out with 4 and a half minutes left in game 7.
However Rajon Rondo stepped up to the plate making some huge plays down the stretch. I think the NBA are very happy with the series they have been dealt. I don’t think a Heat/76ers Eastern Conference final will have been too exciting.
As I did with the Western Conference finals, I’m going to go through the key match-ups and decide on my winner and in how many games.
Point Guard: Mario Chalmers v Rajon Rondo
Rondo is the X Factor on this Celtics team. If he doesn’t play well, Boston don’t win. There are no if’s or but’s about it. Chalmers will not be able to slow him down. Rondo should be able to get in the paint whenever he wants and distribute the ball to his shooters. The keyword here is ‘shooters’.
Will the Boston big guys continue to hit their shots? Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett are on a tear at the moment. If Ray Allen can find the bottom of the net it is going to help Rondo so much more.
This is going to pull Joel Anthony out of the paint and create more room for Rajon to do his thing. Chalmers in the meantime is going to have to help LBJ and D-Wade out by hitting the open jump shot. If he can average 10-12 points in this series it will be big time in deciding the outcome.
VERDICT: Stop the FIGHT! Rondo wins this hands down.
Shooting Guard: Dwayne Wade v Ray Allen
Wade is one of the best players in the league when it comes to big matches. He showed what he is more than capable of doing when he torched the Pacers in their own gym. Now he will have an aging Ray Allen to run rings around.
One thing for sure is that Allen will not stop running after Wade. He will try and make every shot of Wades difficult and make him work for every point. We all know Wade is going to get his points but is Ray going to find some form in this series? Allen has been struggling with his shot all playoffs since he has returned from his injury. However he did see one drop in game seven of the last series. Sometimes that is all that is needed for a shooter.
If Allen gets hot it is going to force Wade to run through screens for an extended period which could tire him out. If Allen isn’t hitting his shot Wade can cruise on and save energy for the offensive end where he is so deadly.
VERDICT: I’d be taking Wade any day of the week but the Heat must keep an eye on Allen. He may just put out the Heat’s fire.
Small Forward: LeBron James v Paul Pierce
LBJ looks as if someone has waved the red cape in front of his face and said charge. Indiana did not know what had hit them in their final three playoff games. James torched them in every way possible.
The guy can do everything bar take a game winning/tying shot (or can he?). He may be called upon in this series. I can tell you one thing the Boston fans will be egging him on all game. The problem is he has heard it all before. The heckling is nothing new to him. James will know however that he must win this series for it all to stop.
He will have Paul ‘The Truth’ Pierce trying to stop him though. Can Pierce slow the raging bull down? I don’t think he can over seven games. He may not need seven games though. Pierce must stay out of foul trouble for Boston to be competitive. I don’t think they have anyone else that can contain James. Pierce is an almighty clutch player and will definitely be called upon during this series.
VERDICT: Silly question. LBJ wins this one quite easily. I will say however I’d be taking Pierce if I needed the game winner/tie any day of the week.
Power Forward: Shane Battier v Kevin Garnett
Battier has stepped into Chris Bosh’s position and given them a much needed physicality in the paint. He did a superb job on David West in the Indiana series. He will be called on to defend KG in this one.
I think he struggles with this matchup.
Garnett is so much smarter than West and doesn’t take as many stupid shots or shots that just aren’t on. Everything KG does is within the structure of the Boston offence. Battier has the advantage of getting a hand up on KG’s perimeter shots as he will be able to contain the dribble. This is something Elton Brand and co for the 76ers couldn’t do.
Battier is going to have to continue to hit his three ball like he did in game 6 of the last series. He came out feeling confident and hit a few threes early. If he is hitting his shots Garnett will be forced out of the painted area which could allow for plenty of offensive rebounds for the Heat.
If not, Garnett will be at his best, gobbling up the boards and keeping the likes of Wade and James out of the paint. KG has the nickname of ‘The Ticket’ for a good reason.
Whenever the Celtics are in trouble and need a win they go to the big fella for the bucket inside. He knows when he is needed, this is one of his key traits.
VERDICT: I’d be taking KG in this one. I know exactly what I’m going to get from him night in night out. Battier is a mixed bag on offence and could turn out to be a liability on defence if KG gets going.
Centre: Joel Anthony v Brandon Bass
Anthony does one thing and does it well, blocks and changes opposition shots. He is a liability on offence and isn’t used much at all. At times it’s 5 on 4. I think Boston may use this to their advantage during the series.
On the other hand Brandon Bass has found a new gear in his play during the playoffs. He has found that happy medium with his jumpshot which is helping the rest of the team find theirs.
If he can somehow drag Anthony out of the paint by continuing to hit perimeter shots, Miami could be in a bit of strife. Bass needs to stay aggressive even if his jumper is not falling. He must also help out on the defensive glass and limit second chance opportunities for the Heat.
VERDICT: It’s a tough one because you know what Anthony brings to the table every night. Bass on the other hand is a little all over the place. However Bass is the form player so I will take him on in this one.
Coach: Erik Spoelstra v Doc Rivers
Spo needs this desperately! If he doesn’t win this year it’s curtains. That is a lot of pressure on a young coach. He is going to have to find time for the big two to rest. He will also need to find the motivation for his role players and to get them going from the beginning of the series.
On the other hand you have one of the better coaches going around. Rivers knows all the tricks of the trade and will have a brilliant game plan on how to destroy the two-headed monster in Wade and James.
VERDICT: Rivers in a beat-down.
This series is going to be incredibly scrappy. The players are going to have to fight for every possession like it is their last one. Baskets will be hard to come by and this series definitely won’t be as fluent as the Western Conference one.
I think Miami goes through but only just. I think Boston gives themselves a really big sight. They match-up really well and it will come down to one or two plays in which will decide the outcome of the series. I think Boston playing a seven game series against Philly could hurt them. I can’t count them out though.
I’m looking forward to watching the difference in style to how the Western Conference is being played out. Miami in 6 for me.
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