When you look at the matchups in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, perhaps the most interesting meeting is between the 2008 NBA Champion Boston Celtics and the one-man-wrecking-crew Miami Heat.
The storied Celtics franchise has not seen such disappointing results since the arrival of Kevin Garnett, as they have this season. A squad stacked with the veteran Big Three of Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, Boston has seen the arrival of Rajon Rondo as arguably the most important and talented player on this team on many nights. So they certainly are not lacking in the talent department.
On the other hand, the Miami Heat have long been a ‘one man show’ since the departure of Shaquille O’Neal left Dwyane Wade as the only legitimate star in town, after the pair won a title together. Sure, there have been various supporting cast members with promise, but this team all comes back to D-Wade. He is as entertaining as they come, as a nightly NBA League Pass proposition. And it is the ability of Wade to will this team through games that makes this series unmissable.
Looking at the key factors in this series:
Kevin Garnett (Boston Celtics) — We have a fairly good idea as to what Pierce will provide the Celtics with over the course of this series. He will win one or two games all by himself. He will score at will for most of the series. And he may even pull of a dramatic stretcher-laden Willis Reed-esque moment. We also have seen this season what to expect from Allen — the guy has still got it and his veteran savvy will put significant points on the board, whilst acting as a matador to Wade. The same goes for Rondo — his production is fairly guaranteed. However KG is that unknown quantity. Which Big Ticket will we get for the duration of this series? If he can be the KG of old, even for three or four games, the Cs clinch this series easily. If he is the injury-depleted retread of a Garnett that has been running around of late, there will be trouble in Beantown. He is the key to this team on both ends.
Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat) — It goes without saying that Wade is the key, lock and handle to this team’s playoff hopes. He always is. You know what you will get from him and you know that if you can keep the game close, he will do his best to pull the game out for you. Oh, and he plays really well against the Cs.
Rasheed Wallace (Boston Celtics) — This is where things get really uncertain. Sheed was brought into the Celtics squad as that guy to put them back over the top, to fill the gaps where Garnett’s body would not allow him to. Instead, Wallace has been that guy who stands at the three-point line jacking up jumpers at a disappointing rate and anything but an X-Factor for his team. However when it comes to the playoffs, he has been there before and he knows that this is his chance to prove his worth to the Boston-faithful. If Wallace can make a difference on the defensive end and pick up his interior play, rather than camping beyond the arc, he could well be that difference-maker.
Michael Beasley (Miami Heat) — This young man has all of the talent in the world. Sure, it may not appear so on a nightly basis, but from time to time you can really see that brilliance shining through. If Beasley can turn it on on the biggest stage, the NBA Playoffs, the Heat could pull off an upset over the Celtics and advance to the next round. He can score and he can rebound. As a potential Robin to Wade’s Batman, Beasley is the ultimate X-Factor for the Heat.
There is nothing better than a seven game series that involves Dwyane Wade. His theatrics and last minute shot-making ability really make for an entertaining, tight series. Unfortunately for his team, unless he gets the helping hand that he needs from the likes of Beasley, Udonis Haslem and Jermaine O’Neal, this will be an effort too great for the Heat to pull off. The Celtics team is stacked with options and veteran experience. You need go no further than the Big Three plus Rondo to see that the Cs can pull this one off — and I predict they will. Celtics in 7 games.
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