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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bringing down the Celtics

I will be the first to admit this is not my preferred matchup. I think you would have to be nuts to want the Celtics. Either that, or you have to be Dwyane Wade, who has no reason to fear anyone. The Heat supporting cast has reason to be optimistic too, because they all bring something to the table and have been gelling while the Celtics have not as evidenced by the way they followed a 23-5 start by finishing a very mediocre 27-27.

It is hard to believe that this Celtics team is going to demolish the Miami Heat as quite simply, this group has never demolished anyone.

In 2008, the #1 seed Boston Celtics came in with a big, bad 66-16 record only to require a game 7 to dispose of the 37-45 Atlanta Hawks (who were gelling thanks to the veteran experience of Mike Bibby - a mid-season addition) and the 45-37 Cleveland Cavaliers, who I contend were a weaker team than your Miami Heat, take a look back and judge for yourself:

Starters:
C - Ilgauskas
PF - B. Wallace
SF - L. James
SG - S. Pavlovic
PG - D. West
Bench:
Joe Smith
W. Szczerbiak
A. Varejao
Damon Jones

In game 7, LeBron went off for 45 points and could only get double digits from one teammate (Delonte West, who pitched in 15 in 45 minutes) as the Cavaliers fell just short of pulling the upset. Boston would go on to defeat the Pistons and Lakers 4-2 to finish their championship run.

Last year, the 62 win Celtics were playing without KG and required a game 7 to eliminate the 41 win Chicago Bulls, who were coming into the postseason on a high note after acquiring former University of Miami star forward John Salmons in a mid-season deal (side note: he could become that second All-Star caliber addition Pat Riley has been talking about adding this off-season). Boston then lost a 7 game series to the eventual Eastern Conference champion, Orlando Magic. In their 21 point game 7 loss Boston's bench was exposed, with a combined 12 points from Eddie House, Stephon Marbury, Brian Scalabrine, Tony Allen and Mikki Moore.

This year, Boston seems to be healthy and on paper they have a much improved bench with Rasheed Wallace, Nate Robinson, Marquis Daniels, Michael Finley, Shelden Williams and Glen Davis (who was forced into the starting lineup in 2009 due to Garnett's injury) joining Tony Allen and Brian Scalabrine. However, they won't make you forget the days of Sam Cassell (savvy veteran point guard), James Posey (3 point specialist and perimeter defensive stopper) and PJ Brown (Udonis with much more size). There is a lot of swagger, but don't expect Miami's reserves to be intimidated. Their top contributor, Rasheed Wallace, is providing 9 points and 4 rebounds on 41% shooting.

Boston may get a spark from their bench a few games, but their real advantage lies in the starting lineup where they boast 4 All-Stars and a physical center who rarely stands out as a weak link. Miami, on the other hand, only has one consistently good starter. This matchup should bring out the best from the other four guys (also known as the Titos) who will all be hungry to get the monkey off their back and re-establish their reputations. Michael Beasley is disgusted that his averages are just shy of 15 points and 7 rebounds, but truth be told, KG is averaging a Beasley/JO-like 14 and 7 in 30 minutes a game so I expect Miami's frontcourt to hold their own. Boston's lineup no longer boasts a single 20 point scorer, but I see that as one of their strengths as their lightning quick point guard, Rajon Rondo, has done a wonderful job of keeping all their weapons involved, as evidenced by his 9.8 assists per game. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen will get plenty of open looks from beyond the arc, they will have to hit those shots if they hope to win.

For Miami to win this series, they will need the bench to shine. Udonis Haslem is the captain of that unit and has really helped turn them around. We are now seeing great play (and confidence) from Dorell Wright, who will be counted to defend 3 positions and knock down the 3 ball, which he has done at a rate of 39% for the season. After those two, there is a considerable drop off as former starter Mario Chalmers has failed to take his game to the next level. The other member of the bench unit is Joel Anthony, who is an elite shotblocker who seems a lot more confident around the basket. The only other players who are likely to see action in important minutes are center Jamaal Magloire (a former All-Star built for the physicality of this series) and sharp shooter James Jones (41% from the arc for the year).

I expect Miami to steal a game at the TD Center, what I am more concerned with is their ability to 3-0 in the home games. If they do, they will win the series 4-2. If they cannot do that, they will be forced to win game 7 on the road. Miami is a much better team than they were last year at this time, but I only give them a 42% chance of winning this matchup, due to not having the home court advantage.


16 comments:

  1. 42% huh? I'd give us a 55% chance since we have the best player in the series. Then again, depending on how Beasley & JO play, the 2nd, 3rd, etc. best could easily be on the Celtics.

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  2. I just think home court advantage heavily tilts the odds towards the Celts and right now they have players 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th best players for my liking. Doc Rivers I think is a really good coach. I also think losing game 7 in Atlanta the way they did last year has left me feeling pretty pessimistic about our chances in a game 7. They will have to try to win it in 6 or the odds heavily favor the bad guys - LeBron went off for 45 two years ago and fell just short.

    I think Miami will win one in Boston, perhaps game 1... if they do, they have to go after game 2 really hard. I often see teams feel like they got what they needed and they allow the home team to win the second one at home without much of a fight. Boston and Miami both play just as well away from home, so that would be a trap... Miami is not very likely to win all three at home, they need to have the mentality of taking two in Boston... these guys are not gonna go down easy - too much pride on the line. I don't see them taking the beating the way Shaq-led teams have (Lakers-Pistons and Heat-Bulls come to mind).

    Anyway, something I have been meaning to ask about our season... isn't 47 wins in a division with Orlando (57 wins), Atlanta (53 wins), Charlotte (44 wins) and Washington (26 wins) a bigger accomplishment than 50 wins in a divison with Toronto (40 wins), New York (29 wins), Philadelphia (27 wins), New Jersey (12 wins)?

    I'm tired of the perception that our 47 wins are a byproduct of a weak schedule... if anything, the teams in the Southeast Division had the toughest schedules on the Eastern Conference - agreed?

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  3. 59 wins by Orlando... don't know how I mistyped that. Also, I find that I have become the Ira of our board... makes me feel kind of douchy.

    I just can't allow myself to post on Ira's board... I read it, but there is a disconnect... too much trolling for me. I feel like a recovering addict, my sobriety is too important for that.

    Write articles, blog... keep showing up for the games too. WIthout you guys the asylum feels like solitary confinement.

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  4. From John Hollinger, ESPN:

    So having a regular-season advantage definitely has mattered — it just hasn’t mattered as much as fans of, say, the Portland Trail Blazers (a 2-1 series winner against Phoenix this season) might hope.
    If we plumb a little deeper, however, we reach a very interesting finding. It turns out that in the first round, when the home-court team has won the regular-season series, it also has won the playoff series 41 straight times.
    I repeat: 41 straight. Forty-one and oh.

    Ouch, here is heat-celtic prediction from hollinger

    (4) Boston vs. (5) Miami
    Season series: 3-0 Boston.
    Odds say: Celtics 54.2%; Heat 45.8%
    We think of the Celtics as contenders and the Heat as pretenders, but they finished only three games apart in the standings. Boston started 23-5 and finished 27-27; Miami was 24-27 at one point but finished 23-8 in its final 31 games. So we have two sides going in opposite directions, and normally that and Dwyane Wade would be enough to get me to side with the Heat.
    But this is a bad matchup for Miami. Boston beat the Heat all three times they played, and two of those meetings were in Miami; furthermore, the Celtics were missing Paul Pierce for one of those games and Kevin Garnett for another. The Celtics’ defensive approach against the Heat has been interesting, and effective: Wade has run wild on them, but the Heat have yet to produce another 20-point scorer in a game against Boston.
    Sum it all up, and I think the Celtics can survive this one … barely. Much like a year ago in the Chicago-Boston series, it will go down to the wire and probably provide our best first-round series. The 41-0 rule says it would be foolish to pick against the Celtics here, so in the absence of compelling counterarguments, I’ll take them by a whisker.
    Pick: Celtics in seven

    From that Playoff Predictor on ESPN:

    Heat upset probability is at 35%

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  5. Ira on the Heat @ NBC Sports - funny read:

    Miami
    Because the Heat has Dwyane Wade and because Wade always will have 2006, can a Heat first-round upset be summarily discounted?

    Yes, we are quite aware that the Heat not only have failed to win a single series since taking that 2006 championship, but they also have won only three total playoff games in the interim.

    Still, when the Heat won in '06, they did it from a 52-30 record, hardly overwhelming championship credentials.

    Story continues below ↓
    advertisement | your ad here

    But once Wade got going, the Bulls, Nets, Pistons and, eventually, Mavericks had no answers.

    While there hardly is much surrounding Wade this time around, recall that he won in '06 surrounded by a cast of Shaquille O'Neal, Antoine Walker, Udonis Haslem and Jason Williams.

    Haslem is still there. Jermaine O'Neal is now playing the role of past-his-prime O'Neal. Michael Beasley is matching Antoine Walker perimeter jumper for perimeter jumper. And isn't Carlos Arroyo merely Salsa Chocolate when you get down to it?

    Of course, Pat Riley isn't there. But Erik Spoelstra did get the Heat to a seventh game in last season's first round against Atlanta and has guided the Heat's rise from 15-67 in 2007-08.

    Wade has thrived this season against a Boston team that barely got out of last season's first round. This is not what Boston wanted to see this early in the postseason.

    http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/36539459/ns/sports-nba/page/2/#storyContinued

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  6. GodsSon521 said...
    42% huh? I'd give us a 55% chance since we have the best player in the series. Then again, depending on how Beasley & JO play, the 2nd, 3rd, etc. best could easily be on the Celtics.

    APRIL 15, 2010 11:35 PM

    Heat are a one man team. Celtics are... a team.

    1 to 5.. I'll go mathematical and give the Heat a solid 20% chance at winning

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  7. I don't think the Heat is a one man team... they have a definite go to guy whereas Boston has 4 or 5 guys capable of carrying the load in any given game.

    However, I think people are sleeping on Miami because their schedule got soft at the end. This isn't the NFL, however, every team Miami played was also on everybody else's schedule... yes, Western Conference teams had tougher schedules, but Miami was in the Eastern Conference's strongest division.

    When Miami was a.500 team they played well against LA, Boston, Cleveland... their disappointing losses when they fell below .500 were to Milwaukee and Charlotte, who also proved to be good teams.

    The Heat is a team that is capable of providing Wade with enough support to make this a tough series for the Celtics. The problem is that Boston has far too many weapons if they are on top of their game.

    The perception is that Miami has a chance to win IF one or more of Boston's guys is off OR if Wade pictures they are the Dallas Mavericks of 2006. Miami can do it, but they have to play at an even higher level than they have all season. For one, I would like to see JO and Beasley average 18 and 8.

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  8. The Dolphins just traded Ted Ginn to San Francisco... he was a really frustrating guy to watch, because of the running out of bounds and costly drops, but I wanted to see what he could do with a real #1 on the team.

    Brian Hartline, Davone Bess and Greg Camarillo can all breath easier now that the logjam at receiver is gone... for now... NFL Draft is less than a week away.

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  9. stern said the cap for next yr will be at $56 million. that is great news for heat fans

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  10. the way to win this series, in my opinion, is the heat must win one of these first 2 games, and sweep everything at home. thats the only way i see them winning the series. they wont win a game 7 in boston, they wont get calls, and i dont think you will get the performances outside of wade needed to advance.

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  11. Back to the Heat, I think we have the 18th pick in the first round as well as 2nd rounders from New Orleans and Toronto (41st and 42nd overall).

    That sounds pretty good, and Miami still gets another second rounder from New Orleans in 2012 and a first rounder from Toronto sometime between 2011 and 2015...

    Last year's 2nd round picks Patrick Beverley and Robert Dozier will get a chance to fight for roster spots too...

    I'm not sure we'll get a ready to contribute rookie out of all of this, but some nice developmental projects to fill out the roster at least... I hope next year is DaeQuan's breakout season.

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  12. that is alot of picks, and cheap labor to add a piece or two to the roster. couple that with the salary cap being at $56, and i actually like the plan moving forward

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  13. this draft has a lot of big men in it, even in the 2nd round.

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  14. http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/15023/heats-odds-of-keeping-wade-increase

    this is what i thought it meant

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  15. Well Playoff time is FINALLY here and I'm glad we got the C's for a couple different reasons and also I'm pretty pumped about the salary cap number being at $56Mil for the summer.

    We could've tanked and got the team most feel we match-up against a little better, but I for one like us getting the C's. Here's why?

    1.D-Wade dominated them all regular season. 33,8n6 during the regular season. I expect a them to attempt to put the wall around Wade as they do every other dominant perimeter player in the league and Wade will still find a way to be D-Wade. We'll need Wade to facilitate as much as score in this series too.

    2. What better way for Michael Beasley to get a real dose of the intensity it takes to play with in the playoffs, then against the battle tested, shit taiking, in your face, ear n ass approach of the most intense player in the NBA in Kevin Garnett. I really believe this series should give us a decent barometer of who the real Michael Beasley is at this stage of his development. KG will be KG, will Beasley rise to the challenge or wilt under the pressure of KG's intense approach during a 7 game series.

    3. JO if he's as healthy as he's been most of the year, he should be solid offensively. Hopefully he can do a better job against Perkins and battling inside. I know he's kind of small when matched up against big Perk, but the Big Kat should see plenty of action this series.

    4. Bench production will be key. If Haslem, Wright, Magloire, Anthony, JJ and Chalmers (ahh God!!!) could give us solid minutes and some much needed consistent scoring we should be fine, but that's expecting a lot from this crew...lol

    Rajon Rondo will be our worst nightmare. If he avg. a triple double against Derrick Rose in last years playoffs then a repeat perfomance doesn't sound too far fetched. If Arroyo and Chalmers can attempt to stay in-front of him and not let him blow by them every time down to keep our bigs from getting into foul trouble until the 4th when Wade or Wright draws the assignment we should be ok. Rondo is currently in my opinion the C's best and most dangerous player. Any one of the big 3 could go off on any given night so that's one of the major things we'll have to focus on.

    We'll definitely have our work cut out for us, but I think this team will be up to the challenge. If we can keep it close until the 4th quarter it should be interesting, because we will have the best player on the court in D-Wade. Hopefully Spo puts Wright on Rondo to make him work. We'll need to take one of these 1st 2 games in Beantown to have a real shot at winning the series and unlike most people i think this team can win a game 7 in Boston.

    We Heat fans should know better than most about veteran teams who think they can just flick on the switch come playoff time, Shaq's last days here....lol

    My prediction Heat in 6 or 7....

    Almost forgot about the cap $56mil "YEAH BABY!!!" Forget about Bosh. I want Amare/Felton or Joe Johnson/Felton, although Bosh may come running to Riley after the Raptors breakdown...lol Re-sign Wright, JO, Arroyo and Haslem and probably even Q if we don't get Joe.

    GO HEAT!!!!!

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  16. i wonder how cook would do guarding rondo --- we'll never know.

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