NBA Gametime Preview:
Celtics v. Heat
How will the “old” Big Three compare to the “new” Big Three? Will KG be able to stop LBJ? Can Flash burn the Big Shamrock? Creative gimmicks aside, these are the questions facing the powerhouses of the Eastern Conferences. Let’s have a recap of the teams really quick.
Signed Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Mike Miller, Jerry Stackhouse, and others while shaking up their entire roster.
Lebron is desperate to win a ring, and if the Heat don’t, at least, make it to the Finals, this will have been a failure of a season. Mike Miller is injured for at least half the season.
Signed Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal, Delonte Talent, and Von Wafer, while maintaining their core (albeit, Kendrick Perkins will be out for at least half the season).
The Celtics have been to the NBA Finals twice in the last three postseasons. Garnett is healthy. Shaq is desperate to win a ring.
I can pull ten random people off the street right now and ask for their opinions on this game. I’d say 4 would credit the Heat, 4 the Celtics, 1 wouldn’t care, and the last one would be unsure. Long story short, both of these teams have all the pieces to win. What it comes down to is gameplay. The Celtics pride themselves of stifling defense. With their roster changes over the summer, that defense has arguably gotten even better. The Heat focus on…well frankly, we don’t quite know. Sure, Wade and Lebron can do pretty much anything, but if the Heat try to be a running scoring team like the Suns of last season, they’re doomed. I would expect Miami to be defense-oriented, but that could be a problem. They have a lot of guys who like to pick up quick fouls. Bosh, Ilgauskas, Stackhouse, and others are all very adept at getting into foul trouble. Sure, Shaq, Garnett, Pierce, and other core Celtics players also pick up fouls like no others at times, but overall, they’re a very careful team.
The Celtics would rather keep you from scoring than try to outscore you point blank. They’re not a 100ppg game and are more likely to keep you from shooting under 40% than to break triple digits. The scary part is that they can do both. When the Big Three get hot, they can hurt you from anywhere on the court. Unfortunately, it gets worse. With their balance of little and big guys, they can outhustle and overpower their opponents. They also have that pesky Rajon Rondo, who can drop a triple-double on any given night.
The top 5 weapons of the Celtics, in no particular order:
1) Garnett’s defense and high percentage scoring
2) Rondo’s overall All-Star performances
3) Ridiculously good free-throw shooting percentages
4) Shaq at center
5) Ray Allen and/or Paul Pierce can combo with anyone else on the floor to score
1) Delonte West’s ability to score and defend any player on the flood
2) Jermaine O’Neal’s talents
3) Nate Robinson may be short, but he can be this team’s Sixth Man on any night
4) Glen Davis is finally learning how to be a professional basketball player
5) Doc Rivers knows exactly what it takes for this team to win
Enter the Heat that is Miami. Any team that has the reigning two-time MVP is dangerous. Dwyane Wade already won a ring in 2006. So did Eddie House when he was a reserve for the Boston Celtics. Bosh is a perennial All-Star, along with the aforementioned. This team is almost a perfect point-counterpoint to Boston. In fact, let’s take a look at that and see who wins each one.
Lebron-Pierce: winner Lebron
Allen-Wade: winner Wade
Bosh-Garnett: winner Garnett, because of defense and experience
Shaq-Ilgauskas: winner Shaq
Jerry Stackhouse-Delonte West/Von Wafer: winner Celtics
Mario Chalmers-Rajon Rondo: winner Rondo, without question
Juwan Howard-Jermaine O’Neal: although one is a PF and one is a center, O’Neal wins hands down
Udonis Haslem-Glen Davis: it’s close, so let’s call it a tie
As you can see, it’s pretty close, although the Celtics have a slight advantage. What it comes down to, however, is that overpowering both Lebron and Wade may simply be too much for any team. Lebron can easily drop 30, 10, and 10 on any night, as can Wade. Bosh can also go for 30 points and 10 rebounds. That leaves the rest of the team scrambling for any stats they can grab. I’m going to go ahead and give this “W” to the Celtics. They have a lot of team chemistry that Miami simply hasn’t learned yet. After a few games against less talented teams, the Heat will have improved upon their synergy, but even when you assemble the some of the best players in the NBA on one team, you can’t expect them to just go ahead and be unstoppable from day one.