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Tag:Kevin Garnett
Posted on: May 7, 2011 9:25 am
Edited on: May 7, 2011 2:35 pm
 

Playoff Fix: The Celtics' line in the sand

The Celtics need someone to step up in a big way, and for Shaq to make an impact, and to create more turnovers, and... you get the idea. 
Posted by Matt Moore




One Big Thing: The time for equal contributions has past. The Celtics need a hero. Someone has to step up and lead the way for Boston, because for the first time, Ubuntu may be outmatched. Offensive distribution and suffocating defense are both great plans in 99 percent of all matchups, but for whatever reason, the Heat have stormed the barricades in this series. Now the Celtics are going to have to fight them out and, to do so, someone's going to have to set the example. Whether that's Paul Pierce having a game befitting his status as one of the greatest true Celtics ever, a bully-in-the-schoolyard rampage by Kevin Garnett, or Rajon Rondo getting back to being the brilliant distributor and triple-double machine he can be, someone's going to have to put in a special type game. It's not that the other Celtics can't contribute. It's that they have been and the Celtics are still losing. It's time for someone on Boston to make a statement that says "We're still here, and we're not going down like this."

The X-Factor: Shaquille O'Neal is expected to play Saturday for the first time in the playoffs and what feels like the first time in a decade. O'Neal isn't going to save the Celtics. But he can come out and set the tone. In reality, O'Neal's no longer the defender or rebounder he once was. But he can, surprisingly, score. And there's no one on the Heat that can handle his girth. O'Neal's going to take more possessions than he really needs to, but if he can bring out the old bull in a china shop act for a few drop hooks, that could get the crowd, the energy, and the momentum on the Celtics side. O'Neal can't lead the Celtics through the gate. He can bust the gate open with his backside, though. 

The Adjustment: The Celtics' defensive principles all revolve around position. Get to the spot before your man does. Get a hand up where he wants the ball to go. Contest, contest, contest. But with the Heat having turned the ball over on less than 15 percent of all possessions in this series, the time may have come to start attacking the ball. The Celtics need to disrupt the Heat's offense and get easy buckets of their own. In short, things have got to come a little easier for the Celtics and be a little more frustrating for the Heat. 

The Sticking Point: The Heat are doing it. They're winning with huge contributions from the Triad, playing great defense, and getting the wins. We've yet to see a Heat team really close when down in the 4th to a great team, but the Heat are starting to change the narrative about them in regards to their ability to step up in big situations. Game 3 in Boston will be the stiffest test yet. 
Posted on: May 6, 2011 10:15 am
Edited on: May 6, 2011 10:20 am
 

Championship teams suffering emotional issues

Lakers, Celtics dealing with emotional upheaval in the midst of biggest playoff challenge outside of Finals. 

Posted by Matt Moore




You'd think that being the older, more experienced teams would grant them some perspective on the ups and downs of the NBA playoffs. You'd think having walked through the fires of the championship forge would grant them a solidarity. You would think that all the talk of chemistry and how much the team members like one another wouldn't be affected by a few losses or some bouts of poor play. 

You'd be wrong. 

Wednesday night, the Lakers were dealing with what Andrew Bynum referred to as "trust issues." This from a team that won the title eleven months ago. What, did the reality show really change Lamar all of a sudden? Is he just not the down-to-earth player he was when he was younger, as in, 12 months before? Maybe Pau Gasol's let the bright lights of Los Angeles change him from his small town ways. You know, Barcelona, Spain being such a quaint little village. Regardless, apparently it's an epidemic of championship-caliber teams needing some therapy and special quality time. 

From the Boston Herald:
The effect can be so disruptive, Doc Rivers even has a name for those times when squabbling and finger pointing mar one of his timeouts. 
“Emotional highjacks,” the Celtics [team stats] coach said after yesterday’s practice. “And they always happen when you’re down or in the Heat of battle. It always happens, but once you let it get to a point where it highjacks your team, then it’s never good. But it’s part of the game, in every sport and on every team.” 
The Celtics, though, looked as if they had been boarded and highjacked by Captain Jack Sparrow’s entire crew during several timeouts on Tuesday night.In perhaps the most blatant instance, Rajon Rondo [stats] stormed away from Paul Pierce [stats] as the Celtics captain attempted to make a point at the end of a timeout. Not long after, Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen appeared to be holding their own conference outside the greater team huddle.
via For Celtics, outbursts no shock - BostonHerald.com.

Ray Allen told the Herald that it's nothing new for the team, that they've always argued and "debated" more than any other team he'd been on. But it certainly comes off differently when the team is down 0-2 and looks largely helpless to counter the talent in the red and white unis. 

Emotion is a good thing. But bickering and squabbling isn't going to help a team that has a heavily rumored fracture in its chemistry since "the trade" to get itself back together. The Celtics have always fed off their emotion, but right now it needs to be aimed at increasing their intensity and intimidating the Heat, not punishing one another over pointless arguments. There's a thin line between fiery and disruptive, and the Celtics are dancing all over it right now. 
(HT: Red's Army)  

Posted on: May 5, 2011 6:33 pm
Edited on: May 6, 2011 10:13 am
 

The Lakers, the Celtics, and a question of change

Are we seeing a changing of the guard? We discuss whether the conference champs of a year ago have seen the present pass them by, and reach a strange conclusion. The body is willing. The hunger? That we're not sure about. 
Posted by Matt Moore



Few saw this coming. Sure, you could have said the Celtics didn't look like themselves after the Perkins trade, or that L.A.'s penchant for blasé, uninspired play would eventually bite them on the back end. But to think both conference champions from a year ago would face not just must-wins, but "No, for real, lose this game and you might as well forfeit Game 4 and start enjoying your lockout" games in the semifinals? That's just preposterous. How could that happen? The Celtics took three straight from the Heat this season. The Lakers are two-time defending champions. 

And yet, here we are. So the question we ask now, in advance, is whether we're witnessing a changing of the guard, a one-year slip for two teams formed in the iron of the industry, or the setting of the stage for the two most successful and blessed franchises in professional basketball to once again take the shovel from those would bury them and brain them with it.

More on the Lakers and Celtics
Analysis
Royce Young Royce Young
History isn't on the side of the Lakers right now. Read More >>
Ben Golliver Ben Golliver
The Dallas bench came up big in Game 2's Mavs win. Read More >>
Related links
Video: Wade crosses up Ray Allen
Message Boards: Mavericks | Lakers
There's ample evidence to support all three theories. But why waste time with it? Why not just wait to see how Games 3 and 4 go? We're not just providing filler or overreaction to add volume to headlines, I assure you. It's that if this is the end, we need to acknowledge it while it's happening so we're not left in stunned silence, shellshocked by the absence of the teams most lauded over the past three years. If it's a slip, we need to examine why, and if any changes need to be or can be made going forward. And if they're setting us up for the rope-a-dope, well, we should take note of that as well.  If we want to watch these playoffs, we should try and suss out what's happening. After all, the first round left us struggling for comprehension as the top seed fell in one conference and struggled with a playoff bottom feeder in the other. So let's begin with the defending champs. 

Lakers

Most concerning for L.A.? The fact that both losses were not the same. Their deviation from success and development of bad habits in the pattern of failure are indicative of a team that not only is struggling, but is failing to recognize that. 

Game 1: The "we let it slip through our fingers" game. This obviously was the less damaging of the two. A few plays here or there and the Lakers win. Make more than a couple and it's a comfortable win. Surrendering the game in the manner they did, however, was about as "un-Laker-like" as you're going to get. They didn't close out the game. They didn't finish with poise. They did collapse, and the Mavericks did take it from them. This game actually looks worse in the aftermath of Game 2. They not only gave the Mavericks confidence, but it was the kind of loss that allowed the Lakers to pass it off as nothing to worry about.  That laziness was fine in previous years. The Lakers were younger, the competition not as fierce, and the matchups were avoided. They needed to respond after Game 1 with a ferocity befitting of a team of their talent, their payroll, their legacy. Instead they simply came into the game with the same lack of urgency they went into so many regular season games and even playoff games in previous years (the Rockets, the Nuggets, the Suns). Only this time, it turns out the other team not only wanted it more... they were just better. 

Game 2: The "well, they just kicked our face in" game. That's a 12 point loss, kids. At home. And in reality, it could have been worlds worse.  The Mavericks only shot 42 percent from the field. You can argue that the Lakers defense was what kept that number low, except that same defense allowed a 106.9 defensive efficiency. That's not great. But it's not terrible, and had a few more shots fallen, you had a much more significant loss. The Mavericks played with urgency, with fire, with a killer instinct. You know, everything you associate with championship play. The Lakers on the other hand felt that they had no reason to execute with purpose. A few passes, a few dunks, and the Mavericks would fold. In many ways, it was a reflection of the crowd, which was first discontent, then frustrated, then downright glum. There's no shock, just petulance at the fact the Mavericks not only didn't roll over, but took it to the Laker's front door, then kicked in the frame. 

The post-game comments from Game 2 give us an insight into where the Lakers' heads are at. Andrew Bynum says there are trust issues. Phil Jackson is concerned. But Kobe Bryant? Kobe Bryant is calm as Hindu cows. It's an interesting reaction from the one player who most often calls out his teammates. Either this is the confidence that breeds his indomitable will, or it's an arrogance that is keeping him out of the reality. And the reality is that the Lakers face a challenge only three teams in history have ever overcome. 

So which is it? Are the Lakers done? Clearly not. Pau Gasol didn't age overnight to the point he's no longer useful. Kobe Bryant's largely the same guy he's been this season. Older, less explosive, occasionally brilliant, occasionally way too confident in his abilities. Derek Fisher's not any worse than he ever has been. Lamar Odom's reverting back to his space cadet persona, but you had to expect that at some point. The bench, though? The bench certainly seems to have wandered by a mirror and remembered, "Oh, yeah, I'm Steve Blake/Matt Barnes/Shannon Brown and not Robert Horry/Brian Shaw/Rick Fox." And those aren't great names to start with. But you can't look at this team the way we saw the Spurs fall because the Spurs tried to tell us all season they were not the defensive stalwarts they've been in the past. The Lakers have been the same team that won the title, just lazier than usual. 

So is Bryant right, and this is just a blip, nothing to worry about? No. The Lakers didn't lose these games because of fluke shots.  L.A. faced their own mortality and their response was to throw up 3-pointer after 3-pointer when they couldn't hit water from the sunken remains of the Titanic, instead of giving it to Andrew Bynum, who was actually playing well. The Lakers were lazy, that's certainly true. But the big key here is so much simpler, and so much more frightening. 

The Mavericks outplayed them. Just as we learned Memphis was simply a better team than San Antonio this year, the Mavericks have showed the same pattern in the first two games. That can just as easily be reversed with a flourish from the Lakers. But we can't simply walk past these two games, confident Los Angeles will right the ship. 

The good ship Mamba is not sunk. But it's taking on water, while the Lakers are arguing over silverware and Kobe Bryant is playing the violin. 

Celtics

If the Lakers' big problem is that their opponent is playing better, the Celtics are facing an uncomfortable reality: the Heat really are better. Don't misunderstand, this isn't to say that the Heat will win. But the facts that we thought would be present in preseason that escaped us the whole year through have returned in stunning clarity. Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh play for one team. And that's just a ridiculous amount of talent. If the Celtics are going to win, they have to win with strategy, effort, and guile. Because the first two games have exposed a significant gap between the maximum gears both teams can operate on. Lakers fans can cling to a lack of effort and a series of bad games. But the Celtics don't seem to be playing badly or with poor effort. They're just getting beaten to the spot, beaten to the ball, and dunked over. Role players are wilting while James Jones hits from the outside, and Ray Allen's not getting the ball. 

There's age here. The Celtics knew this coming in. When the Big 3 were constructed, they knew the window was tight. The formation of the Heat, the formation of the Lakers' modern core, the rise of the Bulls all narrowed the window further, but the reality was always in the back of their minds. You can't compete into your late 30's in the face of the greatest rise of talent in the league, constantly teaming up with one another. You can, as long as you don't disrupt your chemistry. Which of course they did. 

The is not on the Perkins trade. But the advantages the Perkins team held in terms of chemistry, efficiency, comfort and continuity were questioned. And somewhere in the back of their minds, the players are aware: the front office decided to make a move in regards to a time when they were no longer in green. That has to shake your confidence, even if slightly. The Celtics still seem physically capable of making adjustments, playing at the level they need to, winning the games. But the overpowering swagger is gone, and the ferocity of play hasn't been there. They have given the vibe of exhaustion, of frustration, and of a restrained fear, which we've never seen before. 

The Celtics can respond. They haven't surrendered home floor. And the common theme in the NBA throughout the decade, throughout its history, has been that you can't count out the established teams until they're dead and buried. We could be looking at this column as one of premature exasperation or naivety in a week. But the signs are there. 

The Lakers and Celtics have been confident, and elite for the past three seasons. But now they both face a blood-draining possibility. The talent may be there. The experience may be strong. The execution may be possible. But the hunger? 

More and more it looks like the hunger lies in the ones across the floor.

Posted on: May 4, 2011 12:10 am
Edited on: May 4, 2011 12:28 am
 

Dwyane Wade turns Kevin Garnett around backwards

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade turns Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett around backwards with a eurostep. Posted by Ben Golliver.

The story of the first two games in this year's Eastern Conference semifinals has been Miami's athletic prowess stomping all over Boston's team-oriented, tough-minded approach.

If you're looking for a signature play from the first two games, both Miami victories, you need look no further than Heat All-Star guard Dwyane Wade's eurostep blow-by of Celtics All-Star forward Kevin Garnett during Tuesday night's 102-91 win. Wade approached Garnett with a full head of steam in transition on a two-on-two fast break with LeBron James to his right. Garnett was back and in solid defensive position, back-pedaling to stall the play a bit as Wade approached.

As Wade his the three-point line he angled into the paint, lunging forward as if to drive hard to his dominant right hand. Garnett bit on the move and Wade perfectly executed the crossover second step, shifting his entire body weight back to the left. Garnett had no idea what just hit him, and continued to turn towards the middle, before realizing his error. As he spun full circle to attempt to contest the shot, Garnett lashed out with his left arm, contacting Wade as he rose to scoop in a right-handed lay-up. 

The most remarkable part of the move? Wade took just 2.1 seconds to go from the three-point line to the rim.

Here's a look at the video of the must-see highlight from Tuesday night.



That play was the story of the first two games in a nutshell. Garnett, back on his heels, reacting as Wade carefully picked his path, executed too flawlessly and too quickly for one of the league's premier defenders to keep up. 

Not to be overlooked in the video is LeBron James' reaction. James is full of intensity, confidence and exuberance, as if the carefully-laid Big 3 plan had come to fruition right before his eyes. 
Posted on: May 3, 2011 3:21 am
Edited on: May 3, 2011 12:44 pm
 

Playoff Fix: Celtics look to flip momentum

The Boston Celtics look to even their Eastern Conference semifinals series with the Miami Heat on Tuesday night.  

pierce-game-1

MIAMI LEADS 1-0


One Big Thing:  Game 1 win was all about the Big Mo: Momentum. It was the perfect, confidence-boosting start for the Heat. Their dominant, level-headed performance in a physical game went a long way in answering questions about whether they'd fall apart or get bullied in the big moment. The Heat's bench production -- spearheaded by James Jones -- proved they're capable of playing a full 48-minute game against Boston. Game 2 should serve as a hinge on the series. If Miami can repeat -- or approximate -- their Game 1 performance, Boston will be facing an inordinate amount of pressure when the series returns to Massachusetts. If Boston manages to even things up, all of Miami's old doubts -- Are we deep enough? Are we tough enough? Can we win on the road? -- will arise again.

 The X-Factor:  Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo has been identified as the single X-Factor in the Eastern Conference playoffs since back in early April. That's only more true now that the Celtics are staring at the potential of an 0-2 deficit. In Game 1, Rondo was limited by foul trouble and shot poorly, finishing with eight points on 3-for-10 shooting. The Celtics never need him to be a go-to scoring threat, but he should dominate his match-up against the likes of Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers. But sometimes it's as simple as staying on the court. Rondo played just 32 minutes, making it difficult for Boston to establish its offensive rhythm and dictate tempo, especially given the emotionally charged Game 1 atmosphere and the fact that Dwyane Wade was having a Supermanlike game for the Heat. 

The Adjustment:  I hate to make this one about the officials, but the biggest adjustment will be in how these two teams are treated by the zebras. In Game 1, four technical fouls and a flagrant foul were dished out, but the league office stepped in after the fact to downgrade and rescind some of the harsher in-game rulings. Boston, clearly, is hoping the game is whistled a bit more loosely, so that there isn't a repeat of Paul Pierce's needless ejection. 

The Sticking Point:  Will Wade fall back to Earth? And, if so, how far will he fall? He was dominant with the ball and with his play-making. He set up LeBron James beautifully on multiple occasions while making Ray Allen's life miserable. This is where the whack-a-mole Magic of the Big 3 comes into play. Should the Celtics devote more attention to Wade, they'll be opening doors for James, who had an off night by his standards, scoring 22 points on 19 shots, and Chris Bosh, who was big on the glass but provided little scoring pop. Miami needed every last Wade bucket on Game 1. He did his part. Who's up next?


Posted on: May 1, 2011 6:59 pm
Edited on: May 1, 2011 7:38 pm
 

History says not to panic about the Celtics yet

Posted by Royce Young



Saturday, May 1, 2010. The Boston Celtics drop Game 1 to the Cleveland Cavaliers 103-96 after a dominant second half in which the Cavs outscored Boston 58-39.

I remember all the reaction after it. LeBron has done it. The Cavs are different. These Celtics are vulnerable. The guard is changing. I remember all the chatter, all the reaction, after Game 1. And what happened next? The Celtics went on to finish LeBron, and the Cavs as we know them, off in six games.

Now. I'm not at all inclined to say the same fate is awaiting LeBron and his new team after their 99-90 win over the Celtics in Game 1 Sunday. And yes, I'm the same dude that just got through writing about how Game 1 could decide this series in the end. (Tone, statement, momentum and all that Jazz was my thinking there.) And I'm not saying it won't.

But let's pump the brakes on thinking at all that the Celtics are overmatched here. Maybe before we all say, "Looks like the Heat are the superior team after all," we let Game 2 happen. This was played on Miami's home floor, remember. And they still have to replicate this three more times to get past Boston.

LeBron's Cavs weren't able to do that. The Celtics are masters of adjustment, and will have a little something different Tuesday. The goal for any road team in the first two games is to win one and claim homecourt advantage. And that opportunity is still there for the Celtics.

A big reason LeBron made the switch to join Dwyane Wade is precisely what happened Sunday against the Celtics. He had a great deal of help, and the Heat were able to put it to the Celtics on both ends. Rajon Rondo didn't control the game and save for some spectacular-but-normal-for-him shooting from Ray Allen, Boston stayed close. Other than that, the Boston offense stalled. The Celtics didn't get to the free throw line (just 18 attempts), shot just 42.7 percent and only had three players in double-figures. Rondo's line -- eight points and seven assists -- really says it all.

It also says to me that the Celtics didn't play their best game. It does feel like there has been a shift in this matchup from the control Boston had in the first three meetings. It does feel like the Heat have found some confidence and swagger against the Celtics. But it also doesn't feel like this series is even close to over. You know that, and I'm insulting your intelligence by telling you, but I feel like I need to say it.

I picked the Heat to win in seven games, and my mind hasn't really changed much from that. The Heat held serve on their end because of 38 from Wade, 22 from LeBron and 25 from... James Jones? See, just that part alone should make Celtics fans feel a bit better. That's not happening again.

Again, I said myself how important this game was. Much more so for the Heat. Lose Game 1 and whoa boy, are they hearing about it. Lose Game 1 and now the Celtics are playing with house money. Lose Game 1, and it's very likely the Heat are in a hole that, mentally, they can't get out of.

They didn't though. They took care of business. But I think the Heat would admit, the Celtics can, and will, play better. It's a four-point game and the Heat scored the first point. I can promise you, Doc Rivers isn't panicking. Neither is Paul Pierce, Allen or Kevin Garnett.

But Game 2 is where the Heat are going to have to make their money. LeBron's Cavs conceded in that situation last year, and it ended up costing them. Boston took its talents to South Beach with a hope to win two, but with a goal to take just one. That opportunity is still there. And it comes down to Tuesday night. After that, maybe we'll be able to draw a real conclusion or two.
Posted on: April 30, 2011 6:05 pm
 

Playoff Fix: No room to breathe with Heat-Celtics

Posted by Royce Young



One Big Thing: Does anyone else get the sense that Game 1 is really, really important in this series? Either way, a tone is getting set. Either the Heat make a statement that things have changed and they're ready for the Celtics or Boston makes one saying it's more of the status quo.

Heck, package it in even tighter than that. The first six minutes of this game could say a whole lot about it. There's going to be a real mental aspect to this series and every little play is going to feel extremely large. I still haven't wrapped my head around this just being the Eastern Conference Semifinals yet.

The X-Factor: It's Rajon Rondo. There's absolutely no doubt about it. Miami has no one to guard him and with him getting his feel and command back against the Knicks, Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra likely haven't slept the last 72 hours. The good Rondo changes every little thing about this series. If he's keyed in, breaking down the Miami defense and distributing, it's hard to see how the Heat can guard Boston for 48 minutes.

The Adjustment: Would Spoelstra dare get creative with his matchups? Mario Chalmers was good in Game 5 for the Heat, but could we see a lot of Dwyane Wade on Rondo? Of course now you've got to account for Ray Allen, but I get the feeling Mike Bibby and Chalmers have a better chance chasing Allen off screens than they do slowing Rondo off the dribble.

The Sticking Point: The season series tilted 3-1 in Boston's favor with the one Miami win coming when Rondo was in his post-Perk funk and the Celtics slipping a bit as a team. Hard to really take too much from that. Except maybe that the Heat built some confidence. I mean, remember at All-Star Weekend when James Jones beat Ray Allen and Paul Pierce in the 3-point contest and said, "We finally beat you guys in something. " To that point, the Celtics were in their heads. Maybe just that simple regular season win has removed some of that doubt.

The Celtics conceded home court in this series with a poor finish. Not that Miami has a great advantage there (Fan Up, amirite?) but still, it's called "advantage" for a reason. Starting at home fresh off that win could be a big thing for the Heat. And with this first game, the first six minutes, heck the first possession being big, that could be the edge the Heat need to get started right.
Posted on: April 29, 2011 3:05 pm
Edited on: April 29, 2011 3:30 pm
 

Celtics-Heat: The X's and O's

How do the Heat and Celtics match up on both sides of the ball?
Posted by Matt Moore




It was inevitable, really. From the moment the Triad formed last summer, the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics have been eyeing one another. The dominant team in the East doesn't like any team acting like they're in the same league with the defending champs, much less a team that hadn't played a single game together saying they're going to win multiple NBA championships. A 3-1 advantage in the regular series gives Boston the mental edge, but the Heat took the lone meeting after the Celtics traded Perkins and destabilized their chemistry. 

Playoffs are hugely influenced by matchups. Here's a look at how various matchups land in favor of the Heat or the Celtics. 

PG: The Celtics of course have a natural, traditional point guard in Rajon Rondo, a pure point, while the Heat largely use Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers the same way the Lakers use Derek Fisher. James and Wade spend a majority of the time at point. 
When the Celtics have the ball: We don't have to talk much about this, right? I mean, Rajon Rondo is Rondo and Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers are not. Defensively, the Heat won't match up either of their point guards on Rondo. Either Wade or James will try to check him. It's a testament to Rondo's ability that neither is able to effectively handle him. Even against two of the faster players in the league, and two of the better defenders, Rondo simply outmaneuvers either one. James isn't fast enough and Wade struggles with Rondo's agility. Off the pick and roll, a hard trap isn't effective, thanks to how quickly Rondo can move the ball Garnett for the pick and pop or to the roll man. There's not a great solution outside of bringing help and hoping the perimeter shooters miss. You know, Ray Allen not being considerably reliable in terms of outside shooting, all-time 3-point shooting record holder that he is. 

When the Heat have the ball: On offense, when the Heat go to Wade or James running point, Rondo will attack whoever crosses the timeline with the ball in most instances. Rondo can get backed down by James in the post, but that's something LeBron seldom does. Likewise, Wade can cross him over, but then you're looking at a pull-up jumper which you live with. It's not that Rondo's a better player than James or Wade, those guys will get theirs (unless Wade's nightmares against Boston continue) but Rondo's physical versatility allows him to guard the other well enough to guide them into the teeth of the Celtics' help defense. 

Wings: Going traditional "SG and SF" designations are largely useless here. It's true that Wade is listed at guard and James at forward, but in reality, both operate on the perimeter and handle the ball, while not operating in traditional roles. James is too on-ball to be considered a true small forward, and Wade's versatility causes the same problems. So instead we'll look at it from the perspective of wings.

When the Celtics have the ball: The hardest part about guarding the Celtics is their consistency in running their offense. They'e not going to blow you away with new sets. But they run what they run to such precision that it's near impossible to stop them. The biggest problem is chasing Ray Allen through screens. Allen will usally cut baseline to baseline through closing screens. The result is Allen getting open for 3-pointers while the defender is still trying to recover from brutal off-ball screens by Glen Davis and KG, and the announcers saying "How can you leave Ray Allen wide open?!" as if the thought of defending the greatest pure shooter (limited to non-ball-handlers who just shoot 3-pointers, please leave your MJ/Kobe debates at home, kids) never crossed their mind. Wade will be assigned to try and get through, but his body isn't built for the wear and tear. Mario Chalmers might be a better cover here, as Bibby isn't tall enough to defend in the first place and would get murdered on the screens. Chalmers needs to study tape of what J.J. Redick has done to get through those screens and he can't afford to lose Allen, even on broken plays or rebounds. If you take your eyes off Allen for a second, that's three points. 

Pierce is considerably easier to guard from a strategic standpoing; he's coming right at you. The problem with Pierce is he just knows his moves so well. James has historically done a pretty good job on Pierce. But when James goes out, there's absolutely no one to guard Pierce. James Jones can't hang with him on the drive or the step back. Mike Miller may do a decent job, but again, that elbow jumper's tough and when he throws in the pump-fake, that's going to be trouble. Pierce is also very adept at finding the trailer 3-pointer, and when the defense collapses off Rondo, Pierce is open.  It's the basic Celtics problem. Pierce is a great offensive player on his own. When he's used off-ball, it becomes even harder to stop him. James and he nearly cancel each other out at both ends. 

When the Heat have the ball: When the ball rotates to whichever one is working off-ball, Allen will take Wade, with the requisite help coming weak-side.  Pierce will take James. Help will be quick on the drive in both instances, and since neither has figured out how to move off-ball outside of transition, the defense will focus on the ball-handler. The roll man's defender on the pick and roll will show hard, with the other low-post defender rolling to cut off the lane. If the ball-handler cuts back, a third defender will be there. Essentially, the Celtics are well prepared for whatever attack the Heat have shown. There will be times when the Heat get open looks off of their athletic ability to get past the defense for the drive and kick, usually a jump-pass. When those occur, the Heat have to knock them down. You can't waste open shots against the Celtics. 

Down Low:

When the Celtics have the ball: Kevin Garnett normally isn't a threat in the post. He doesn't have the muscle left to deal with the contact against most power forwards. Except Chris Bosh. He can pretty much do whatever he wants there. Bosh has to hold on his own, because the Heat can't afford to double in the post with the other weapons on the floor for Boston. The best option might be to give Joel Anthony a run on Garnett and risk the inevitable fouls. Anthony will struggle with Garnett at the elbow, but you've got to live with it somewhere. 

When the Heat have the ball: Bosh has played pretty aggressively in the playoffs and through the last month of the season. But against Garnett, it's just not a good matchup for him. Glen Davis is a better matchup for him, where Bosh's length will allow him to go to the mid-range. Off the pick and pop, Bosh has to have a quick trigger and good aim. Bosh has to completely change this dynamic for the Heat to win. 

Centers: The Heat have aging centers with diminished skills and a poorly coordinated young player with questionable decision making on offense. The Celtics have aging centers with diminished skills and a poorly coordinated young player with questionable decision making on offense. It's a wash. 

These matchups look like they favor Boston for a reason. But that's dependent on the Triad not being able to counter Boston's defense. If LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh are able to put in performances worthy of their reputations, the Heat can overwhelm Boston, especially without Perkins. From a strategic standpoint, the Heat are clearly the underdogs, but their whole approach has been to overcome with talent. They'll need to do the same to get to the Conference Finals. 
 
 
 
 
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