Can Miami's Big Three conquer Celtics?

FRANK ZICARLLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:43 PM ET

It was inevitable as it was predictable, a matchup that’s as attractive as it is explosive.

It’s Heat versus Celtics, a battle of Big Threes that tipped off the NBA’s regular season way back when, a time when curiosity and jealousy followed Miami to every city.

The NBA final won’t be contested for another month, but for many this represents the unofficial championship.

Outside of a Lakers-Heat matchup for the NBA title, there’s no bigger meeting than Miami versus Boston.

“I think we always felt that it would happen at some point,” LeBron James said. “Whether it was the first round, second round or Eastern Conference finals, we always felt at some point we would have to go through Boston.”

Until it proves otherwise, the Heat must be considered the underdog against a playoff-tested Boston team that swept the Knicks in the opening round.

Until Miami finds a way to slow down Rajon Rondo, the Celtics will win in a series that promises to be long and epic.

And until James exorcises the demons on Boston’s home court, Miami will be hard-pressed to survive against a mentally tough team such as the Celtics whose resolve is only matched by the Lakers.

From a pure basketball perspective, this is a series that shapes up to feature many in-game adjustments, where dictating a style of play looms as large as any individual matchup.

Don’t be surprised to see Miami go small with James playing at power forward, a lineup that will push the ball and apply a lot of pressure on Boston’s transition defence.

The biggest question mark will be Miami’s ability to defend the post, whether it’s keeping Rondo out of the paint or forcing post-up players from carving their niche on the block.

It took Miami five games to dispose of the Sixers, a team that gave the Heat problems when Philly was able to get out and run.

Early double-digit deficits were yielded by the Heat, a late-game implosion in Game 4 exposed Miami’s inability to execute in crunch time and an overall feeling that the gang from South Beach looked past the opening round can no longer be tolerated.

When Boston strikes, the way Miami reacts will tell a lot about its ability to get past the Celtics.

When Boston tries to force a half-court game, the way Miami attacks will signal just how prepared the team is going to the second option when the primary option has been taken away.

If Miami can dictate a quick-tempo series, it will win because in James and Dwyane Wade you have two of the game’s best in attacking the rim.

If Boston controls the paint and the glass, it will keep Miami from getting out in transition and in turn give the Celtics their best opportunity of winning.

“We assumed, when they put this team together, at some point that if we wanted to put another banner up that we were probably going to have to go through them,” Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said.

Rivers has the one edge at point guard in Rondo, who is simply unstoppable when he’s knocking down shots.

The one knock on Rondo is his shot-making, but he’ll get his hands in passing lanes and he’ll draw defenders when penetrating the lane.

Rondo remains the biggest X factor in the series, the one guy who will determine the ultimate winner, assuming all the major matchups even out.

For that reason, don’t be surprised to see James or Wade defending Rondo in the fourth quarter.

“This is what we came here for,” Chris Bosh said.

“We’re still on our journey. And we know that we have a long way to go. And the reward is a battle with Boston. That’s going to be a long, long series. We have to start the process and just keep our heads in it, start getting mentally prepared for them.”

Bosh is out of the first round for the first time in his career following his two one-and-dones with the Raptors.

He’ll be getting a steady diet of Kevin Garnett, a guy whose length and toughness have always given Bosh problems throughout the years.

“We know Boston and they know us,” Wade said. “Sure, we are going to break down film and learn some other things about them, but we know what that team is about.”


Videos

Photos