Banner 18 Deferred: Celtics Fall To Heat In Five Games

In the end, the Celtics couldn't keep up with the Heat down the stretch, falling 97-87 in Game 5 and getting bounced from the NBA Playoffs. Read more at SB Nation, as well as our team blogs, CelticsBlog and Peninsula is Mightier.

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Celtics Vs. Heat, Game 5: C's Run Out Of Gas Late Again, Fall To Heat In Five Games

In the end, they just didn't have enough, and they bowed out quickly and completely.

Despite leading for much of the game, the Celtics disintegrated down the stretch, absorbing a 16-0 run by the Miami Heat to close out a 97-87 loss in Game 5 of the two teams Eastern Conference semifinal series on Wednesday night. Nenad Krstic's 18-foot jumper at the 4:28 mark of the fourth quarter represented the last points the Celtics would score in the 2010-2011 season.

The Heat would end up outscoring the Celtics 26-14 in the fourth quarter, as another game went up in a haze of missed opportunities, bad turnovers and unconscionable mental errors for the C's. Kevin Garnett, who scored a dominant 12 points in the first quarter, managed only three more for the rest of the game, repeatedly passing up post chances against the likes of Miami's Chris Bosh and Joel Anthony in the second half. Paul Pierce, in foul trouble all night long, finished with just 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting and Rajon Rondo was largely ineffective due to his dislocated elbow and a back injury that flared up in the first half, ending his season with six points and three assists. Only Ray Allen, who scored 18 points and hit five 3-pointers, showed any consistency on offense for the C's.

LeBron James scored 33 points for the Heat, including their final 10, on 11-of-20 shooting. His 3-pointer with 2:10 left to play put the Heat up for good. Dwyane Wade put up another dominating performance, particularly in the first half, when he scored 23 of his 34 points on 9-of-12 shooting, almost single-handedly keeping Miami in the game in the process, while Bosh aded 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Heat, who reached the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since their championship run in 2006 and will face the winner of the Chicago Bulls/Atlanta Hawks series, currently led 3-2 by the Bulls.

The Celtics, who put up a gallant fight until the final minutes, played much of the fourth without Rondo or Jermaine O'Neal, and were undone by mistakes. Delonte West, who had another solid game with 10 points, committed a couple of costly turnovers, as did Jeff Green, who had nine points off the bench. It was the second straight game in which the Celts finished with more turnovers than assists.

With their season now over, the Celtics will face a variety of uncertainties headed into the offseason, starting with the future status of head coach Doc Rivers. Rivers does not have a contract for next season and has turned down several extension offers from the team.

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Celtics Vs. Heat, Game 5: Celts Try To Stay Alive In South Beach

Win or go home.

The NBA has used the phrase to market the playoffs in the past, but its meaning is a lot deeper for the Celtics as the prepare for Wednesday night's Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Miami Heat (7 p.m. EDT, on TNT). Down 3-1 after handing over Monday night's Game 4 down the stretch and in overtime, the Celts must win on Wednesday or see their season come to an end.

It's not going to be easy. Boston must win the game in Miami, where the Heat handled things easily in Games 1 and 2. Kevin Garnett, after an all-time performance in the C's Game 3 win on Saturday, had about as extreme a reversal as possible in Game 4, managing just seven points o 1-of-10 shooting while also contributing giant lapses away from the ball (hello, last play of regulation!) and on defense. Garnett isn't the only one who needs to tighten things up if the C's want to see their season continue at least through a Game 6 on Friday. The entire team needs to clean up its act following a whopping 18 turnovers that resulted in 28 Miami points in Game 4.

The Celts will also have to find within themselves the same kind of defensive intensity that got them through Game 3 holding Miami's star trio of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh to just 44 points. The three combined for 83 of the Heat's 98 points on Monday and although the C's played exceptionally well on the defensive end for a majority of the game, they couldn't slow down James, Wade and Bosh enough to prevent all three from providing at least one dagger in the waning minutes of regulation and in OT.

For the Celts, everyone will be available except Shaquille O'Neal, who has played about 12 minutes over the course of the past two games and simply can't go anymore. The Shaq experiment seemed swell over the first three months of the season, but it is clearly over now and probably has been ever since he big man's aborted, five-plus minute stint against the Detroit Pistons on April 3. Rajon Rondo, who was slightly limited by his elbow injury in Game 4 but not overwhelmingly so, said, "I'll be fine, I'm playing," when asked about his status at Tuesday's shootaround. And Delonte West, who shook off his shoulder injury to have another impressive showing in Game 4. West is averaging roughly 10 points and a couple 3-pointers per game in just under 25 minutes per game in the series. His play is as important as ever now, especially if Rondo's elbow renders him at all ineffective.

This is it. Win or go home. The Celtics, proud champions that they are, aren't likely to let that scenario unfold without a fight.

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Celtics Vs.Heat, Game 5: Boston Must Win To Keep NBA Playoff Hopes Alive

The Boston Celtics are currently trailing the Miami Heat three games to one in their second round series of the 2011 NBA Playoffs, making Wednesday night’s Game 5 a must-win to keep any sort of championship hopes alive.

The veteran Celtics still believe they can pull it off, too, despite the odds not exactly leaning in their favor.

“It’s not going to get any easier,” Ray Allen told NBA.com’s John Schuhmann, “but that’s what makes it that much more special if you can pull it off.”

Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, not surprisingly, agrees with Allen’s assessment.

“In our minds, there’s a lot of basketball to be played,” Rivers said after Game 4. “It’s going to be extremely hard, and if we’re not up for that then we’ll lose. But if we’re up for that, I think we can win three games.”

If the Celtics are able to correct what seem to be some pretty correctable mistakes — and execute in late-game situations — there’s certainly no doubt that Boston could force a Game 7 and go from there. Best yet, it seems even Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is worried about Wednesday night’s game.

“What we’re going to face on Wednesday will be our greatest challenge of this season,” Spoelstra told NBA.com. “It will be the toughest thing we have to do up to this point is to put away a champion.”

Be sure and tune in to TNT at 7 p.m. to watch the game as well as cheer on the Celtics so this season doesn’t end in Miami.

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Celtics Vs. Heat, Game 4: C's Lose Lead Late, Fall To Heat in OT, Trail Series 3-1

Needing a win to tie their Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Miami Heat on Monday night, the Celtics gave as much as they could, but it wasn't enough. The C's fell in overtime, 99-90, and now find themselves mired in a 3-1 hole headed back to Miami for Game 5 on Wednesday night.

The Celts, who led by four after three quarters, were outscored 29-17 in the fourth quarter and overtime by the Heat, who got an enormous performance out of LeBron James in taking control of the series. James finished with 35 points and 14 rebounds, and made multiple huge shots down the stretch to pace the Heat. Dwyane Wade added 28 points, including 12-pf-14 from the free throw line, and Chris Bosh, invisible in Game 3, pitched in 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Heat, who trailed for almost the entirety of the game until late in the fourth quarter.

Paul Pierce led the Celts with 27 points and eight rebounds, but was held more in check in the second half and missed a fallaway jumper from the left elbow that would have won it for the C's as time expired. Kevin Garnett, so dominant in Game 3, was lost offensively, managing just seven points on a miserable 1-of10 shooting.

The Celts were hardly limited by Rajon Rondo's injury. Rondo played 38 minutes and scored 10 points to go with five assists for the home team, but didn't seem truly limited by his elbow malady. He missed a big layup in the late stages and had to sit down for a couple minutes in overtime, but was mostly solid throughout regardless. The Heat got a top of the key jumper from James early in the extra period and took off from there, outscoring the Celts 12-4 in overtime. Over the first three minutes of OT, Miami oustcored the C's 6-0, while the Celts committed three turnovers during that stretch.

Ray Allen added 17 points for the Celtics, 10 of them in the third quarter, while Delonte West, questionable for the game himself thanks to a shoulder bruise suffered late in Game 3, chipped in 10 points and three steals in 30 minutes off the bench. The Celts, who will have to win three straight games, two of them in Miami, in order to advance to the Eastern Conference finals, will hit South Beach for Game 5 on Wednesday night.

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Celtics Vs. Heat: Rajon Rondo Will Start Game 4; Delonte West Will Play

According to Paul Flannery of WEEI.com, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo will start in tonight’s Game 4 matchup against the Miami Heat. Rondo had been classified by Celtics head coach Doc Rivers as a “game-time decision” during yesterday’s practice.

Rondo sustained a dislocated shoulder in Boston’s Game 3 victory over the Heat. He left the game in the third quarter after taking a hard fall on his left elbow and later returned.

Meanwhile, backup guard Delonte West is also active and will play in tonight’s game. West (shoulder) was also a game-time decision for Boston.

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Celtics Vs. Heat: Celts Look To Ties Series With Rondo, West, Shaq All Expected To Play In Game 4

Saturday night saw the Celtics jump in the old time machine in order to to beat the Miami Heat 97-81 in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series. Kevin Garnett looked like his MVP self from Minnesota (or at least like his 2008, first year in Boston self) in exploding for 28 points on 13-of-20 shooting and 18 rebounds while also silencing the softer than tissue Chris Bosh. Paul Pierce, lethargic in Games 1 and 2, also busted out with 27 points and the kind of ferocious defense on LeBron James that Celtics fans had become accustomed to seeing in previous postseasons. Even Shaquille O'Neal actually suited up and played although, he looked less like his former self and more like himself 50 years into the future. But we digress. The point is, the Celtics needed Game 3 and they needed a vintage, '08-'10 like showing to get it, so they went out and did just that.

Game 4, Monday night at 7 p.m. EDT, on TNT will require more of the same. The question is, will the C's, advanced in age as they are, be able to bring the same kind of old school fire, toughness and swagger on only one day's rest?

Of course, health is crucial. Rajon Rondo, who's horrific elbow injury in Game 3 seemed to suggest he'd be out of action for some time, returned just minutes later and single-handedly (no pun intended) fired up the Celts down the stretch. His chief backup, Delonte West, who has been immense in this series, particularly in Game 3, suffered a bruised shoulder and is also pretty banged up, but both are expected to play on Monday night after tests on Rondo's injury on Sunday all came back negative. Rondo, as Celtics fans know, is the most crucial cog in the Celtics offensive engine and his presence, along with the heart he showed in coming back so quickly on Saturday after such a gruesome seeming injury, should propel the C's, at least for as long as he's able to go.

James, who teamed with Dwyane Wade to torch the Celts in Games 1 and 2 down in Miami, was held to just 15 points in Game 3, which along with Bosh's virtual no-show (six points, four rebounds in 30 minutes) gave the Heat's Big Three just 44 points total in the loss, their lowest combined total all season. The Celtics would be wise to devote as much energy on the defensive end to getting another game like that out of Wade, James and Bosh if they want to go back to South Beach for Wednesday's Game 5 locked up at 2-2 instead of down 3-1.

On a side note, both Garnett and Rondo were named to the NBA's All-Defensive Team on Monday. Rondo finished with the second most votes of anyone named to the team with 16 first-team votes and seven second-team votes, trailing only Orlando's Dwight Howard. Garnett, James and the Lakers Kobe Bryant were the other three players voted to the first team.

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Celtics Vs. Heat, Game 4: Will Rajon Rondo Play?

It's become the question of the day: will Rajon Rondo play in Monday night's Game 4 against the Miami Heat? For now, he's still just a game-time decision. 

The Boston Celtics' point guard suffered a dislocated elbow in the third quarter of Game 3, but returned to action after a brief trip to the locker room 

Doc Rivers was optimistic on Sunday learning after Rondo's MRI and CAT scan came back negative, saying, "Right now, we're going to go with, ‘They're all playing.'" More good news for Celtics fans: Rondo participated in Monday morning's shootaround, which is typically a good sign he'll try to give it a go in Game 4. 

Fellow point guard Carlos Arroyo said that he thinks Rondo is ready. "He's a warrior," Arroyo said. "He demonstrated that last game. We were all surprised in the fact that he came back after that injury. I know he's ready. He wants to play. He wants to win."

Delonte West and Shaquille O'Neal were also practicing in the shootaround.

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Celtics Vs. Heat, Game 3: After Three Days Off, C's Finally Get Their Chance To Get Back In Series

It seems odd to even imagine such a scenario, but Celtics fans may well be bracing themselves for a major shakeup. A loss to the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the two teams Eastern Conference semifinal series could be the precursor for the end of the Big Three era.

Think about it. It's not so far-fetched. Ray Allen and coach Doc Rivers are on one-year deals. Kevin Garnett's contract expires after the 2011-2012 season. Paul Pierce is the only member of the troika signed up beyond next season. And with the NBA's current uncertainty pertaining to its labor situation and a lockout looming, it may be a long time, if ever, before we see this Big Three and their coach together again. 

But that's a worst case scenario. The best case scenario is that the C's, back in Boston after two losses in Miami and well-rested following a three-day break, take care of business in Game 3 at TD Garden on Saturday night at 8 p.m. EDT, on ABC and get back in the series. The Celtics, as currently comprised, have never trailed a best-of-7 series 2-0, but if you ask Pierce, he doesn't mind.

"We still feel like it's going to be a seven-game series," Pierce said. "I like our chances, especially with our backs against the wall."

The C's backs aren't quite against the wall yet, but they will be with a loss on Saturday night. The odds are in their favor to avoid such a fate, however, with the team's current backbone (Garnett, Pierce, Allen, Rivers and Rajon Rondo) 29-7 at TD Garden in the playoffs. Furthermore, thanks to the three-day respite, all of the C's nagging injuries, including the ones that have held Shaquille O'Neal to just over five minutes of game action since Feb. 1, seem to have subsided and everyone, even Shaq (we think), is expected to play on Saturday night.

Regardless of whether or not Shaq makes his return, the Celtics will have to clamp down on defense if they want to get in the win column of this series. Miami has averaged over 100 points in its two wins thus far and the Celtics have looked slow defensively, both in one-on-one situations and and when rotating to pick up open jump shooters. A stronger defensive effort as well as more consistency from Garnett and Rondo on the offensive end are crucial to the C's getting back in the series. 

"We've gotta get the next game," Garnett told ESPN Boston. "It's all-in. This is it. I've got two pocket kings and I'm all in."

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Celtics Vs. Heat: Doc Rivers Says All Hands, Including Shaq, On Deck

Hope you're sitting down, Celtics fans. We have some big news for you.

Shaquille O'Neal might play in Saturday night's Game 3 of the C's Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Heat at TD Garden.

Imagine that.

Prior to Friday's short practice, coach Doc Rivers told ESPN Boston that he thought the C's, "need to go live and go pretty hard. And I think Shaq needs it, so it will be great for him."

Ah, but we wouldn't miss the caveat. Not when Shaq has been in "maybe tomorrow" mode for well over three months now. So of course, after saying on Thursday that he expected "every single guy, including Shaq, to play," on Saturday, Rivers said on Friday, "I can't guarantee anything because of practice and the next day, but I am very confident he'll play."

Well past the point of ludicrous, the daily Shaq updates are now not only comical but as predictable as the sun rising. One has to feel for Rivers, who probably wishes he didn't have to say the same thing every day regarding his erstwhile big man. The bottom line is, until Shaq is actually in uniform and on the floor during a game, there is no reason whatsoever to believe he will play.

In other injury news, Paul Pierce said he feels good after a few days of work on his Achilles strain suffered in Game 2 on Tuesday night and intimated to the fine ESPN Boston folks that he expects to have an impact on Saturday night's proceedings.

"Paul Pierce being in the game in the fourth quarter is always going to help the Celtics," said the captain, exercising his third-person reference muscles. "And healthy."

Elsewhere, Rivers pointed out that all of the minor injuries suffered by various Celts in Game 2 are just that, minor. Ray Allen (chest) Rajon Rondo (back) and Jermaine O'Neal (back) all look to be good to go for Game 3.

Having everyone healthy, of course, is a big deal. But being healthy and performing out on the floor are two different things. Kevin Garnett, not anywhere near the injury report, will have to improve on shooting 11-of-29 over the series first two games. Pierce (11-of-25 in Games 1 and 2) must not only score more than 16 points per game but get rolling earlier in the action than he has in the first two games. Rondo, much better in Game 2 than in Game 1, has to dominate his matchup with the Heat's point guard duo of Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers.

And, perhaps most importantly, the Celts have to find a way to at least slow down LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, who took turns running the C's out of the gym in the first two games and are averaging 61.5 PPG. The Heat shot 47 percent from the floor in Game 1 and 45 percent in Game 2 and are averaging 100.5 points in the two games. That's quite a far cry from the league-leading 91.1 points per game allowed by the Celts D in the regular season. Getting better, more consistent performances from Garnett, Pierce and Rondo will help immensely. But the Celts bearing down on the defensive end and more closely resembling the defensive juggernaut of not only this past season, but the past four seasons, will dictate whether or not they can get back in this series.

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NBA Playoffs 2011, Celtics Vs. Heat: C's Look To Bounce Back In Game 2

Not quite 48 hours later, Paul Pierce has a shot a redemption.

It's not like his ejection from Game 1 of the Celts' Eastern Conference Semifinal Series against the Heat on Sunday cost the C's the game. They were going down anyway, thanks to a slow start, a couple of subpar games from Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo and the otherworldly play of Dwayne Wade combined the with the game of Heat reserve James Jones's life. But to allow himself to even be near the situation he was in at the seven-minute mark of the fourth quarter, when he got his second technical foul in less than a minute and was tossed by trigger-happy official Ed Molloy was plain irresponsible and unacceptable. The calls against both Pierce and Jones and wade that led to the ejection may have been overblown, but Pierce, his team's captain, an NBA champion and Finals MVP, has to know better.

"I was more disappointed in letting my teammates down," Pierce told reporters at practice on Monday. "I'm too important to this team to be putting myself in those situations."

It sounds like Pierce gets it. The Celts had better hope so if they want to bounce back and steal Game 2 on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. EDT, on TNT. After beating the Heat the first three times the two teams met this season, Boston has now lost the last two and hardly wants to return home for Saturday's Game 3 down 2-0.

In addition to getting a more focused, upright performance from Pierce on Tuesday night, the Celts will need much more from Garnett and Rondo than they got in Game 1. Rondo picked up two fouls in the game's opening minutes and three in the first quarter, limiting him to six minutes in the first half which never allowed him to get on track. He finished with a pedestrian eight points and seven assists, numbers that msut improve going forward, especially given that the Heat counter with the less than impressive duo of Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers at the point.

As for Garnett, he followed up his stellar performance in the first round against the Knicks with an inexplicable no-show in Game 1. In 37 minutes, he took only nine shots, missing six of them, and finishing with a non-impactful six points and eight boards. Garnett must do more on the offensive end if the C's are going to win, especially against Miami's Chris Bosh, who not only is mediocre defensively but looked uncomfortable bordering on scared of the stage and magnitude of the matchup in Game 1.

On defense, the C's will live with the numbers put up by LeBron James on Sunday (22 points, six rebounds, five assists) but must contain Wade more effectively on Tuesday night. Wade exploded for 38 points on 14-of-21 shooting in Game 1, taking charge of the Heat's offense in the early going and never letting up. Jones's 25 points on 5-of-7 from long range and a perfect 10-of-10 from the free throw line was unexpected to say the least, especially given his season average of 5.9 points per game, and unlikely to happen again. But it proved that even though the Heat had one of the worst benches in the league statistically during the regular season, anyone can come out of nowhere and provide a jolt and the Celtics subsequently must be wary.

Finally, despite looking "phenomenal" in Monday's practice according to coach Doc Rivers, Shaquille O'Neal is doubtful for Game 2. But fear not, Celtics fans - Shaq is "likely to play in Game 3. Hallelujah.

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2011 NBA Playoffs: Rivers Says Shaq Close To A Return. Again.

We hope you're sitting down, Celtics fans. Some big news has broken. Shaquille O'Neal might play at some point in the next couple of games in the C's Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Miami Heat. Stop the presses.

"He's getting very close," said Celts coach Doc Rivers to ESPN Boston of his MIA big man prior to his team's 99-90, Game 1 loss to the Heat. "Honestly, we had to make a decision today so that's better than what we've had to do in the past. He's getting close. Maybe next game. If not, I would say for sure game 3."

Or maybe Game 4. Or next week. Or the next series. Or next year. Or in 2017. No disrespect to Rivers, whose integrity goes pretty much unmatched among NBA coaches, but the daily updates on Shaq's condition, usually peppered with ambiguous, not-quite timetables regarding his possible return to action, have long since become a joke. Shaq may well suit up and play in Game 2 on Tuesday night or in Game 3 back in Boston on Saturday. But Rivers, or Danny Ainge or whomever have been quoted as saying that O'Neal is "close" or "might be back soon" or what have you so many times over the past three months only to have nothing actually happen, they may as well just ignore the questions and say nothing on the topic until Shaq actually does make his long-awaited return to game action.

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2011 NBA Playoffs, Heat 99, Celtics 90: Wade, Jones Lead Heat Past Celts In Tough, Chippy Game 1

In a strange game full of wild twists and turns, the Celtics fell to the Miami Heat, 99-90 in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series. Dwayne Wade paced the Heat with 38 points on 14-of-21 shooting while reserve forward James Jones came off the bench to hit five of seven 3-pointers and finishing with a career-high 25 points. The Celtics shot just 42.7 percent from the floor and looked rusty from their week off, falling behind by as many as 19 in the first half.

Ray Allen led the way for the C's with another stellar shooting performance, making 9-of-13 shots (including 5-of-8 from long range) and finishing with 25 points. Allen didn't get much help on the offensive end with Paul Pierce scoring 19 and Delonte West contributing 10 off the bench. Pierce, who had four turnovers but just two points in the first half, finally got going in the third quarter, but was ejected at the seven minute mark of the fourth quarter after getting called for two technical fouls in a 59 second span, the second of which was questionable at best.

The Celts were in a big hole at halftime after a lackluster first half which saw them shoot just 36 percent and trail by 15 at the break. Rajon Rondo never got going after picking up three fouls and playing just six minutes in the first half. He would finish with eight points, seven assists and seven rebounds. Meanwhile, Wade shot 9-of-11 in the first half, good for 23 of his 38 points, while Jones drilled four of his 3-pointers to lead the Heat's charge. LeBron James finished with 22 points, six boards, five rebounds, two blocks and two steals, but did it all mostly quietly, thanks in no small part to Wade's huge performance.

Boston managed to keep the third leg of the Heat's Big Three, Chris Bosh, off target, holding him to just seven points on 3-of-10 shooting. But Kevin Garnett couldn't take advantage, managing just six points and eight rebounds. Garnett was off ll afternoon, missing six of nine shots, most of them wide open jumpers. The Heat played very tight defense on the C's throughout, but there were still plenty of open looks for the visitors. They just couldn't take advantage.

Things got pretty chippy in the fourth quarter, with Pierce's ejection following some close talking and bumping with both Jones and Wade the apex of the animosity. But the Celtics were still able to hang around despite his absence, Garnett and Rondo's subpar games and Wade's heroics. In other words, it could have been a lot worse for the C's, something that should bode well for them headed into Game 2 on Tuesday night in Miami.

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NBA Playoffs 2011, Celtics Vs. Heat: After A Season Of Waiting, Game 1 Finally Here For Celts and Heat

After a week of waiting - or perhaps a full season's worth - the Celtics and Heat will finally lock horns in the NBA Playoffs on Sunday afternoon, when they play game 1 of their best-of-seven, Eastern Conference Semifinal series in Miami at 3:30 p.m. EDT, on ABC. About the only surprising aspect of the matchup is that it comes a round sooner than most people, likely including the two teams themselves, would have predicted.

The Celts have been here before, as recently as last season, when they played the Cleveland Cavaliers without the benefit of home-court advantage in the same round, yet dispatched the Cavs and LeBron James in six games en route to the Finals. It was the second time a James-led team failed against the C's in the playoffs and was seen as one reason James chose to bolt Cleveland in favor of South Beach. The C's have won 18 of 21 against the Heat and not only bounced James from last year's postseason, they gave Dwayne Wade the boot too, in the first round.

For the C's, the key to this series seems simple enough: slow down one or more of Miami's Big Three just enough to make one of the Heat's bit players have to step up. The Heat are dangerously thin beyond the troika of James, Wade and Chris Bosh and obviously have had their most success this season when all three are humming at once. The league's better teams seemed to understand this as the Heat were a pedestrian 18-19 against opponents with records above .500 during the regular season. They managed to beat the Celts just once in four tries and it came in the season's final week, a 100-77 beatdown that came while Boston was in complete, mail-it-in mode. The other three meetings were Celts victories, on opening night in Boston, a couple weeks later in Miami and then on a Sunday afternoon in February back at TD Garden.

In the position battles, the one spot where the C's have a distinct advantage is at point guard. Rajon Rondo, who dominated in the first round against the Knicks, averaged 7.5 points and 12 assists in the four regular season games against the Heat, and that includes the seven-point, five assist stinkbomb he unleashed in the April 10, loss. He posted 43 assists in the three Boston wins, spearheading the Celts offense all three times and Celtics fans all know what kind of havoc their team wreaks when Rondo is on his game. Elsewhere, Ray Allen may well be matched up with Wade, but it barely hindered him during the season. Allen scored 20.3 points per game against the Heat this year, a Celts team high which includes a middling 13 in the late season loss. He's hot at the right time too, carrying a 22 PPG average for this postseason into the series, a number that includes his blistering, 32-point outburst in Game 3 against the Knicks, a night on which he drilled 8-of-11 from 3-point range.

Of course, the Celts will have their hands full with James and Wade. Paul Pierce will spend as lot of time following LeBron while Jeff Green will also get several cracks at him. One of the more pertinent reasons the C's traded for Green in the first place had to do with his ability at 6-9 with great quickness and athletic ability, to potentially stay with James on defense. Down low, it will be up to defensive maven Kevin Garnett to slow up Bosh, who had three double-doubles in the Heat's first round win over Philadelphia. Miami went 24-7 during the season when Bosh posted a double-double. Bosh averaged 15 points per game against the C's this year, almost four fewer than his season average.

Not surprisingly, Celts center Shaquille O'Neal traveled with the team to South Beach and the C's hope to have him back at some point during the series. In other news, the earth is round and the sky is blue. In all seriousness though, Sunday's Game 1 is obviously enormous for both teams, and not just for the conventional reasons. The Celtics are a lofty 51-5 in best-of-seven series in which they've won Game 1 and 7-0 in the Big Three era.

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