Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics continue their pursuit of an 18th championship as they face the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals on Monday night in South Beach.
Event: Celtics (8-5) vs. Heat (8-3) - NBA Playoffs 2012, Eastern Conference Finals, Game 1.
Date/Time: Monday, May 28, 2012 - 8:30 p.m. EST
Location: AmericanAirlines Arena (Capacity: 19,600), Miami, FL.
Broadcast Info: Monday night's game between the Celtics and Heat will be televised nationally on ESPN. In addition, the game can be heard locally on the radio on the WEEI Sports Radio Network (93.7 FM/850 AM).
Odds: Miami is an 8 1/2-point favorite over Boston on Monday night (per Bovada).
Celtics Roster 2011-2012: Ray Allen, Brandon Bass, Avery Bradley, Marquis Daniels, Keyon Dooling, Kevin Garnett, Ryan Hollins, JaJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore, Sasha Pavlovic, Paul Pierce, Mickael Pietrus, Rajon Rondo, Greg Stiemsma, Sean Williams. Head Coach: Doc Rivers.
Heat Roster 2011-2012: Joel Anthony, Shane Battier, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, Eddy Curry, Terrel Harris, Udonis Haslem, Juwan Howard, LeBron James, James Jones, Mike Miller, Dexter Pittman, Ronny Turiaf, Dwyane Wade. Head Coach: Erik Spoelstra.
Injury Report: Boston - Paul Pierce (knee), Ray Allen (ankle), Avery Bradley (shoulder - out for season). Miami - Chris Bosh (abdominal injury).
Regular Season Series: Boston won the regular-season series, 3-1. Miami won the first game against Boston, 115-107, but the Celtics would respond with three straight wins against the Heat, all in the month of April. Boston posted a statement 91-72 win on April 1 and closed out the season series with a 115-107 win and a 78-66 win later in the month.
Celtics In First Two Rounds: Boston defeated the Atlanta Hawks in six games in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals and survived a seven-game series against the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Heat In First Two Rounds: Miami defeated the New York Knicks in five games in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals before eliminating the Indiana Pacers in six games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Playoff Stats: Paul Pierce is Boston's leading scorer this postseason, averaging 19.3 points. Kevin Garnett (19.2 PPG) leads the team in rebounding (10.8 RPG) and blocks (1.5 BPG). Rajon Rondo leads the team in assists (12.3 APG) and steals (2.7 SPG).
LeBron James leads the Heat in scoring, averaging 29.0 points in 11 games, and also leads the team in rebounding (8.7 RPG), assists (5.9 APG) and steals (2.5 SPG). Dwyane Wade averages 23.8 points and leads the team in blocks this postseason, averaging 1.3 swats.
Storyline: Two rounds down, two to go. Boston and Miami will meet once again, this time for a chance to represent the Eastern Conference in the 2012 NBA Finals. Both teams are coming off lengthy second-round series, with the Celtics beating the 76ers in seven games and the Heat topping the Pacers in six games. Miami wrapped up its series last Thursday while Boston finished on Saturday, giving the weary Celtics little rest, which may come back to bite them. While both sides have their injuries, it seems as if Miami is in much better shape heading into Game 1, which most expect the Heat will win. However, the Celtics live to prove everyone wrong, and you can never count them out. It will be interesting to see how the lengthy semifinal series might hinder both teams early in the series, specifically on Monday night.
Players To Watch: Ever heard of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade? Yeah, well, they are always worthy of your attention. Boston's, too. The Celtics will need to focus all of their defensive energy on the Heat's dynamic duo. Meanwhile, for the Celtics, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo will have to bear the brunt of the scoring load with the nagging injuries of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. Boston will need players to step up on its bench, such as Mickael Pietrus and Keyon Dooling.
Prediction: All signs point to Miami, which has a little extra rest, winning the first game of the series, possibly in convincing fashion. Final Score: Heat 104, Celtics 86.