The Miami Heat and Boston Celtics are facing off in the playoffs for the 3rd straight year and for the 5th time in the last 7 seasons, one of these great franchises will represent the east in the NBA finals. This series features a plethora of familiar match ups, duels and rivalries that have put forth some of the most exciting and emotionally thrilling basketball in the eastern conference.
With 6 future 1st ballot Hall of Famers from both teams and a tripe double machine that is knocking on the door, the Heat are preparing to deliver one final blow to what many believe will be the last representation of the Celtic's Big 3 era. While the Paul Pierce and LeBron James matchup might garner the most attention, given their historic battles, another matchup hangs in the balance that swings heavily in the Heat's favor and could serve as the pivotal difference in this series.
The Celtics losing Avery Bradley was devastating to their perimeter defensive capabilities and subsequently put them in an awkward position. Ray Allen was forced back into the starting lineup but given his age and continuous injury problems, the Celtics can ill-afford to have him guarding the NBA's best perimeter players.
Here comes Dwyane Wade. Wade is averaging 33 points over his last 3 games and has suddenly reemerged as the "Flash" that we love and expect. The Celtics are faced with a tremendous quandary. Do they give Ray Allen the defensive assignment and risk him being fatigued, plagued by foul trouble or even injured? Do they bench Allen and perhaps start Mickael Pietrus or Sasha Pavlovic at the 2 spot? Doc Rivers will surely address this issue in an assortment of ways, putting multiple defenders on Wade and probably playing a considerable amount of zone in this series.
The facts still remain. The Indiana Pacers are better suited to defending Dwyane Wade and even LeBron James for that matter. The Pacers are younger, bigger, stronger, quicker and have a deeper bench. LeBron James will certainly continue to present match up problems and will exploit the Celtics defense, but as the current roster stands, Dwyane Wade looks fully equipped and prone to have a big series.
"Inevitable. It's the matchup the game of basketball wants. Obviously, with the Chicago Bulls being out, this is the biggest matchup the Eastern Conference can have. So we accept the challenge and we look forward to the series. Ain't no story lines, no excuses. ... Last year, yeah, we beat them in five, but man, it was like a nine-game series, it felt like." - Wade said
The stage is set for this years eastern conference finals:
"I wouldn't have it no other way, personally. It's really the only team I'm accustomed to playing in the playoffs. No matter where I go, I find a way to play Boston. ... We've got a lot of history." - James said