I'm not saying this will be a sure match-up because either team could be eliminated before they face each other (although that's unlikey). But do the Celtics have a better chance than they did last year despite Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis taking their talents to southbeach?
I believe they do. In addition to the Celtics getting one of the best and charismatic bench players of the last 5 seasons in Jason Terry, they've also managed to get younger and faster with Courtney Lee, as well as Jeff Green, and Chris Wilcox who will both be coming off of season-ending injuries.
For the 2011-2012 post-season I saw a trend with the opponents that Miami faced: All of Miami's opponents had a Small Forward as their leading scorer for the regular season. Carmelo Anthony for the Knicks, Danny Granger for the Pacers, Paul Pierce for the Celtics, and Kevin Durant for the Thunder. Having a Small Forward as your leading scorer seems to play into Miami's hand since LeBron James and Shane Battier have been known to lock-up Small Forwards.
Carmelo Anthony, averaged 28 points against the Heat in the playoffs. This isn't bad at all however when you consider how his shooting percentages dipped, you can see the impact that Battier/James had on Anthony. During the regular season Carmelo averaged 25 points, shooting .456% from the field and .322% from 3-point range in 36 minutes of playing time. During the playoffs against the Heat, Anthony shot just 42% from the field and 22% from 3-point range in 41 minutes.
Danny Granger averaged 18 points on 41% shooting from the field and 38% from 3-point range in 33 minutes during the regular season. In the playoffs against the Heat, Granger averaged 13 points on 37% from the field and 36% from 3-point range in 36 minutes of playing time.
Paul Pierce averaged 19 points on 44% from the field and 37% from 3-point range in 34 minutes of playing time during the regular season. Against the Heat during the playoffs, Pierce averaged 18 points on 34% from the field and 26% from 3-point range, in 40 minutes of playing time.
Kevin Durant seemed to be the only person that could withstand LeBron James and Shane Battier. All of his offensive stats during the Finals surpassed his stats during the regular season but the Thunder still only managed to win 1 game against the Heat.
I believe that had a lot to do with the lack of scoring in the front court (you could also blame it on lack of Finals experience but Derek Fisher is a good vocal leader with 5 rings). Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins have not been known to light up the scoreboard on a nightly basis. When I look at the only team to beat the Heat in the playoffs, (The Dallas Maverkicks) Dirk Nowitzki happened to be their leading scorer, while the second leading scorer (Jason Terry) came off the bench. Nowitzki demanded double-teams from the Heat, leaving 3-point shooters like Terry, Barea, Stevenson, and Kidd wide open. I believe a strong front court is key because that PF and C position are the only 2 positions where Lebron has difficulty guarding all-stars. Garnett has the ability to shoot over LeBron as he has shown in the Eastern Conference Finals. Another reason why I feel the Celtics have a better shot is because the leading scorer doesn't have to necessarily be Paul Pierce. If LeBron and Battier lock-down Pierce, Rajon Rondo has already shown he can take the scoring reigns. And due to the new-found depth of the Celtic back court, he doesn't have to play 45 minutes a game. Also due to the back court, if Rondo doesn't have the ability to score in bunches, Terry can pick up the offensive slack, and Green can give Pierce valuable resting minutes.
What are your thoughts? Can the Celtics beat the Heat next season? Does my assement have some truth to it or not? What do you believe the keys to beating the Heat are?
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