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Celtics Looking to Flip the Switch as They Host Miami in Game 1

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Miami Heat (0-0) at Boston Celtics (0-0)
Saturday, April 17
8:00 PM ET
Round 1 Game 1
ESPN, CSN-NE, Sun Sports
Radio: WEEI, WINZ, ESPN Radio
TD Garden

Referees: Joe DeRosa, Dick Bavetta, Ed Malloy

Game Thread l Chat

This series will be about experience vs momentum. The Heat come into the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the league, having won 16 of their last 20 games. The Celtics have been inconsistent and have absolutely no momentum coming into the playoffs. The question will be whether the experience of the Celtics can overcome the momentum of the Heat.

Both teams have a mix of young players and aging players. The Heat have the series' best player in Dwyane Wade. Both teams are mostly healthy. Rondo missed practice on Friday due to the flu that has also hit Tony Allen and Glen Davis. All 3 are expected to play but after spending the day before throwing up and getting intravenous fluids, it's not certain how affective Rondo will be. Both teams know they have to win with defense. The Heat have been doing it over their last 20 games while the Celtics are still talking about it. If the Celtics want to win this series, they are going to have to do a lot more than talk about playing defense.

The Heat's bench has been playing very well, especially Udonis Haslem and Dorell Wright. The Celtics bench has been mostly inconsistent. Sheed and Quisy have both been disappointments. Nate has been up and down. Michael Finley has been a great pick up for them. The Celtics will need to get consistent play from their bench to match that of the Heat.

The Heat have one of the youngest coaches in the league in Erik Spoelstra. This is Spoelstra's 2nd season as head coach but in 7 seasons as an assistant for Miami, he was in charge of developing the game plan for playing each opponent and is known for his game preparation and attention to detail. Doc is in his 10th season as a head coach and has led his team to a championship. Coaching may play a role in this series before it is over.

The Celtics have been talking about being built for the playoffs and stepping it up once the playoffs arrived. It is time to put up or shut up. Or as Ernie, Kenny and Charles so aptly put it, win or go home.
ProbableStarting Matchups
Point Guard
Rajon Rondo 13.7 PPG 9.8 APG 2.3 SPG
Carlos Arroyo 6.1 PPG 3.1 APG 0.5 SPG

Shooting Guard
Ray Allen 16.3 PPG 2.6 APG .363 3P%
Dwyane Wade 26.6 PPG 6.5 APG .300 3P%

Small Forward
Paul Pierce 18.3 PPG 4.4 RPG 3.1 APG
Quintin Richardson 8.9 PPG 4.9 RPG 1.2 APG

Power Forward
Kevin Garnett 14.3 PPG 7.3 RPG 0.8 BPG
Michael Beasley 14.8 PPG 6.4 RPG 0.6 BPG

Kendrick Perkins 10.1 PPG 7.6 RPG 1.7 BPG
Jermaine O'Neal 13.6 PPG 6.9 RPG 1.4 BPG

Key Matchups
Ray Allen vs Dwyane Wade
Wade is playing the best ball of his career and will be a tough match up for Ray. He is a threat to drive to the hoop, shoot from the perimeter and is also tough on defense. We could see a switch on defense with Rondo guarding Wade and Ray on the easier to guard Arroyo. Or we may even see Pierce switch to guard Wade at times. Or Doc may even resort to a double team to slow him down. If Wade covers Ray, the Celtics need to continue to run Ray off of multiple screens to make Wade really work hard on the defensive end. Whatever they do, one of the keys to this game is to slow down Dwyane Wade.

Rajon Rondo vs Carlos Arroyo
We have seen all season that as Rondo goes so go the Celtics. Rajon needs to be aggressive on both ends of the court. He also needs to make sure that the team is moving the ball and making the extra pass and running the offense. The biggest weakness in the Heat defense is at the PG spot. Teams with strong PG's have given the Heat problems this season and the Celtics need to exploit this. Rondo left practice to go to the hospital for intravenous fluids after suffering from the night before and all day. The Celtics need him to be at his best for this series. Hopefully he will feel better for this game.

Honorable Mention
Kevin Garnett vs Michael Beasley
Beasley is a young and athletic and is capable of getting to the hoop if the defense gives him an opening and can also hit the jumper. Hopefully KG will be up for the task defensively as Beasley can be a handful to guard. Beasley is going to be out to prove himself in these playoffs and KG will need to play like the pre-injury KG in order to keep him from doing so.

Players to Watch

Paul Pierce says he finally has shaken all the nagging injuries that were bothering him for most of the second half. His play in the last few games bears that out. The Captain needs to play well and be aggressive, particularly taking the ball to the basket for the Celtics to be successful.

Dwyane Wade carries his team most nights. They depend on him to lead the team and if the Celtics can slow him down, they have a good chance to win this series.

Weak Links

The Heat have a strong bench with Udonis Haslem in particular playing very well. Sheed has been a disappointment all season but has maintained that he would step it up for the playoffs. It remains to be seen if he can step up his game after coasting all season.

O'Neal's minutes have been limited and he has been once again battling ankle injuries. He doesn't like playing physical centers and is quick to lose his cool as we saw when Bill Walker played him physically in the preseason. It's also possible that O'Neal's creaky ankle can flare up again as well.

Keys to the Game
Defense The Celtics won their championship because of their tough team defense. However, we haven't seen nearly enough of it this season. The Heat have taken a page out of the Celtics book and have been playing very tough defense down the stretch. Defense is particularly important in the playoffs and the Celtics must pick up their defensive intensity if they want to win this series.

Rebound Rebounding also becomes more important in the playoffs. The Celtics need to crash the boards to prevent the Heat from getting second chance baskets and also to limit their fast break opportunities. The Celtics have been one of the worst rebounding teams in the league this season. Much of rebounding is effort and the Celtics must put out a bigger effort to beat Miami to rebounds.

Run the Offense
When the Celtics move the ball, make the extra pass and find the open man, the offense is on track. They have to avoid the do it myself mentality that they have reverted to in many games this season. They have to make up their minds to win as a team. It's time to bring ubuntu back.

Play 48 Minutes
The Celtics have to come out strong and keep the pressure on throughout the game. They have become famous for their second half let downs and lost leads this season. The Celtics can not let up even if they have a big lead because the Heat will take advantage of any let up.

Slow Down D Wade - Wade has averaged 33.7 points, 8.7 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and 1.3 blocks against the Celtics this season. The Celtics were able to beat them in all 3 meetings but they haven't played each other since February and since that time, Wade's supporting cast has upped their games and that makes it tough to beat them if they let Wade dominate.

Home Court
On fan appreciation night, Paul Pierce addressed the crowd and promised that the Celtics would defend their home court in the playoffs. For some reason, they have played better on the road than at home. They have to keep their focus at home and make teams fear playing them there again.

Honorable Mention
Dick Bavetta