I won't get too much into the man-to-man matchups (we'll have a game preview post coming for that later) but the cliff notes version is this: O'Neal/Anthony is a bit of a wash. KG/Bosh can go either way depending on the night. Ray/Wade at this point in their careers is advantage Heat. And of course Pavlovic/LeBron is, ...well, embarrassing (and it doesn't get a whole lot better with Daniels in there).
So as usual, the burden falls on Rajon Rondo to be the difference. He needs to own his matchup and dominate like he did against the Knicks in game one. But it won't exactly be a cakewalk.
The other important addition is rookie point guard Norris Cole, who split duties with Mario Chalmers in the opener. That’s a major upgrade in terms of youth and athleticism from Mike Bibby, who had major problems with Rajon Rondo last season.
In addition, the Heat do a good job of helping on defense with their insane athletes which discourages Rondo's forays to the rim.
With that said, when Rondo is on his game he can pick apart any defense and find the smallest sliver of an opening to either get off a layup or squeeze in an assist. Ray can wear down Wade when he's running him through lots of picks and catching the ball right at the letters for an open look. If Bosh cheats to help in the paint, Kevin Garnett (and Brandon Bass) can make him pay by hitting that elbow jumper.
But it all gets set up by Rondo and he has to be the quarterback. Driving the lane is like a QB selling the play action. He has to feint a pass one way (like looking off the safety) then deliver the actual pass with pinpoint accuracy. He has to be in sync with Allen's "route running" so that he releases the ball even before Ray has come out of the pile of picks and screens. At his best Rondo is Tom Brady.
That may be appropriate as well, since the Celtics owned LeBron like the Pats owned Peyton Manning for years. But one year he proved he could get over the hump and win the title for himself. Last year the Heat nearly did the same. There's that doubt now. Can we beat the Heat?
Sure we can, it just will take a bigtime effort from our little quarterback.