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And It Begins: Celtics and Heat Clash in South Beach

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Boston Celtics (4-0)/(0-0) at Miami Heat (4-1)/(0-0)
Sunday, May 1
3:30 PM ET
Playoff Game #5 Road Game #3
American Airlines Arena
Referees: Dan Crawford, Derrick Collins, Ed Malloy

Game Thread
l Chat

This is the matchup that everyone assumed would happen from the opening night of the regular season when they faced each other. There are so many sub-plots in this series and there is sure to be plenty of drama. The Celtics won 3 of 4 from the Heat in the regular season, losing only their last game when the Celtics were in the midst of their end of the year mini-slump.

For LeBron James, this has to be personal. First of all, he hasn't been able to get past the Celtics in the playoffs since the 2007-08 season. The Celtics embarrassed LeBron's Cavs in last year's playoffs as they were expected to steamroll through the playoffs but came up short as LeBron put in sub-par performances due to either his boo-boo elbow or his mother's indiscretions, depending on who you believe.

The Celtics bench, in spite of being loaded, played poorly against the Knicks. In 3 of the 4 games, Doc was forced to play the starters more minutes because the bench was giving up leads and not playing well. In the 4th game, the bench finally started to play well and even increased the lead when they were in. The Celtics will need strong play from Big Baby, Jeff Green and Delonte especially. Hopefully a few good days of practice will help them play up to their capabilities. Shaq's status is still up in the air as is the status of both Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller for the Heat.

It will be important for the Celtics to get off to a strong start in this game and in the series. They need to get the first punch in and not let up. They need to keep the Heat on their heels and not allow them to gain confidence in this series.
Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard
Rajon Rondo 19.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 12.0 APG 1.0 SPG
Mike Bibby 3.2 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.0 SPG
Shooting Guard
Ray Allen 22.0 PPG, 2.3 APG, .654 3P%
Dwyane Wade 22.2 PPG, 5.2 APG, .200 3P%
Small Forward
Paul Pierce 22.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.5 APG
LeBron James 24.2 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 6.2 APG
Power Forward
Kevin Garnett 15.5 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 0.8 BPG
Chris Bosh 19.8 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 1.2 BPG
Jermaine O'Neal 5.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.5 BPG
Zydrunas Ilgauskas 5.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 0.4 BPG
Boston Bench Mob
Jeff Green
Glen Davis
Delonte West
Nenad Krstic
Carlos Arroyo
Avery Bradley
Sasha Pavlovic
Troy Murphy
Von Wafer
Shaquille O'Neal (calf/old age/Danny's smokescreen) day to day
Miami's Reserves
Mario Chalmers
Juwan Howard
Eddie House
Jamaal Magloire
Dexter Pittman
James Jones
Eric Dampier
Joel Anthony
Udonis Haslem (foot) day to day
Mike Miller (thumb) day to day
Key Matchups
In this series, every matchup is key. Any player who under performs and give the team a mismatch could swing it either way. Let's take a look at each matchup.
Point Guard
Rajon Rondo vs Mike Bibby
It's pretty obvious to anyone who has followed the Celtics at all that as Rondo goes, so go the Celtics. It's also obvious to anyone who has watched the Heat that they don't have an answer for him when he is on his game. Rondo was back to early season form in round 1 and hopefully will continue to play well in this series. His speed and his aggressiveness will be key to this series. In game 5 of the Philly series the Heat seemed to realize that Mario Chalmers was a better option for them as they started Chalmers in the second half and played Bibby sparingly. It will be interesting to see if they go with Chalmers over Bibby in this series as well.
Advantage: Celtics
Shooting Guard
Ray Allen vs Dwyane Wade
Ray shot a blistering 65% from beyond the arc in the first round. Of course, he won't find himself wide open quite as often against Miami as he did against the Knicks. Wade, along with James and probably everyone on the team will take their turn trying to corral Rondo and so Ray may end up with Bibby or Chalmers on him, in which case he would have an easier time. Wade has been playing well, but not shooting well from outside. We can only hope that this will continue in this round.
Advantage: Even

Small Forward
Paul Pierce vs LeBron James
Paul Pierce goes from having to guard Carmelo Anthony to having to guard LeBron James. He takes these matchups personally and his defense can't be overlooked. The more effort he has to spend on the defensive end, the less effective he tends to be on the offensive end. The Celtics won't stop LeBron but they can hope to make it difficult for him and make him have to work for everything he gets. Pierce leads the Celtics in scoring but James leads the Heat in just about everything.
Advantage: Heat
Power Forward
Kevin Garnett vs Chris Bosh
In the past, Bosh tends to allow KG to get into his head. Hopefully this trend continues and KG can cause him to play soft and be ineffective. Bosh's play may be the X-Factor for the Heat just as Rondo's is the X-Factor for the Celtics. If they can get strong play from Bosh it gives them a much better chance of winning. It will be up to KG to be his most intimidating and intense self and bully Bosh back into his shell.
Advantage: Celtics
Jermaine O'Neal vs Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Jermaine O'Neal played very well against the Knicks and if he can continue playing well, the Celtics should have an advantage over the Heat in the middle. Shaq is still day to day and there is a possibility that he could play in this series, which would be a huge boost for the team. Even if he doesn't play, JO, Big Baby and Nenad Krstic have the advantage over Ilgauskas, Anthony, Magloire and Dampier.
Advantage: Celtics
The Celtics will lean mostly on Glen Davis, Delonte West, Jeff Green, and Nenad Krstic off the bench while Miami's key subs will be Mario Chalmers, James Jones, Joel Anthony, and Mike Miller. Depth off the bench has been a problem for the Heat this season and often their starters have had to play big minutes because of it. They have Jame Jones who can hit some big shots and Joel Anthony has his moments. Mike Miller has been a disappointment and Chalmers recently has been out-playing Bibby. The Heat could get a huge boost for their bench if Udonis Haslem could return. He has been out most of the season but has been practicing and may be ready to play in this series. If he can go, he gives them toughness and a post presence. The Celtics have the better bench, but other than game 4, they didn't play well in round 1. Hopefully a few days of practice will get them performing up to their capabilities.
Advantage: Celtics
Doc Rivers vs Erik Spoelstra
Spoelstra has gotten a lot of criticism for the Heat's performance or lack there of early in the season. But recently he has been also getting credit for their improvement. However, he is no match for Doc and his playoff pedegree. The more intense the games, the more having an experienced coach is important.
Advantage: Celtics
Keys to the Game
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics must limit their turnovers as the Heat will turn them into fast break points. Wade in particular is good at making teams pay for their turnovers. The Celtics averaged 17 turnovers per game vs the Knicks and they have to cut that number way down for this series.
Rebound - The Celtics have to limit the Heat's second chance baskets and fast breaks by crashing the boards. The amount of effort put into winning the rebound battle often follows through to the other areas of the game. The Celtics must be aggressive in beating the Heat to rebounds. The Celtics out-rebounded the Knicks in all but game 2. Every player must make it a priority to go after rebounds.
Defense - The Heat have tried to make defense their calling card this season. The Celtics have to make defense a priority as well. Defense wins games and defense wins championships. If the Celtics can't get stops, they won't win the game. The Heat ended the season winning 23 straight games when they scored 100 or more points. The Celtics must play defense and limit their scoring. If they can hold the Heat below 100 they have a much better chance of winning the game.

Be Aggressive
- The Celtics have got to be aggressive in getting to the basket and not settle for jumpers all game. They also have to be aggressive in diving for loose balls and winning the 50-50 battles. The Celtics can't afford to give up possessions by failing to hustle after loose balls and after rebounds. They also must take it to the basket especially if the jumpers aren't falling.
Team Ball - The Celtics need to play team ball. When they move the ball and make the extra pass and find the open man and play as a team, they are tough to beat. When they revert to hero ball and there is little ball movement and they settle for quick shots, they rarely win. Rondo is a big part of keeping the ball moving and setting up the offense and so hopefully he will be at his best in this series. They need team play to beat a team with 2.5 superstars on it.
Official Report

Dan Crawford

Playoff games: 6

Home Team Win %: .667

Fouls called per game: 44

% of fouls called on road team 52%

Dan Crawford has been a referee in the NBA since the 1984-85 season. Prior to the NBA, Crawford officiated in high school for 12 years, 8 years at the collegiate level (MVC and CCAC) and 4 years in the CBA. He has officiated 1,600+ regular season games, 190+ play-off games and 18 NBA Finals games. After one of the games in Chicago in round 1 in 2008, there was some controversy when he was seen leaving the arena with his family all decked out in Chicago Bulls gear. He's been in the news lately because he has been accused of having a bias against Marc Cuban because the Mavs are 2-16 in games officiated by Crawford. The Celtics are 6-1 this season and are 7-3 over their last 10 game with Crawford officiating. The loss this season was the last Miami game in which the Heat shot 42 free throws to 26 for theCeltics, but then again the Celtics did not play well in that game. The Heat are 2-2 this season and 5-5 in their last 10 with Crawford on the court. Crawford is a homer ref with a home team W/L record of 55-21.

Derrick Collins

Playoff games: 2

Home Team Win %: .000

Fouls called per game: 50

% of fouls called on road team 51%

Collins has been an official in the league for 9 years. He has experience in the CBA five years and in the WNBA three years. He has also officiated 7 years on the collegiate level and seven years on the high school level in California and Louisiana. The Celtics are 3-3 with Collins this season and 6-4 in their last 10 games. In all 6 games this season, the Celtics took fewer free throws than their opponents. The Nets and Lakers games were particularly poorly officiated. The Heat are 4-0 this season and 8-2 in their last 10 games with Collins. His home W/L record this season is 40-30.

Ed Malloy

Playoff games: 4

Home Team Win %: .75

Fouls called per game: 48.5

% of fouls called on road team 52.1%

Ed Malloy has officiated over 230+ regular season games. Controversy between Malloy and Doc Rivers goes way back. In 2003, when Doc was with Orlando, Malloy called a technical foul on Andrew DeClercq for staring. Doc called it one of the worst calls he ever saw (boy has he seen a lot worse since then!)and he said that he felt that Malloy had been intimidated all night. Fast forward to the Celtics game in Utah this season when Malloy, no longer intimidated, called 2 quick technicals on Doc and ejected him. Here is Doc's version of those calls.

“I just told Ed [Malloy], please keep officiating the game,” said Rivers. “That’s all I said. I thought the play before [the technical] was a clear travel in front of him. So I just said, ‘Hey Ed, it’d be nice if you’d keep officiating throughout.’ He gave me a tech. Then I said, ‘That’s the best call you’ve made all night.’ Usually, it’s nice to earn them, but [Monday's technicals were] another bad call.”

Malloy was also on the crew that officiated game 1 of the Miami series in last year's playoffs where 5 technicals were called and Kevin Garnett was ejected. The Celtics are 7-1 this season and 9-1 in their last 10 games with Malloy as an official. He was terrible in the Golden State game where the Warriors had taken 26 free throws to 6 for the Celtic with about 8 minutes left in the game. The final numbers were 28-11 after several intentional fouls gave the Celtics a few more free throws. The Heat are 1-1 this season and 1-9 over their last 10 games with Malloy as a ref. His home W/L record is 44-32.

Rust vs Rest & Officials
The Celtics have been off for a week while the Heat have been off for just 3 days. The rest has to have done the older Celtics some good and help to heal some of the bumps and bruises. But, rest can also cause a team to come out rusty and get off to a slow start. Hopefully they will start strong and not let the layoff affect them. We have seen in several cases already in the playoffs how officiating can affect series. So far the officials weren't bad in the Celtics first round games and we can only hope that continues. But Wade and LeBron both get to the line a lot, whether they have been fouled or not. The Heat average almost 29 free throws a game while the Celtics average 23 FT per game. Hopefully the refs call it fair but that's a lot to hope for.