NBA playoffs: Celtics vs. Heat in clash of the NBA’s Big Threes
NBA playoffs: The Boston Celtics visit the Miami Heat at the American Airlines Arena Sunday for the first game of their second-round NBA Eastern Division playoff series. Tip-off at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time.
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But the nucleus of Boston’s own “Big Three” – forwards Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce and guard Ray Allen, has remained intact and has kept this team producing at a level that helped them exceed their win total for 2009-10 by six games. And guard Rajon Rondo, averaging 19 points and 12 assists in the first playoff round, has been crucial to the Celtics’ ball distribution and scoring. He now holds the record (tied with LeBron James) for six playoff “triple-doubles” (points, rebounds and assists all in double-figures in a single game).Skip to next paragraph
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Boston didn’t lose to Miami at home during the regular season (winning three of four games); but their season record away from the Garden is only five games over .500. And Miami destroyed them at their American Airlines Arena in April, 100-77. Home court advantage has played at least some part. But the compressed schedule and hyper-energized atmosphere of the playoffs throws the previous 82 regular season games out the window. Shaquille O’Neal was unable to practice Saturday and the Celtics said he would not play Sunday. Too bad, a return of Shaq would take some pressure off backups Nenad Krstic and the chronically injured Jermaine O’Neal.
In the post, Miami’s game isn’t as well-developed as Boston’s; they’re chiefly an outside shooting team relying on their starters for most of their point production. On the inside, the Heat’s 14-year veteran center Erick Dampier missed time in the opening series against the 76ers with a knee injury, and will be inactive for Sunday’s game. The same applies to former Florida Gators star forward Udonis Haslem, who’s injured foot has him as questionable. So doing yeoman’s work this round will be James’ fellow Cavaliers alum, center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who at just over five points per game and four and a half rebounds, will have to step up his production dramatically in the low post. As for the Celtics, they have a stronger bench led by power forward and post-up specialist Glen Davis. Strong shooting aside, these games will be won in the paint, and that advantage would seem to be Boston’s. And look for Rondo’s assist production to at least approach that of the New York series.
For now, both teams are taking the high road in expressing their appreciation and respect for their opponent. But before the series is over, watch for the fur to fly – both on and off the court. Because it’s possible, if not probable, that a championship banner could hang in the balance.