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Heat vs. Celtics: Who has the edge?

By Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel –

Looking as the key elements of Celtics-Heat:


Centers? What centers? Both teams essentially enter playing power forwards masquerading as starting centers, the Celtics with Kevin Garnett, the Heat with, at least for the moment, Ronny Turiaf. Put it this way, the closest thing to a true center in this series might be Heat backup Joel Anthony. Yes, the teams will go small, frequently and for extended stretches. But no matter where he plays, who he plays against (it could be plenty of Udonis Haslem), Garnett has to dominate his position for the Celtics to have any chance. Edge: Celtics.

Power forward

It will be interesting to see during the series whether Heat coach Erik Spoelstra stays with Shane Battier as his starting forward, or whether he moves toward something more traditional, possibly an eventual return to the starting lineup for reemerging Udonis Haslem. For the Celtics, Brandon Bass is as good as it gets at the four with Garnett forced, by default, to play as center. Bass is a quality outside threat, but it certainly is within the realm that either Battier or Haslem could match him shot for shot. Ailing Chris Bosh would have given the Heat dominance at this position. Edge: Even.

Small forward

LeBron James has gone from an MVP regular season to looking even better at stages during this postseason, particularly during the final three games of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Pacers. While Paul Pierce had his moments in his three regular-season appearances against the Heat, averaging a team-high 19.3 points on 50-percent shooting, he has been anything but a dominant force this postseason. He has, however, had his postseason moments against James and will need to conjure some of those memories. Edge: Heat.

Shooting guard

A week ago, Dwyane Wade looked lost at times against the Pacers, and then he suddenly turned into the Wade that basically took down the Mavericks nearly singlehandedly in the 2006 NBA Finals. By contrast, Ray Allen is a shell of his former self, a bone chip in his ankle so troublesome that his availability could be a game-by-game issue, certainly not the test for Wade he used to be. This is where the Celtics will particularly miss sidelined Avery Bradley, who had his regular-season moments against Wade on the defensive end. Edge: Heat.

Point guard

There have been times when Rajon Rondo has simply tormented Mario Chalmers, this matchup as unfair a fight as what the Celtics have faced from the Heat at any other position. Rondo’s performance in closing out the 76ers on Saturday night showed he isn’t going anywhere. He will get his numbers in this series, likely triple-double numbers. But Chalmers is coming off several confidence-building moments against the Pacers. If Chalmers can at least keep this matchup competitive, it would go a long way toward easing any Heat concerns. Edge: Celtics.


Against just about any other playoff opponent, perhaps every other playoff opponent, the Heat would be at a clear disadvantage on this count. But while the Heat at times have had a thin bench, the Celtics, now playing without sidelined Avery Bradley and forced to start Ray Allen, have essentially no bench. With Udonis Haslem back from his one-game suspension, with Joel Anthony proving to be an energizer, with Mike Miller still ambulatory, and with Norris Cole learning when not to shoot, the Heat measure up quite nicely against the likes of Mickael Pietrus, Keyon Dooling and Greg Stiemsma. Edge: Heat.


In previous matchups, this was lopsided, with Doc Rivers driving the Heat to distraction with his play calls coming out of timeouts. And while Rivers still would appear to hold an advantage in that aspect, Spoelstra has had his out-of-timeout moments, as well. Spoelstra clearly has grown as a coach in the absence of sidelined power forward Chris Bosh, finding combinations that work, with far more currently at his disposal than what Rivers has available. Rivers still has the edge, but, year by year, Spoelstra has been closing it. Edge: Celtics.


Had the Heat lost Chris Bosh at the start of this series, it would have created serious concerns. Instead, the Heat were able to reinvent themselves against the Pacers, entering this series as confident as they have been in months. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are as hot as any players still playing, and the three-day break figures to be invigorating. The Celtics, by contrast, find themselves with a quick turnaround with nothing but one-day breaks during this series. If James is as driven as he appears, then he is about to erase any lingering Celtics nightmares and all the concerns about Boston winning the regular-season series 3-1. Edge: Heat.

Prediction: Heat in six.

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