By watching Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals I can already deduce that matches between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics will not be won off the bench. Despite a dominating 35-point second quarter, there wasn’t much to smile about in Celtic country after the Heat delivered a statement victory to open the Eastern Conference Finals.
And no one delivered more of a statement than three-time MVP LeBron James, who recorded his fourth 30+ points and 10+ rebounds game of the playoffs so far. James finished with a game-high 32 points and 13 rebounds in a 93-79 victory over the Celtics. Getting off to a hot start was critical if Miami wants to move on past Boston to the Finals, and that’s just what they did.
After finally getting over the Boston hump last year in the second round (won series 4-1), Miami is facing a much more worn-down team with a much more electrifying star in Rajon Rondo. After going down with an arm injury in Game 3 of the second round of the 201-11 playoffs, Rondo seemed more than bothered when he came back and registered 11 assists.
The two games following Rondo’s epic return to the court didn’t play out too well for the star point guard, as he played limited time in Game 4 and was very ineffective in the final game of the series. That’s the way this series looks like its going to play out with an again Ray Allen, who has only averaged 9.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists while shooting 26.8 percent from beyond the three-point arc.
To put that into perspective Allen has a lifetime postseason three-point percentage average of 40.4 percent and has never shot below 35.0 percent until this postseason. I don’t think that there is enough time in the postseason for Allen to get his average back to what it used to be, but in order to move on to the Finals the three-point king needs to be able to help out his team. He’s not doing this right now.
While the Celtics new “Big Three” of Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce failed to get really anything going from the field (shot 22-54 from the field), the Heat tandem of James and Dwayne Wade, without their final piece Chris Bosh, are making playoff history. Wade is averaging 23.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.9 steals while shooting close to 50 percent from the field while James is averaging 29.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.3 steals steals while shooting over 50 percent from the field.
The way I see this series going is that James and Wade can finish the Celtics off almost by themselves. If Bosh comes back and Brandon Bass doesn’t show up (he has been very inconsistent in the playoffs), then we will see the Heat advance to their second NBA Finals in as many years.
If the Heat win on Wednesday night, the Celtics must win both of their following home games. If the Celtics go down 3-1 at any point in the series, consider it over.