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Miami romped to a series lead in front of a surprisingly loud (although still fashionably late) Miami crowd, although the situation may not continue should Shaq finally get healthy enough to return. Let’s take a look at some of the factors which lead to Miami taking a confident first step in their second round series.
Wade – Dwyane Wade was incredible on both ends of the floor tonight, not only in his gaudy point total but more importantly, his defensive effort on series lynchpin Ray Allen. Ray still scored his points, but he almost never had an easy look and it was Wade’s intensity which inspired the Heat to lift beyond what they achieved against the Celtics in the regular season.
Basket Defense – The Heat continued a season long trend of stopping opponents at the rim even though they lack typical big man support (outside one trick pony Joel Anthony). The Heat crowd the paint on help just enough with quick rotations and reads to make interior shots difficult, leading to a pedestrian 46% on close in shots, even though the Celts took a lot of them (11 of 24). The Heat in stark contrast, were able to shoot nearly 70% on the same shots with a low total of fast break opportunities. Wade was obviously key here as he relentlessly attacked and got into the middle, while LeBron was stymied on the opposite wing.
While Wade has historically played well against Boston (with the obvious exception of this year), and Miami has shown particular ability to shut down opponents at the basket area, there are a few reasons to think the rest of the series won’t play out this well.
Shaq – While we don’t know when Shaq will return, odds are very good that he will sooner rather than later, and he will have a significant impact on this series. While Shaq is more of a defensive presence and a fifth option on offense now, it will be at the other end that he provides value for the Celtics in this series. More so than against other teams, Shaq will stymie the Heat on defense as they don’t have anyone who is able to effectively body with him as Anthony is much too undersized to perform this task. If the Celtics force the Heat to play Jamaal Maglore, the Celtics get a huge leg up.
Bosh – Chris Bosh shot terribly today, and that won’t continue one wouldn’t think, but the real test for Bosh will be his ability to stand up to the physicality and mental challenges posed by Kevin Garnett over the series. Bosh has not yet proven to have any playoff mettle, and he will be tested by possibly the best gamer and trash talker since Gary Payton. Bosh has questions to answer yet.
So moving on, who will win game two?
That’s a hard question to answer, especially given the fluidity of the lineup. Shaq? Mike Miller? Udonis Haslem? But more so, who will turn up? Rondo, Davis, Bosh and Bibby are all question marks, because you know Paul Pierce, Wade and LeBron will all bring their best. I’d suggest the Heat win game two while the Celtics come back strong in game three.