So the NBA’s Final Four, as it were, have been decided. In the West it all seemed over before it began with the San Antonio Spurs going unbeaten in their first two series and the Oklahoma City Thunder only conceding one game en route to eliminating the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers.
The East, on the other hand, is where the drama has unfolded. When Derrick Rose went down with a torn Achilles in game one of the Chicago Bulls – Philadelphia 76ers series one could predict that the East was not going to fall into place as foreseen.
The Chicago Bulls with their conference-best 50–16 record should have met the tremendous trio of the Miami Heat in the conference finals for the showdown basketball fans had been waiting for the whole season. However Rose’s injury, and later another to Joakim Noah, meant the Bulls crashed out in six to the underwhelming eighth seeded Sixers.
However, one side in the East has kept up its side of the bargain, that side of course being the Heat. After losing Chris Bosh in game one of their series against the Indiana Pacers, Miami seemed to splutter somewhat, losing games two and three fairly comprehensively. However, thanks to stellar solo performances from LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the Heat rallied to win the series 4–2. After game two, many pundits fell back on the old “LeBron can’t finish” mantra - but since then James has been unstoppable, scoring 40, 30, and 28 in the remaining three games. Wade, not to be outdone, had a ridiculous game six, with 41 points and 10 rebounds.
The Pacers were not a team to be taken lightly but when the Heat worked out how to play without Bosh they dominated in a scary way, outscoring the Pacers 321-269 over the second half of the series, and the Boston Celtics with their aging offence will have to play at their best to be in with a chance.
This brings us nicely onto the other half of the Eastern Playoff draw. The majority of people predicted the Celtics to win their series against the Sixers in five and at the absolute most six games but yet here we are after a game seven victory for the Celtics in which they needed Rajon Rondo to post a triple-double to win, becoming only the second Celtic to pull off this feat in a Playoffs game seven (Larry Bird was the other against the Knicks in the 1984 Conference finals). The Celtics have a good regular season record against the Heat this year winning three of their four meetings, however, as anyone will tell you the playoffs are a different ball game. “It’s the matchup the game of basketball wants,” Wade told reporters in Miami over the weekend.
If Wade and James continue their scoring ways of late the Celtics will really struggle to match the Heat’s offensive output. The Celtics will also have to curb its turnover rate (14.6 per game versus the Sixers) as the Heat will be all the more able to capitalise on these than the Sixers were. Overall with or without Bosh the Heat should be able to beat the Celtics in six games as the Heat a really getting into their stride having cut their teeth against the Pacers, who have proved themselves to be an all round better team than the Celtics over the course of this season.
The series begins tonight, with Boston travelling to Miami for games one and two.
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