Gone are the days when this was the best rivalry in the East. The Miami Heat are the NBA champions and the favorites to reach the finals once again out of their conference, while the Boston Celtics are a team that’s currently fighting to end up with a playoff ticket.
The two teams opened the season in Miami, where the Heat won 120-107, cementing the difference between the sides, who have also met in the last two postseasons, with the Heat conquering each time, needing seven games last time.
Ray Allen, the Heat’s sixth player, is the man in the center of this one, making his return to the TD Garden after six seasons, two NBA finals and one title with the Boston Celtics. His departure to the Miami Heat angered more than just fans, but also players like Kevin Garnett, who memorably snubbed Allen before the first game of the season when the latter came over to shake his hand. Allen is averaging 11.4 points per game this season, hitting 44.3% of his three point attempts, but is playing second, third and fourth fiddle sometimes.
The key men in the Heat’s show, so far 28-12 this season, are LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Both of them have dominated in the last four wins, especially Wade, claiming he’s finally healthy for the first time this season, looking much more loose and pain-free on offense.
For the Celtics, it’s been up and down this season, from winning streak to losing streak, that kind of cycle. Doc Rivers has gone from calling out his players’ toughness to praising them during losses. Before the season began, he told them that they’re a smarter team than the Miami Heat, and that’s is their advantage in the rivalry. With Rajon Rondo making useless triple doubles, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce failing to be a consistent force offensively and a bench you never know what you’ll get out of, being more intelligent isn’t helping them come out of a six game losing streak, three of those losses coming at home.
Prediction – No more better on defense, no more tougher than nails. The Boston Celtics are simply a mediocre team, and unless all three: Rondo, Garnett and Pierce play to their best while getting some help from the bench (Sullinger?), they’re losing once again to the team they hate most losing to.