I’ll tell you a little secret – I was rooting for the Philadelphia 76ers to make it out. Not that they were such underdogs against a flawed, old and inconsistent Boston Celtics team. But they were the inferior of the two contestants. Eventually, the lack of a go-to-guy on offense was too much for the little 8th seed that almost could.
Again, in Game 7, the difference was simple – Rajon Rondo. The very reliable barometer for the Celtics performance and their games’ outcomes, no matter who’s playing. All the starting five finished in double figures – Kevin Garnett with 18, Paul Pierce with 15, Brandon Bass with 16 and even Ray Allen, still shooting awfully, with 11 points.
But Rajon Rondo is all the difference. Another triple double, his third in this postseason, and a great start and finish from the Celtics’ best player. He scored 18, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished 10 assists. He did turn the ball over 10 times, half of his team’s turnovers, but all the good things we’ve said about Boston this season, when they deserved it, happened because of Rondo.
And now, the Boston Celtics against the Miami Heat. Not the Eastern Conference most expected when the postseason began. The Chicago Bulls were suppose to sweep (or something like that) through the 76ers. They should have handled the Boston Celtics. But Derrick Rose went down; More injuries followed. There wasn’t much left to win the first round.
The overall feeling is that the Celtics just give the Heat a much better match up and fight than the Sixers would. Especially without Chris Bosh. All the weaknesses his absence creates that weren’t utilized by the Indiana Pacers are back on the table. Rondo keeps driving into the paint; Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass will be more aggressive than Hibbert and West.
The Celtics do pose a different kind of problem, but it’s still up to the Miami Heat. If Wade and James remain in the same mode they were in Games 4-6, they’re still the favorites. The Indiana Pacers series brought out something in this team they thought they didn’t have. Not just their aggressive demeanor and ability to take over the games with just two players.
The knowledge and confidence in role players – Haslem, Battier, Chalmers and Mike Miller, who all, in turn, stepped up in the offensive game. Joel Anthony who was huge in the paint, defensively, during the last three games. Not having Bosh, unlike what Frank Vogel said at the end of the series, is not an advantage. But the Heat learned about themselves through the hardships of the Semi Final series. Now more than ever, James and Wade feel and know that the outcome of any game is up to them, and them alone, doesn’t matter who’s on the other side.