2012 NBA Playoffs: Who Will Win? Miami Heat or Boston Celtics?

Despite injuries, age, and inconsistency, the Celtics managed to ride another Rondo triple-double to a game 7 win at home last night, giving themselves a mere 24 hours to prepare for an Eastern Finals match-up with the defending conference champs, the Miami Heat.
Although most experts are picking Miami in 5 games, I'm going to go rogue here and predict a full blown 6 game series with Miami squeezing out a game 6 victory on the road behind their two superstars, LBJ and DWade.

Similarly to the Indiana series, I foresee Miami losing home court advantage early on because Miami is a reactive squad rather than a pro-active squad, meaning that the Heat don't always come out prepared and hungry, and sometimes they just need a wake-up call for their coaching staff and personnel to get focused and get down business.  We saw this after the Pacers took the series lead 2-1 in the conference semifinals following an extremely embarrassing game three performance for the Heat.  However, Miami got it together and closed out the series in 6 games behind a respectable three game winning streak led by DWade and LBJ who averaged 33 and 36 ppg respectively over that 3 game span.

Those are unbelievable stats.

Anyways, I know that the Heat have definitely found their stride recently, but Boston is one of only a handful of teams that know how to beat them (OKC, SAS).

In the regular season, the Celtics took the season series 3-1 behind their pesky trademark defense that took Miami out of their game and held them to almost 8 points under their season average on a pedestrian 43% from the field.

Interestingly enough, Boston actually put up 8 points above their season average and shot the ball over 50% from the floor against Miami in the regular season.  Who knew?

Anyways, even though Miami has gotten the better of Boston in the playoffs in recent years (4-1 series win for MIA in the 2011 NBA Eastern Semi's), I am having a hard time buying into a "quick" playoff series prediction because Boston is just too scrappy and too smart.  Don't forget, this is practically the same veteran group that took the title a few seasons ago, and they've been doubted as a team before.  Also, even with Avery Bradley injured, they are getting major contributions from F Brandon Bass, and Ray Allen has yet to play his best basketball of the playoffs.  Furthermore, Doc Rivers is a top-5 coach in this league, and KG has shown some promising signs of youth lately (19 ppg over his last three games).

Also, Boston has a history of frustrating superstars into bad games and bad series.

Lebron James famously had problems getting past the Celtics in the playoffs up until recently, and according to NBA.com, the Boston defense held DWade to under 20 ppg and under 43% shooting from the field during this season.

Ouch.

Given that all the regular season statistics point towards a favorable series for Boston, we should put this year's postseason into its rightful place in the prediction picture also.

It took 7 games for Boston to beat an inexperienced, over-matched Sixers squad that Miami massacred four times this year, by an average of 13 points per contest (I know MIA was rooting for Philly).

The Celtics have also dealt with two 7 game series in a row, which brings fatigue and bench depth into the equation.  Neither of these factors are going to be favorable for Boston.

Also, with arguably the tougher defensive playoff match ups this postseason (IND, NYK), MIA's offensive numbers are much more impressive than Boston's.  They've not only averaged 10 more ppg than the Celts, they've also grabbed more boards, shot a better FG%, and forced more turnovers than Boston during the playoffs.

Regardless, the Celtics can hope to frustrate Miami's superstars into turnovers, and force their role players into beating them, but when all is said and done, I think Miami is too fast and too talented to lose this series.  Without Avery Bradley, the Celtics don't have enough speed on the defensive end to hold Lebron and Dwyane at bay, and unless Ray Allen gets hot soon, they won't have enough offensive firepower to keep up.

If Rajon Rondo can't put up at least four triple-doubles over the course of the series, it'll be Heat in 6 games.

Enjoy your evening,

The Mattman

Matt Silverston is a columnist for FootBasket. He also runs the basketball blog, Mind of Mattman. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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