Who would have thought that the 80th game of the season would come down to this for the the Celtics and the Heat? The Heat and Celtics were considered the prohibited favorites to win the East this year. Well, someone forgot to tell the Chicago Bulls, who recently locked up the number one seed in the East. So, with today's game comes great importance. Even though these teams could match up in the 2nd round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, this is a statement game.
Miami hasn't beaten the Celtics all year. It just seems like from the beginning of the season, the Celtics have had their number. I'm sure plenty of us haven't forgotten the 88-80 victory the Celtics had over the Heat on opening night in the NBA. The Celtics have been very physical against the Heat all season and it seems to have affected Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh the most. Wade and Bosh have had some pretty bad statistical games against Boston this year. In order for them to win this game, they must show up and battle back against the physical play of the Celtics. A big bonus for the Heat is that the Celtics aren't as physical a team without Kendrick Perkins in the middle. It also helps the Heat that Shaquille O'Neal will not be in the middle and Jermaine O'Neal will.
For the Celtics, they have to utilize their strength against the Heat: their bench. The Heat have the worst bench production in the NBA, so Jeff Green, Nenad Kristic and Delonte West and Glen "Big Baby" Davis must play well to offset the assumed production stalemate that will happen from each team's starting five. The bench coupled with a good game from Paul Pierce should give the Heat fits.
This game will be tight and it should be an interesting finish because in close games, the Heat haven't done so well. I think in this game, the Heat put the ball more in Wade's hands down the stretch and put Wade and LeBron James in more pick-and-role situations together. Even with that subtle change, I think Boston still has a mental stranglehold on the Heat and they go on to win this game.
Prediction: Boston 92, Miami 89