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Celtics Sweep Knicks, Heat Not Far Behind

The Boston Celtics completed a sweep of the New York Knicks, dominating the undermanned Knicks in games three and four in New York.  It was a little surprising to witness the effort that the Knicks played with in games one and two, in an especially tough Boston arena, and then see those same Knicks channel the effort of Eddy Curry's obese corpse and blow both games at home.  I cannot say that I am truly shocked though; Mike D'Antoni is, frankly, not a very good coach, contrary to popular belief.  The Knicks never truly stood a chance in this series and the Celtics definitely proved they are still a force in the East despite the questionable midseason trade.

The Miami Heat suffered a defeat today, albeit less surprisingly, at the hands of the 76ers.  I would go into the details on the game, but the Heat will absolutely close out this series in Miami in game five.  So that leaves fans with the enticing Miami Heat and Boston Celtics second round series.  The Celtics won the season series, 3-1, but the Heat are arguably the favorites in the series.

Closing out the regular season, the Heat tore through competition and rallied to capture the second seed in the East.  The Celtics limped into the playoffs, licking their wounds from the aforementioned trade.  But this Celtics team remains essentially the same as the 2008 champs and the finalists from last year.  Then who should fans place their money on in a seven game series?

My brain says the Heat, but my gut says...the Heat also.  It sickens me to even type that.  However, that does not mean that I believe the Celtics do not have a chance, so Celtics fans please put down your pitchforks and burning effigies and hear me out.

The key to this series will be the pace of the game.  There is not a single team more dangerous in the open floor than the Heat.  With the evidence of dozens of high-flying alley-oops between Wade and James, the Heat have proven that even if they do not have numbers, they are attacking the basket on the break.  The Heat shoot more free throws than any other team in the league (paging Mr. David Stern: care to explain that one?), so they will draw foul calls on these breaks.  And because of James and Wade's exemplary passing skills and constant need for a double team, even James Jones and Mike Miller's decrepit bodies can still hit open threes.  The Heat are scary good coming off a miss.  Interestingly, they rank only 20th in the league in pace of play.  Expect the Heat to run more against an older Celtics team that actually plays slower than them (22nd overall).

The Heat are about as terrifying in the half court as this puppy.  Yes, I am serious.  The Heat have yet to figure out an effective half court offense.  Boston, with the second highest defensive efficiency in the league, must play tight defense in the half court to keep pressure on Miami.  If the Celtics slow this game down, they play to their advantage.  Although Rondo is elite at running the break, he might be even better in a slowed down game. Keep the game in the half court and the Heat will start to sweat a little.

I think the key to this series will be Rondo.  And as the end of the regular season proved, as Rondo goes, the Celtics go.  Rondo will slice and dice the Heat's guards till all their ankles are in casts.  But will the Celtics see the Rondo who simply wants to rack up assists, or will they see the aggressive Rondo looking to create his own shot?  The more attention that he draws, the more open shots for the Big 3.  But the Heat are no scrubs on defense either.  They rank fifth in the league in defensive efficiency and will make Boston work for every single possession.  Thus far, Boston has taken advantage of every possession in the playoffs, posting an offensive efficiency of 110.5.  To conquer the Heat, the Celtics must continue this kind of offense.

As I said, my head says the Heat and my gut says the Heat.  My heart, though, is secretly hoping the NBA locks out before the series starts so the ad nauseum coverages ceases before it even starts.  But since that won't happen, I am picking the Heat in seven games.  But I am not sold on that pick.

The real question is: how many technicals will be called?  Over/under is 7.5


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