The Celtics Finally Find a 1st Round Opponent They Can Handle

I couldn’t for the life of me understand the Celtics motivation down the stretch. One day, you’d hear guys say they wanted to catch Atlanta and be the three-seed. And then you would sit back and watch the team sleepwalk through a loss to the Knicks and/or Wizards. Things got a bit stranger, when Andrew Bogut got hurt and Miami started to catch fire. At that point, it looked like Miami would grab the five-seed as a team on a roll and the Bucks would fall to six as a team on the slide. As such, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why the Celts were tanking games (NY, Washington, Chicago) and handing the three seed to Atlanta, where they would draw the Bogut-less Bucks.

I guess I now have my answer …… the Celts wanted Miami all along! That wasn’t so hard, was it? Five games with a easy clincher sure beats 2009’s first round @ Stalingrad. And it certainly wasn’t as strenuous as the 2008 first round slugfest with Atlanta. Nope, this one was a piece of cake. A tough fight in game one.  A cakewalk in game two. A spirited game three. Cruise through a meaningless game four. And a “muscle flex” in game five.  So long Heat and hello Cavaliers.

I’ll have a full preview at some point this week but here are a few thoughts on the Miami series.

* I’m not sure the Heat are the best gauge but one thing that will surely help the Celts this post-season will be the shortening of the bench. Last night, you saw Rivers hand out just forty-seven bench minutes to four players. This compares to instances during the regular season where Doc was diving up 70 bench minutes among five or six players. Rasheed, once you discount the 13 games he started, averaged about 20 minutes during the regular season. Against the Heat, he played just 13 minutes. Marquis Daniels, who averaged 18 minutes/gm during the regular season, barely got on the floor versus the Heat. And the reason why is Doc has basically cut things down to eight players – the starters, Big Baby, Tony Allen and Sheed.  Now I’m sure the Cavs will shorten things as well and be better for it, but my gut tells me that the Celts are the bigger beneficiary here.

* Ray Allen shot 53 percent from three point land. The Celts will need this to continue if they are to have any chance of knocking Cleveland off.

* Kendrick Perkins had 16 turnovers and shot just 46 percent against the Heat and Jermaine O’Neil. The Celts need him to play better against the other O’Neil.

* Rondo was 15/6/10 against Miami with 2.5 steals/gm and 3 turnovers/gm. I think the Celts can win with these numbers in round two although I would like to see another two assists per night.

* The Celts managed to eke out a small win on the glass against Miami. Anything approaching parity would suffice against Cleveland. Even a small deficit might be enough.  

Some final thoughts on Miami and Dwayne Wade ……..

That was the quietest 31/8/10 you may ever hear. Throw in seven turnovers and fourteen misses and Dwayne Wade was not quite the factor last night that he was on Sunday. I like Wade and I appreciate the fact that he doesn’t bring an overwhelming level of showmanship to the floor. ( Although, I think an argument can be made that his “humility” is an act AND a different kind of showmanship.) But this is what I don’t like about Wade. First, he has too many negative plays for my liking. And two, I don’t like how so much of his game is predicted on getting a bailout call. Countless times, Wade takes the ball into trouble only to get bailed out. Aggressive is one thing. But Wade is just reckless and if the Refs didn’t give him every benefit, his game would be on review for a downgrade.  

In Wade’s defense, his supporting cast is awfully limited, particularly upfront where Jermaine O’Neil, Quintin Richardson and Michael Beasley all wallow in mediocrity. It will be interesting to see what Wade does this summer and what this club does with all of its cap flexibility. Judging from his post-game, it sounded as if Wade wants to stay in Miami, but who will he be playing with next year? I say that because the Heat have only three other players – Beasley, Cook and Chalmers – under contract in 2011 so the entire roster will have to be rebuilt. To do that, the Heat will have about 32M in cap room and perhaps more if Miami can find someone to take a shot on Beasley. That means the Heat could pair Wade with a big front court gun and have 18M left over to build out a team.

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