How the Eastern Conference Finals was lost and a speculative look ahead

“We had nothing left.”

–          Doc Rivers

 

As shots clanked off the front of the rim, as sweat poured off their elder brows, a few things became obvious in what may have been the end of an era, and the beginning of another.  As talented, determined and Hall-bound as they were, the 2012 Boston Celtics were simply not as good as the Miami Heat.

As a strictly impartial observer, I have ridden the Miami Heat bandwagon all season long.  It just seemed like the natural progression of things.  While this team is still flawed, with two of the planet’s three most talented players, the Heat have taken a page out of the Jordan-Pippen playbook and presented a duo too difficult to defend.  That’s my stance and I’m sticking to it.

I got to watch some of the Heat-Celtics Game Seven, not as much as I would have liked considering I was working, but I did manage to watch the replay I so wisely DVRed.

Here are a few things that stood out…

Boston’s bench scored only two points that night, those coming from Ryan Hollins, mid-way through the second quarter.  Despite shortened season and immeasurable will, the Celtics’ elder statesmen were absolutely gassed by the time the final minutes of their season came to pass.  That’s no excuse, that’s just reality.

Despite his coaching acumen, Doc Rivers’ decision to play Brandon Bass on LeBron James probably backfired.  Not that anyone can, but there was no way Bass could guard James on the perimeter.  As a result, James made him pay.

Credit Erik Spoelstra for using Chris Bosh as a perimeter, offensive player.  Bosh, who had hit only 10 three-pointers all season, canned three BIG three-point shots in Game Seven, a tactic Boston could not have game-planned for.

As expected, Shane Battier was a solid pick-up for Miami.  Battier is a smart player (he went to Duke, duh!) who knows his position on the floor, provides major minutes, doesn’t overstep his bounds, can defend multiple positions, post up for the occasional basket, or at least pose the threat of doing so, as well as hit a timely three.  His experience and versatility will be key against Oklahoma City.

The Celtics start three, first ballot Hall-of-Famers in Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.  That being said, Rajon Rondo is the best player on that roster.  He led the Celtics in points, assists and rebounds in Game Seven and was the only Celtic player able to keep the Heat honest.  Were it not for his penetration, as well as the fact that he’s eight years younger than his ring-bearing brethren, the Heat would likely have made quicker work of the boys in green.

Much has been said about Oklahoma City’s home court advantage but the American Airlines Arena is louder than you think.  And it was a valiant gesture for Boston fans to cheer their team on as they left for South Beach after Game Six, but one can’t help but think those cheers were an appreciative farewell to a Celtics team they may never see again.

With the Heat’s core intact, and the Bulls contenders for some time to come, pending Derrick Rose’s healthy return from injury, the Celtics, as currently comprised, will not be able to contend with either of those teams through a long, 82-game season and a deep playoff run in 2012-13.

Ironically, more than any coach he’s ever played for, Doc Rivers may have brought the best out of LeBron James.

Miami is an underdog in their upcoming series against Oklahoma City.  I’ve been warned by knowledgeable basketball friends that they’ll lose but I don’t see it that way.  After his ungodly performance in Game Six, Heat teammates seem to be finally responding to LeBron’s lead.  This is his time.  As a fan, if you’re not seeing that, you’re not paying attention.

I may be wrong.  God knows it’s happened before.  But match-ups, breakdowns and analyses aside, the natural progression of things is for LeBron James to win his first championship this year.

If that doesn’t happen, I’ll pay my bets, and shut off my television for the summer.  LeBron might want to do the same thing.

32 thoughts on “How the Eastern Conference Finals was lost and a speculative look ahead

  1. Go Heat!! I think if Wade and LBJ play to their superstar level they win. Plus Bosh is back which should change the game compared to the palyoff games they played over the last month with out him.
    However, Durant and hardy have a chance to show that they are superstars and pulloff of an upset they will increase their stock value in the coming years..

  2. I would like it very much if Oklahoma City won the Title. Which means you should win your bets and be able to follow the Rays and their march to the playoffs on your television. Good luck!

  3. Both squads have a big three. It’s very evenly matched but the depth edge goes to OKC IMO. Ibaka, Perk and Collison may make going to the hole tough for Miami.

    If LeBron can keep them on their heels and not settle for too many jumpers, he can get the OKC bigs in foul trouble. Otherwise, I give the nod to OKC.

    Then again, my western conference bias is always there, as well as my distain for the Heat’s premature ejaculation following The Decision. Time to back up that 7-8 championships claim LeRegular season MVP.

  4. OKC is clearly the deeper team, Al, but the guys on Miami’s bench, along with the coaching staff have the edge in experience, and probably desire as well.

    That’s one of the main reasons I’m going with Miami in this one.

  5. Wow, I had no idea. Can both teams loose,’cause that would be great. I also had no idea that lamb testicles had a nutty flavor, go figure.

  6. Miami has the edge in coaching experience ? Are you delusional ? What , because Riles’ sits in his tower perched atop of things that gives the Heat the advantage in that aspect ? It obviously didn’t work last season the NBA Finals did it ?

    And I certainly don’t remember Riles’ coming down to assist his protege’ Erik Spoelstra in that butt whupping that came courtesy of the Mavericks .

    Everything you need to know ’bout the Bradley Pacquiao fight and a great deal more . Let me know what you think .

    <a href="http://tophatal.wordpress.com/2012/06/12/shut-up-it-is-what-it-is-it-is-boxing-what-t
    Shut Up ………. It Is What It Is ……….. It is Boxing What The F#ck Did You Expect … A Bouquet of Red Roses And An Invitation To A Party ?

  7. The Heat will win because they have the best player in a decade, ably supported by two super-stars willing to sublimate their own games to King James.

    The Heat in six games.

  8. Cristobal Im with you is Lebron time to shine and take care of business. The Heat no longer belongs to Wade , it Lebron team. If he does not take 40 shots a game the heat dont stand a chance . On the other hand the Thunder are lightning fast. Durant is fabulous player and again he has to take charge and dont do like he did against the Spur in the fourth quater of game 1 that he tooked 2 shoots. This will be the battle of 2 titans Lebron vs Durant . who ever scores the most points will take the hardware home. Go Magics.

  9. Al…

    I say Miami has the edge in coaching experience because Spoelstra was on this stage last year while Scotty Brooks has yet to see it.

    That didn’t appear to matter in Game One though.

  10. Al…

    So where do they go? Let Allen and KG sign elsewhere and rebuild or make an offer to them for pennies on the dollar and just play them fewer minutes next season?

  11. Looked like Miami fell in love with the jump shots early on in Game 1 and never returned to what they do best…driving to the basket and getting to the line, often after making a hoop. Worst thing that happened to them in the opener was making those 3’s early on and getting out to a lead. Spent the rest of the night satisfied with that style while OKC ran by them. I do agree with Al Ainge has got to do more in Boston than just shake Ray Allen’s hand and wish him well elsewhere. Big off-season for that club.

  12. Spoelstra is not that great an X’s and O’s coach , He doesn’t even have a playing background and you think because of one appearance in the NBA Finals that gives him he edge over Scott Brooks who’s also a former NBA player .

    Sefalosha shut down LBJ in the 4th qtr and that was it for the Heat. Hey Gabrielle lay off D-Wade’s “jewels ” please cause he’s looking real flaccid in more ways than one .

    I’ve got this on replay in my office as a number work colleagues are Heat fans and a number of ’em are season ticket holders. It’s Kanye West’s ‘I Wonder’ . Fitting tribute to the Heat and LBJ don’t you think ?

  13. Good Brother, Durant 36, lebron 30 Advantage okl city. Like I said the series will be about this 2 guys my friend. Who ever chokes is going down .

  14. SA…

    In my mind, Miami’s losses are that cut and dry. If I’m Spoelstra, I ram that concept down their throats, or at least call a time out as soon as they start settling for jumpers.

    There was one play last night where LeBron set a weak pick on the perimeter for Wade. Wade then took one step to his right and launched a three which clanked of the rim. Neither of them either crashed the boards or hustled back. OKC ended up with an easy deuce the other way within three seconds. Instant five point swing, not to mention momentum.

    Ironically, these teams are so similar, this is how Miami has beaten teams this season. It’s also how they’ve lost plenty.

    Their laziness and lack of discipline concerns me, as it should concern their coach.

    But he knows that, doesn’t he?

  15. Read my above response to SA, Al.

    When Miami resorts to quick, ill-advised shots, if I’m Spoelstra, I call a time out and lay into my team. If they keep doing that after the lecture, I sit ’em and play players that will listen to what the hell I’m talking about and play the right way.

    If not, this thing might be over before they know it and they’ll live another season with regret.

    A lots on the line here, Al. They have to know that.

  16. The Heat bench looks old, Al.

    Last night, OKC made Miami look like Boston.

    That surprises me. They’re not that old and have experience. That’s why they’re there in the first place.

    If I’m Spoelstra, I tinker with that lineup and those rotations with the quickness.

  17. Well, I can tell you they’re not going to re-sign Garnett for 20 mil, Al. The question is whether KG can get that much, or close to that much elsewhere, or how much less he’ll take if he wants to stay in Boston.

    Same with Ray Ray. Wherever they end up, reduced minutes are a must.

  18. Salsero…

    It might not be about who chokes because they’re both too good to do so.

    It might just be about who scores more and Durantula can light it up.

    36 in his first Finals game ever? Nerves of steel, bra.

  19. If Wade plays the same way he did against Boston and doesn’t assume the sidekick role to LeBron James… BYE BYE Heat. Simple as that.

  20. Chris

    Ill advised shots can’t hide the fact that the Heat have been completely exposed as a very flawed team against an even better adversary . No truth to the rumor that Riley and Arison have asked security to escort actress Gabrielle Union from the venue the moment she arrives at there for games three thru’ five for the rest of this series .

    On the other hand I’ll be dedicating The Roots …. Don’t Feel Right for the Miami Heat . It may well motivate them or it might not. What do you think ?

    tophatal ……..

  21. Chris

    The Heat haven’t got a bench their alleged role players aren’t good enough to play on a varsity team . There’s a piece in USA Today describing how intelligent Battier is said to be . Unfortunately that means nothing if it’s not matriculating and shown up on the court in terms of his game .
    c

    So Mayweather is now clinically depressed from being incarcerated ? Apparently his lawyers are trying to suggest he’s being mistreated by his jailers at the Clark County facility in Las Vegas as he is being locked up in his cell 23 hours a day . They (lawyers) want him to be released , to serve out the rest of his sentence (5 1/2 months) under house arrest (15,000 sq ft mansion) with an ankle monitor to keep track of his movements .

    On the other hand Manny Pacquaio who’s now a devout Christian was heard to be using choice expletives to describe how he has been recently treated . Nice ! LOL,LOL ,LOL !!!

    Are the Astros really that bad ? The Giants’ Matt Cain (14 K’s) and he pitches a perfect game last night . It got to the point where Bruce Bochy must have been thinking about withdrawing the player in the bottom of eighth and pitching the ninth inning himself. LOL,LOL !!

    Are You Ready For Some Football .. Or Not

    😉

    tophatal …

  22. Al…

    Let’s not get carried away. Sure, the Heat are flawed, but if they’re, as you suggest, “very flawed,” those flaws are covered up by the fact that they have LeBron and Wade to lead them. This team has now made it to the Finals back to back years. If they’re that flawed, what does that say about the rest of the teams in the league?

    Those championship Bulls teams were flawed. They weren’t perfect. But they had Michael, Scottie and solid role players to pull them through.

    If role players like Battier continue to show up as needed, the Heat will be just fine.

  23. Al…

    The Heat are playing primarily seven players but the Thunder are only playing eight so it’s not like they’re that much deeper. They’ve got Fisher, Collison and Harden, that’s it.

    The starters are gonna get big minutes in this series and come out only when they need a blow.

    So in that sense, I think depth in this series is overrated and might come down more to how coaches manage minutes to get their stars some rest.

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