Posted Apr 27 2011 10:24AM
MIAMI -- The Celtics have nothing better to do these days except scout their next opponent, and what are the odds that Boston is staying up late studying film of the Sixers?
Yeah. Thought so, too.
It's all about the Heat, who look to close out Philly and the first round Wednesday and move on to a second-round series of great potential. Unless there's a big injury or the Sixers are still on fumes from their last-second Game 4 win, this will happen very soon.
Question is, what has Miami given the Celtics to examine during this first-round series with Philly? Are there issues for the Celtics to fear? Or reasons for the Celtics to rub their hands together in great anticipation?
Five games is enough to get a handle on the Heat, and from Miami's perspective, here's what's showing up in the Boston video room:
Chris Bosh is engaged. But not exactly married, he says, despite what the county records recently revealed. But we're not talking about that side of his life. It's about being engaged on the basketball side. Bosh is putting up consistently solid numbers (19.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and keeping his disappearances short. That's good for Miami, which will need Three Good Men against Boston, not two and a half.
The defense is tight. Other than a few breakdowns, Miami hasn't allowed the Sixers much. That said, the Sixers don't score much. Defending the perimeter against Paul Pierce and Ray Allen will be a chore, same for keeping Rajon Rondo from causing chaos. Playing the Sixers does not prepare you for that.
LeBron is ... LeBron. He's averaging 26.3 ppg, 10.8 rpg and 5.8 apg and doing it against the Sixers' best defender, Andre Iguodala. When he and Wade are running the floor and scoring in transition, often with acrobatic flair, it is something to behold. If he fades for the second straight spring against the Celtics, then something's up.
Dwyane Wade isn't playing head games. The playoffs opened with a scare when Wade admitted to feeling migraine symptoms. Since then he hasn't missed a beat, although when it comes to Wade and his health, Miami can't take anything for granted. His biggest enemy, it seems, is his own body -- although Wade has shown he can overcome that, too.
"One of the toughest players in the game," said Sixers coach Doug Collins.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas can't jump. But he is showing more of an inclination to rebound, especially on the offensive end, where he has 11. While Big Z will never pretend to mix it up underneath, anything he can give near the glass what will be needed against the Celtics, because of the pending return of Shaquille O'Neal. What a matchup: Two aging centers (who were teammates a season ago in Cleveland) so vertically-challenged they can't even jump to a conclusion.
Udonis Haslem is on deck. As the Heat flew home from the final regular-season game, coach Erik Spoelstra felt a tap on the shoulder. It was Haslem, missing most of the season with a bad foot, saying he was ready to practice full blast. Onlookers say Haslem has often looked sharp, yet you get the feeling Miami had no reason to pull his emergency cord for the Sixers. That changes against Boston; expect to see Haslem ready to give Bosh help against Kevin Garnett.
"He's making progress," said Spoelstra, who stopped shy of saying Haslem's return is imminent.
LeBron still working on closing out. You wonder at this point, after failing to rescue the Heat seven times in eight tries this season including playoffs, if LeBron is gun-shy. His driving layup attempt in the final seconds of Game 4 was done meekly, and no surprise, Elton Brand had no trouble swatting it. Because the Celtics play such great defense, Miami will need more than Wade as the only option in the clutch. It would be nice if the Heat got more imaginative in the final seconds. How about a screen and roll, or something involving Bosh? Anything besides what we've already seen.
Mike Miller is hardly a thriller. He was supposed to be the best of the supporting cast, except Miller's been a victim of poor luck and poor performance. His surgically-repaired hand is still giving him fits, and he's never found a rhythm all season. Spoelstra didn't even look in Miller's direction on the bench, where Miller has sat for two of the four first-round games. What can he possibly give in the next series against a superior team? If this continues, he will have no touch, no confidence and most likely, no chance to do anything special against the Celtics.
The Heat don't know how to make an entrance. In all but one game against the Sixers, Miami slept through the first quarter. They were down 16 in Game 4 and spent precious energy fighting back. That won't cut it against Boston, a team too experienced and solid to allow Miami a chance to rally. It's more evidence that Miami, despite its obvious advantages, has no clue how to play 48 minutes. Championship teams are experts at that.
"We just have to do our job, like we know we're capable of doing," said Bosh.
Mike Bibby must close the deal when left open. He's missing jumpers with no one within five feet of him. For the first round, he's 6-for-27 shooting, and 4-for-19 from deep. In a sense, playing on a team with LeBron and Wade, who draw double-coverage, comes with a downside. Bibby says he's much more comfortable when being rushed by a defender. That may sound strange, but plenty of great shooters are that way. They get a sense of desperation and rely on a quicker release. When left wide open, there's a tendency to relax and take too much time to think about the shot. Hey, that's Bibby's excuse and he's sticking with it.
"A player like that, you just tell him to keep shooting," said LeBron.
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