Posted May 28 2012 2:16PM
Taking a quick glance at the Eastern Conference finals might give the impression that it's a huge mismatch. Both in the regular season and in the playoffs, the Miami Heat have been a much better team than the Boston Celtics.
The Celtics are the better defensive team, but the difference between the two teams' offenses is night and day.
|Heat by the numbers|
|Miami's efficiency, regular season and playoffs|
|Celtics by the numbers|
|Boston's efficiency, regular season and playoffs|
|Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes|
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
Yet the Celtics won three of the four regular season meetings this season. And in one of those wins, they scored a season-high 115 points, a minor miracle considering their offensive struggles.
Now, given how unusual this season was, it's hard to take much out of those four regular-season meetings. The last one may not counts at all because LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen all did not play. But we can be sure that that the Celtics will look to make this another ugly series and bring the Heat toward their level offensively.
Injuries throw another wrinkle into the series. The Celtics have lost Avery Bradley (shoulder surgery) for the remainder of the playoffs, and the Heat could be without Chris Bosh (abdominal strain) for most or all of the series.
Bradley was somewhat of a Wade-stopper this season. Wade shot 9-for-27 (33 percent) against the Celtics with Bradley on the floor, and 14-for-26 (54 percent) with Bradley on the bench.
Without Bradley, the Celtics don't have any lineups that played in more than one game or for more than 13 minutes against the Heat. The lineup that started the last three games of the conference semifinals against Philly -- Rondo, Allen, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass and Garnett -- played a little over 12 minutes in the April 10 meeting, and that's it.
The lineup that has started the last three games for the Heat -- Mario Chalmers, Wade, James, Shane Battier and Ronny Turiaf -- did not play at all against the Celtics this season.
Overall, the Celtics' starters have much more playing time together, and they've been the better unit as well...
|Efficiency for starting lineups (including postseason)|
Of course, 44 minutes from the Heat starters is a very small sample size. It looks like a weak offensive unit, but it scored 28 points in less than 12 minutes in Game 5 of the conference semis.
Rondo was the only Boston player who received any MVP votes this year, but no player has been more important to the Celtics than Kevin Garnett. Over the course of the regular season, the Celtics outscored their opponent by 7.7 points per 100 possessions with Garnett on the floor, and were outscored by 2.6 per 100 with him on the bench.
The difference has been much more dramatic in the playoffs. Basically, with KG in the game, the Celtics are a great team. Without him, they're downright awful.
|The KG key|
|Boston's efficiency with and without Kevin Garnett|
Against the Heat this year, the Celtics' defense was actually better with Garnett on the bench than with him on the floor, another reason to throw out those results.
The Heat are at their best when James and Wade are doing damage in the paint. Over the years, Garnett's presence hasn't really prevented the two from getting into the paint, but he's affected their success there.
|Big two in the paint|
|LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, last five seasons (with playoffs)|
|%FGA = Percentage of total FGA|
FTA Rate = FTA/FGA (total FGA)
Without Bosh, the Heat don't seem to have anyone that can match up with Garnett on defense. But Joel Anthony might be the best man for the job. Against the Heat over the last five seasons, Garnett has shot 101-for-172 (58.7 percent) with Anthony on the bench and 49-for-104 (47.1 percent) with him playing.
Over the last two seasons the Heat are 43-8 when they record 17 or more fast-break points. The Celtics, meanwhile, are 5-0 this postseason when they record 14 or more fast-break points, 3-5 when they don't.
Both teams want to run. Neither team will allow it.
The Celtics and Heat had two of the best transition defenses in the league in the regular season. Miami was No. 1, allowing just 1.43 fast break points for every live-ball turnover they committed. Boston was No. 4, allowing just 1.47.
In the playoffs, the Heat have allowed just 1.28 fast break points per live-ball turnover, while the Celtics have allowed 1.87. Those numbers have a lot to do with their opponents, however. Miami has faced two teams -- New York and Indiana -- that don't run often, while Boston has faced two teams -- Atlanta and Philadelphia -- that do.
The Celtics shot an incredible 16-for-21 on corner 3-pointers against the Heat in the regular season. Ray Allen was 5-for-5, Keyon Dooling was 6-for-8, and Sasha Pavlovic was 3-for-3. Overall, Miami ranked 23rd in the regular season, allowing opponents to shoot 40.2 percent from the corners.
The Heat defense been slightly better defending the corner three (38.5 percent) in the playoffs. And the Celtics have been much worse shooting it. They were a dreadful 17-for-60 (28.3 percent) in the first two rounds.
Even taking away Avery Bradley's 5-for-18, the numbers still aren't very good. Allen is 4-for-12, Mickael Pietrus is 5-for-18, and Pierce is 1-for-6 from the corners in the playoffs.
All numbers courtesy of NBA.com/stats.
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