One on One: Heat vs Celtics Game 4 Preview

Tonight’s Game 4 between Miami and Boston may be the most anticipated game of the postseason thus far.  With the disappointing and disgraceful exit of the two time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers yesterday, these two teams may in fact be the favorites to win the trophy.  After looking great in the first two games of the series, the playoff atmosphere in the Boston Garden seemed too much for the Miami Heat… well, at least for Chris Bosh.  Boston strolled to an emphatic Game 3 win thanks to a revived Kevin Garnett and a heroic Rajon Rondo performing well in a strong second half.  

Rondo’s elbow injury (take a look here only if you ate a light lunch today) was the defining story of Game 3.  The Boston PG dislocated his elbow while locking up with Dwyane Wade (a dirty play depending on geography most likely) and looked to be done for the game, but probably the entirety of the Playoffs.  But, somehow, Rondo was able to return after the elbow was popped back into place.  Thankfully, he didn’t need the extra theatrics of Paul Pierce’s legendary wheelchair (has that thing made it to Springfield yet?).  Rondo’s return undoubtedly lifted Boston, but one has to wonder how effective he’ll be in the rest of the series with what should still be a very painful and limiting injury.

Game 4 is traditionally the turning point of a seven game series.  A Miami win gives the Heat a dominant 3-1 lead heading back to South Beach for Game 5.  A Boston win gives the C’s all the momentum in the world and restored swagger and confidence knowing they have won in Miami before.  So, who needs Game 4 the most, and which team has the edge?  Thankfully, we have two of the NBA’s best in the blogosphere that represent both teams at Crossover Chronicles – John Karalis of Red’s Army and Surya Fernandez of Hot Hot Hoops.  They go One on One to break down Game 4 of Celtics/Heat…

John: This game means much more to the Boston Celtics than it does to the Miami Heat.  The Heat, perhaps to their own detriment (more on that in a second) can at least rely on the fact that they have home court advantage.  They can lose every game in the Boston Garden and it won’t matter a bit.

The Celtics, however, need this game to avoid having to win two games in Miami to win this series.  I know momentum rarely, despite what fans like to think, carries over from game to game.  But this series might be an exception.  The Celtics came out in Game Three and imposed their will throughout the game, except for a stretch in the second quarter.  If the Celtics can do it again, the Heat may start to question themselves and lose the requisite focus needed to eliminate a team of the Celtics stature.

And I hate to sound trite when I say this, but the Celtics really do need to just play their game.  Because the Celtics’ game is a relentless attack of ball movement, screens, accurate passing and good decisions.  They work the defense so hard that they create openings, even in Miami’s tough defense.  The Celtics take advantage of matchups because they have so many people who can do that.  On defense, they swarm, prevent penetration, and close out on the perimeter.  If the Celtics play their game, they will even up this series, and then the pressure is on Miami to win in six.  Because Game Seven might be in South Beach, but considering the Heat’s problems closing out this year and the Celtics championship pedigree… who would you be betting on with the season on the line?

Surya: The Celtics played their hearts out in a must-win, emotional homecoming after three full days of rest. It remains to be seen whether they can duplicate that effort with just one day of rest, especially given how banged up they are.

Somehow I doubt the Heat will have subpar games from BOTH LeBron James and Chris Bosh again. The way the roster is constructed, the Heat can’t win like that without a bench player, like James Jones, stepping up big time. Even worse, coach Erik Spoelstra insisted on sticking with Big Z and Mike Bibby to start the second half of Game 3, robbing the Heat’s momentum, losing their small lead and allowing the Celtics to race out to another double-digit lead. All signs point to Spoelstra learning his lesson this time.

A big game for LeBron is the norm, not the exception. But the opposite is true for Kevin Garnett at this point in his career. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have been up-and-down in this series and so has their bench. Having said that, no one expected the Heat to beat the Celtics three or four times in a row and it’s no surprise that this series should go six or seven games. Just because the Celtics won one game doesn’t mean momentum has shifted, though tying up the series tonight would certainly be a confidence booster.

We’ve already seen a changing of the guard with the Spurs and Lakers out of the playoffs. The Celtics need to pull off a historic feat to turn the tide. Anything less than three more straight victories by the Celtics means a Game 7 in Miami. Judging by their performance in the first two games there, the odds are not in Boston’s favor.

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