Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 5/28/12

Well, here is the Miami Heat for the second year in a row: the Eastern Conference Finals. All of us know how last year ended for the Heat: a 4-2 NBA Finals loss to Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks. Last year, the Heat beat the Boston Celtics in the second round of the NBA playoffs, 4-1. But it’s a new year and, probably, the last time the Boston’s “Big Three + Rondo” will ever be together. So what are we to expect from these two teams with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line? Let’s take a look.

Despite the Celtics regular season record and if I had a vote for Coach of the Year, I would have voted for Boston’s Doc Rivers. What he has done with this team, through the loss of Jeff Green to the releasing of Jermaine O’Neal to the injuries that now have caused the Celtics to lose Avery Bradley and, for a period of time, Ray Allen, has been one of the greatest coaching jobs of all time. Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce are on their last leg and are desperate for a third Finals appearance. They have won one ring, back in 2008, but a second ring would help their careers immensely.

It’s not like Allen needs any help though. He is the all-time three-point shooter and best pure-shooter the game has ever seen. Pierce is second on the Celtics all-time scoring list, a little under 4,000 points behind John Havlicek for first place. He has played his entire career in Celtic green and will be one of the greatest Celtics of all time. That, in and of itself, might be more valuable than being ranked as one of the 50 Greatest Players. What more needs to be said about Garnett? By far the fiercest, most-intense basketball player we have seen since Michael Jordan. In my opinion, he is second to Ray Lewis all time, in all of sports for being the most competitive, intense, and hardest-working individual. Remember that he came out of high school, being the 5th overall pick in the 1995 draft, and now will be one of greatest power forwards to ever play the game. His numbers speak volumes, but his voice is even louder. And Rondo is healthy. If you don’t remember last year, Dwyane Wade took down Rondo, causing Rondo to fall on his hand and dislocating his elbow. Oh, and Rondo came back and finished the game and series. Rondo is going to be the X-factor for the Celtics in this series.

Then you have the Heat. What more needs to be said? Wade and LeBron James have been fantastic, thus far, in the playoffs. They have played so well together after not playing so well together in last year’s Finals. You’d have to think that it’s still floating around in their heads. The Celtics are a year older and more beat-up, and the Heat is a year wiser (hopefully) and more well-acquainted with each other. James has showed us why he was named the NBA MVP for the third time in four years and Wade has all shown us that he can’t still play at the highest of levels. But they don’t have Chris Bosh for the foreseeable future. Bosh is still out with that abdominal strain he suffered while going up for a dunk in Game 1 against the Indiana Pacers. Without Bosh, the Heat is left without reliable power forward. Oh that’s right; Udonis Haslem will be back from his one-game suspension for his take-down on Indiana’s Tyler Hansbrough. Mike Miller and Shane Battier are going to have to hit big shots and Mario Chalmers will draw the defensive assignment on Rondo, in the beginning of the game atleast.

To say the least, this series will be low-scoring defensive battles with big-time players making big-time plays. The Celtics have the coaching edge over the Heat. Rivers is better than Erik Spoelstra and if it’s a close game late, you’d have to expect the Celtics pull it out.

But you can’t expect anything.

The Heat figured that out last year.

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