Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 5/27/12
MIAMI It had looked as if the Eastern Conference finals might be the Big Three vs. the Big Three. But that was before Miamis trio was downsized to the Big Two due to Chris Boshs injury. And that was before Philadelphia coach Doug Collins bestowed a new name upon Bostons version. I look at them as the Championship Four, said Collins, insisting point guard Rajon Rondo should get equal billing with the Celtics other stars after his triple-double in Bostons 85-75 Game 7 East semifinal win Saturday. Whatever the number is on each side, the East finals are a gathering of stars. Its no wonder Heat guard Dwyane Wade called the series, which starts Monday at AmericanAirlines Arena, the matchup the game of basketball wants. If anybody is wondering if the Heat actually having fewer stars than the Celtics hampers them, think again. In winning the final three games of an East semifinal against Indiana to take the series 4-2, Wade and forward LeBron James combined for an astounding 197 points. Now, with Bosh perhaps out for the entire conference finals due to an abdominal strain, the dazzling duo is primed to make sure that kind of play continues. That would be amazing, man, Wade said. It would be awesome . Were a key to our team. Both of us have to play well. If anybody is thinking Rondo does not deserve billing yet alongside the Celtics glorious trio of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, consider what he did against Miami in three regular-season games. Rondo averaged 18.7 points, 13.7 assists and 7.7 assists. No argument Sunday came from Wade, who called Rondo a rising Hall of Famer, or from James about how the point guard stacks up in Bostons pecking order. No one can figure out to defend Rondo, James said. Hes a unique player, a guy that breaks the defense down and creates for himself and creates for his teammates every single night. No one has the blueprint on how to guard him. You just try to limit his ability to score and limit his ability to find those open guys. So now you have the questions of the series: Can Miamis Big Two keep it up, or will Bostons Championship Four be too much? But before we go too gaga over the quartet of Celtics stars, it should be noted Allen is playing as if he should be booted from the group formally known as the Big Three. Beset by a bad ankle, which will need surgery during the offseason, Allen is averaging a meager 9.9 points in the playoffs while shooting just 26.9 percent from three-point range. Wade, who has averaged 33.0 points in his past three games while James has averaged 32.7, figures to go right at the wounded shooting guard. But even though the Celtics also just lost up-and-coming guard Avery Bradley for the season due to a shoulder injury, Wade still says, Not getting into it. We dont have no Chris Bosh. The Heat big man sure would help against Garnett, 36, the Boston center who has been revitalized during the playoffs, averaging 19.2 points and 10.8 rebounds. But Miami does have a Mario Chalmers. The way the Heat are talking, Chalmers might need to play so well in this series that he again gives Miami a Big Three. The point guard will have the job of trying to slow down Rondo. Hes one of the biggest keys to this series, Wade said of Chalmers, who also is being counted upon to provide more offense due to the absence of Bosh. No way around it. He has to play well for us. Chalmers insists hes up to the task of holding his own against Rondo. He wasnt during the regular season, averaging 8.0 points in four games against the Celtics and also 8.0 in the three Rondo played. Boston won three of the four regular-season meetings, although the fourth game hardly counts, a 78-66 home Celtics win during the final week. That night featured no Heat stars playing and Pierce, logging 18 minutes, being the only Boston star to step on the court. The Heat dont seem too bothered by the Celtics getting the better of them during the regular season. They point to last season, when Boston won three of four before the Heat won 4-1 in an East semifinal. But even Heat coach Erik Spoelstra admits that series changed when Rondo suffered a dislocated left elbow in the third quarter of Game 3 when he got tangled up with Wade. The Celtics won that game big, 97-81. But they dropped the final two games of the series with Rondos arm dangling at his side. Last year is in the past, Rondo said after he had 18 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in Saturdays win over the 76ers. This year we're a totally different team. We feel we can beat Miami. Obviously, we got to this point. There's no doubt in our mind we can. We got to go down there and take care of business.'' The aging Celtics, though, also have less depth and theyre a year older since their last playoff meeting. Like Garnett, Allen is 36. Pierce is 34. Now, after their grueling seven-game set against Philadelphia, the Celtics had to fly to Miami on their one day off and be prepared to chase James and Wade around. Its really the only team Im accustomed to playing in the playoffs, James said of going against Boston in the postseason for the fourth time in five seasons, the first two with Cleveland. No matter where I go, I find a way to play Boston. So I wouldnt have it any other way. True, he actually has lost two of the three previous meetings, but dont blame James too much. Hes averaged 27.1 points in 18 career playoff games against the Celtics. Wade has been even better. Hes averaged 31.7 points in 10 career playoff meetings with Boston, including a 4-1 series loss in 2010. Knowing all the stars on each side, its no wonder Spoelstra predicted the series will be great theater for the fans. So let the games begin. Its the Big Two against the Championship Four. Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com or on Twitter @christomasson
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