Heat Vs. Celtics Predictions, NBA Playoffs 2011: Can LeBron James Overcome Boston Ghosts?

Will the Heat vault past the Celtics? Or does Boston have the advantage? Our SBNation.com editors and team bloggers predict the outcome of the hotly anticipated second-round series.

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Heat Vs. Celtics Predictions: Talent Of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade Will Overcome Boston's Chemistry

Consider that in the 2010 NBA Playoffs, LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers weren't exactly blown out by the Boston Celtics; the C's won in six, and one of Cleveland's two wins was a stunning blowout in which LeBron made the famous Boston defense look like a chicken pot pie after a Rottweiler's done with it. The Celtics won, sure, but consider LeBron's supporting cast then, and LeBron's supporting cast now. It's not just night and day: it's the Arctic winter and Saharan summer.

Dwyane Wade is 10 times better than any teammate LeBron's ever had before. And while Wade struggled against Boston during the regular season, he absolutely killed them in the first round last year. Hmm, Wade was awesome against the Celtics but needed some offensive help. LeBron was awesome against the Celtics but needed some offensive help. Something tells me it will go better when these guys help each other out. Add in Chris Bosh, bar none one of the best offensive power forwards in the game (behind Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol and Zach Randolph), and you've got a recipe for change.

Boston is supremely talented itself, and I don't see that Ray Allen or Paul Pierce have slowed a tick. Kevin Garnett isn't the scorer he once was, but he's still the heartbeat of the defense, the awesome defense, and that's enough. But in the end, James and Wade are simply too good to not fight until the bitter end. With Game 7 at home -- which is an advantage for Miami if for no other reason than there won't be 20,000 Bostonians screaming in their ears -- I'll pick the Heat in seven.

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Heat Vs. Celtics Predictions: Chris Bosh's Success Against Kevin Garnett Vital

By David Dwork of Peninsula Is Mightier, SB Nation's Heat blog.

This series is going to be a major test for the Miami Heat to see how far they have come as a team from the beginning of the season up until now. From even before these teams played their first game against one another back on opening night in late October, the Boston Celtics have been labeled as the "team to beat" from a Heat perspective. When you bring together the kind of talent that Miami has and their make it clear that their sole purpose is to win an NBA championship, the natural choice of a rival is going to be the defending champs. Combine that with the Celtics spanking the Heat right out of the 1st round of the playoffs last season, and now you have a team and fan base that feels there is some unfinished business to take care of.

When looking at this second-round series there are plenty of matchups that can be broken down. Will Dwyane Wade be able to keep up with Ray Allen, and how much will chasing Allen around the floor effect Wade's endurance on the other end of the floor? Then there is LeBron James and Paul Pierce; which one will be able to do a better job containing the other? Then there is the one that I am most intrigued to see what happens, and that's between Kevin Garnett and Chris Bosh.

Both players have done a good job making opposing power forwards look downright silly at times, but Bosh has more of an outside game then Garnett, who is definitely the more physical player of the two. Bosh said after the Heat's first round series with Philadelphia that he had a hard time defending Elton Brand, so it will be interesting to see how he handles the much more experienced Garnett and if he is able to contain him.

Obviously each teams reserve players are going to make an impact, and while Boston seems to be the deeper squad, Miami just needs to get some consistency form their bench. If guys like James Jones and Mario Chalmers can continue to hit their outside shots, the Heat's chances get that much better. As an added bonus, it looks like Miami is going to be getting Udonis Haslem back in the lineup, which is absolutely huge.

Bringing in Haslem off the bench and adding depth to the Heat's big guy rotation is going to give Erik Spoelstra so many more options with his lineups, and that is a huge factor when trying to beat this very deep Boston squad. Haslem has been out since late November but all signs point to him being ready to come back for the Heat-Celtics series. Taking all that into consideration, I have to go with Miami in a 6-7 game series.

Be sure to follow our Heat vs. Celtics hub for full series coverage. For more on the Heat, visit Peninsula Is Mightier. For more on the Celtics, visit CelticsBlog and SB Nation Boston.

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Heat Vs. Celtics Predictions: No One Can Stop Rajon Rondo

By Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog, SB Nation's Celtics blog.

Rajon Rondo will average a triple-double for the series.  Rajon already came close to accomplishing this feat against the Bulls a couple of years ago and the Miami Heat simply have no reasonable answer for him.  Mario Chalmers can’t keep in front of him and Mike Bibby won’t even try.   Rotating LeBron James on him will only open up Paul Pierce and as Mike Prada pointed out, switching Dwyane Wade onto him isn’t a much better idea either.  Between the extra days of rest, game planning, and natural matchup advantages, Rajon Rondo has the potential for a historically great series.

Close games will go to the Celtics more often than not.  While I think too much is made about the supposed lack of results by the Heat in close games (any team with Wade and James has the potential to win with a buzzer beater) there might not be enough being made about the Celtics end of game execution.  Doc Rivers and his veterans have such a familiarity and cohesion that they don’t just draw up plays, they have sets that have three or four options to choose from.  Like a quarterback Rondo checks down on his first, second, third options and goes with the best option available.

Previously hurt players will have a major impact in this series.  It might not be till Game 3 or 4, but Shaq will make his presence felt at some point before the end of the series.  The same goes for Udonis Haslem.  Neither one will be 100 percent but that won’t keep either one from finding their way onto the court in this critical matchup.

Bonus Predictions: Ray Allen will hit at least one game-winner (naturally), Pierce will make a game clinching defensive stop, Kevin Garnett will fake-fight someone (no punches thrown of course), LeBron will win one game all by himself, Chris Bosh will be the story for one or two games (then disappear for the others), and Rondo will get the MVP of the series.

Celtics in 6.

Be sure to follow our Heat vs. Celtics hub for full series coverage. For more on the Heat, visit Peninsula Is Mightier. For more on the Celtics, visit CelticsBlog and SB Nation Boston.

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Heat Vs. Celtics Predictions: LeBron James-Paul Pierce Battle Should Decide Series

I've thought about this Celtics vs. Heat series for a while, and I still don't really know how I feel about my pick. This is the ultimate "too close to call" series, and I could see pretty much every possibility coming through.

I do think that the first game will tell us how the rest of the series plays out. Miami desperately needs to win Game 1 to have a chance in this series. Not only would they surrender home-court advantage with a loss, but they would also kick-start the self-doubt process that has plagued them at times this year. Miami has had some great winning streaks, but when they lose, they tend to lose in bunches. They started 9-8, then won 21 of 22, lost four of five, won 12 of 14, lost five in a row, then closed by winning 15 of 18. Because they have been thrown together with so many new parts this season, they don't have much of a foundation to fall back on when they start losing. They point fingers, sulk for a little while, then figure out something that works. But in a short playoff series, that's not going to cut it. Boston, meanwhile, could win the series anyway if they lose Game 1, but they will give themselves an even better shot if they win.

Still, I am leaning Miami's way in this series. Boston won three of four in the regular season, but the conditions have changed. The Celtics can't really count on Shaquille O'Neal at this point, and his presence was huge in exposing Miami's weakness inside and setting screens to free up Ray Allen. Without that element, Boston loses its competitive advantage. 

I suspect it'll be a low-scoring, defensive-oriented series. LeBron James will continue his recent trend against the Celtics: good but not spectacular with Paul Pierce on him, out of this world with anyone else guarding him. Rajon Rondo should have a big series, but I think Miami will do a better job on Allen without Shaq around to set screens and be a threat as a guy rolling to the basket. Kevin Garnett and Chris Bosh will probably cancel each other out, and Dwyane Wade should be better than he was in the regular season. Miami will lose at least one game because of poor crunch-time execution, and Boston will lose at least one game by more than 20 points because of Miami's hot-cold effect. Ultimately, it'll come down to James vs. Pierce, and I don't see LeBron losing that one. 

The pick: Miami in 7.

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Heat Vs. Celtics Predictions, NBA Playoffs 2011: Can LeBron James Overcome Boston Ghosts?

The Miami Heat tip off against the Boston Celtics on Sunday in the most highly anticipated second round NBA Playoffs series in recent memory. We'll have our full series predictions on Sunday. In the meantime, keep tabs with our series preview StoryStream and visit CelticsBlog and Peninsula Is Mightier for team perspectives.

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