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Heat vs. Celtics: First look

A capsulized preview of the Eastern Conference finals between Miami and Boston.

May 27, 2012|By Ben Bolch
  • Miami's LeBron James celebrates following the Heat's 105-93 victory over the Indiana Pacers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Thursday.
Miami's LeBron James celebrates following the Heat's 105-93… (Al Diaz / MCT )

2. MIAMI (46-20)

def. New York, 4-1, in first round

def. Indiana, 4-2, in conference semifinals

4. BOSTON (39-27)

def. Atlanta, 4-2, in first round

def. Philadelphia, 4-3, in conference semifinals

Season series: Boston, 3-1.

Key stat: In the final three games of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against Indiana, Miami's Dwyane Wade averaged 33 points and 7.3 rebounds and LeBron James averaged 32.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and eight assists.

Outlook: These teams have combined to appear in three of the last four NBA Finals, but they are each missing a starter because of injury. Miami probably will be without big man Chris Bosh because of a strained abdominal muscle that has sidelined him since Game 2 of the conference semifinals. Boston will play without guard Avery Bradley, whose season recently ended when he underwent shoulder surgery. Heat reserve center Dexter Pittman will also miss the first two games of the series while continuing to serve a three-game suspension for a flagrant foul against Indiana's Lance Stephenson. Bosh's absence will be felt the most, forcing less-heralded teammates to contend with Boston's Kevin Garnett. James and Wade must also handle a bigger scoring load, though the duo came through with a combined 69 points in Miami's close-out victory in Game 6 against the Pacers. With Bradley out, sharpshooter Ray Allen moved back into the starting lineup and made two crucial three-pointers in the fourth quarter of Game 7 of the conference semifinals to help Boston beat Philadelphia. The Celtics also received step-up performances in the series from Brandon Bass (27 points in Game 5) and Rajon Rondo (triple-double in Game 7).

Prediction: This would have been an easy pick if Bosh were healthy. Now Boston's foursome of Paul Pierce, Garnett, Allen and Rondo more decisively outnumbers Miami stars James and Wade. Celtics in seven.

Schedule

Game 1: Monday at Miami, 5:30

Game 2: Wednesday at Miami, 5:30

Game 3: Friday at Boston, 5:30

Game 4: Sunday at Boston, 5:30

Game 5: June 5 at Miami, 5:30*

Game 6: June 7 at Boston, 5:30*

Game 7: June 9 at Miami, 5:30*

Times PDT, p.m. *if necessary

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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