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May 29, 2012
Playoff Prospectus
In Control

by Dan Feldman

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at Miami 93, Boston 79 (Miami leads, 1-0)
Pace: 82.7
Offensive Ratings: Miami 116.5, Boston 92.2

This wasn't complicated.

The Heat had the best player on the court, LeBron James (32 points on 13-of-22 shooting and 13 rebounds), and second-best player on the court, Dwyane Wade (22 points on 8-of-13 shooting and seven assists). When LeBron and Wade play like this, as the Pacers learned, Miami is nearly unbeatable--at least against Eastern Conference foes.

Against Boston tonight, LeBron and Wade picked up right where they left off in their last series, and Miami was all the better for it. The Heat's margin was essentially determined by its stars.

  • LeBron and Wade on the floor: 73-56 in 35 minutes
  • LeBron or Wade on the floor: 18-19 in 10 minutes
  • Neither LeBron nor Wade on the floor: 2-4 in 2 minutes

Those two minutes with neither came to end the game, when the Heat had already secured a victory. This appears to be a formula Miami can duplicate throughout the series. LeBron and Wade are too young, too vibrant for the Celtics to contain. When one needs to rest, the other can at least ensure the Heat holds serve until both can play together again. With Avery Bradley out, Boston probably doesn't have one, let alone two, players capable of matching up with Miami's stars--and that's unfortunate.

The Pacers made sure Miami played at its best. The Celtics did not, and I'm not sure they can.

Certainly give Boston credit for finding its offense during a 35-point second quarter, but the Heat relaxed after an easy first quarter that included LeBron outscoring the Celtics, 13-11, and Miami taking a 10-point lead. That was especially evident during Boston's 13-3 first-half ending run when Paul Pierce made a pair of three-pointers. On both plays, LeBron drifted to help and then made no effort to recover and contest Pierce's jumpers.

But the Heat's focus returned in the second half, especially defensively. In the third quarter, Miami nearly blocked as many shots (five) as Boston made (six).

All around, there are signs of concern for the Celtics.

Pierce scored 12 points on 18 shots and didn't do much else. At this point, the question isn't whether he can best LeBron, but whether he can avoid being dominated in the matchup. Tonight, he failed in that regard.

Ray Allen shot 1-for-7, and his lone make came off a Boston offensive rebound with Miami's defense unset. When required to move off the ball in the Celtics' half-court offense, he couldn't get separation or lift on his jumper, likely due to his ankle injury. That also might have something to do with his 3-for-7 free-throw shooting.

Perhaps most troubling was Brandon Bass grabbing two rebounds in 34 minutes. It's not like rebounds weren't coming his direction. Shane Battier, often matched up with Bass, grabbed 10 rebounds, his high with Miami.

The Heat relented for a quarter, and Boston took advantage. Maybe Miami will lose focus for a whole game, and the Celtics can steal one. But it's difficult to see how the Heat lose this series.

Dan Feldman is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Dan by clicking here or click here to see Dan's other articles.

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