Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics Eastern Conference semifinals matchup: Fan’s view

As a lifelong fan of the NBA I have seen thousands of NBA games and look forward to viewing thousands more. One of the most anticipated seasons in years opened with the Boston Celtics hosting the newly formed Miami Heat All-Star Trio. The NBA schedule maker made that the season-opening game because he felt confident that the Heat and Celtics would meet in the 2011 NBA Playoffs and he wanted to give us fans a preview. He was right

The two teams who opened the 2010-2011 NBA regular season will meet in an Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup. The Miami Heat and Boston Celtics will begin their second-round series on Sunday, May 1, 2011. Like most NBA fans, I am eagerly awaiting the beginning of the series.

The Celtics advanced to the semifinals by sweeping the New York Knicks in the first round. Miami closed their opening-round series with a 97-91 Game 5 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Miami Heat versus Boston Celtics Eastern Conference Semifinals Schedule

Game 1: Sunday, May 1, Boston Celtics at Miami Heat, 3:30 p.m. ET
Game 2: Tuesday, May 3, Boston Celtics at Miami Heat, TBD
Game 3: Saturday, May 7, Miami Heat at Boston Celtics, 8:00 p.m. ET
Game 4: Monday, May 9, Miami Heat at Boston Celtics, TBD
Game 5: Wednesday, May 11, Boston Celtics at Miami Heat, TBD (if necessary)
Game 6: Friday, May 13, Miami Heat at Boston Celtics, TBD (if necessary)
Game 7: Monday, May 16, Boston Celtics at Miami Heat, 8:00 p.m. ET (if necessary)

This series will be an intense battle between the defending Eastern Conference Champion Boston Celtics and a Miami Heat team that must dethrone them to justify the party they held to celebrate the formation of their All-Star Trio. The teams met four times during the regular season with the Celtics winning the season series 3-1. The team that gets four wins in the Eastern Conference Semifinals will keep their hopes of an NBA Championship alive.

To dethrone the Eastern Conference Champions, Miami must keep Boston's Rajon Rondo(notes) out of the paint. If Rondo penetrates the lane on a regular basis the Heat's defense will eventually collapse allowing Ray Allen(notes) and Paul Pierce(notes) to spot up for open jumpers.

So far in these playoffs, the Celtics are shooting an incredible 46.7% from behind the three-point arc. Ray Allen (65.4%) and Paul Pierce (50%) are both making at least half of their shots from that distance.

In their four regular season meetings, the Heat allowed the Celtics to shoot 45% and score 45 points from three-point land. If Boston can maintain that kind of production from the three-point line during the Eastern Conference Semifinals then Miami's offense will be forced to regularly score against Boston's vaunted defense.

In an effort to avoid Boston's half-court defense, LeBron James(notes) and Dwyane Wade(notes) will attempt to force turnovers so they can get opportunities to score in transition. However, during their regular season matchups, both teams committed 66 turnovers and the Celtics outscored Miami 48-40 in fast break points.

If the Heat allow the Celtics to outscore them in transition they will have to be super efficient in their half-court offensive sets. This may prove to be a difficult task since the Philadelphia 76ers were able to hold Miami to 42.6% from the field and a dismal 28.9% on three-pointers during the first round. Against the Celtics that kind of shooting will not get the job done.

During the playoffs, the Celtics and Heat have the top two efficiency differentials. Miami is outscoring their opponents by 10.7 points per 100 possessions, while Boston is outscoring theirs by a solid 8.3 points per 100 possessions.

Although the Miami Heat have home-court advantage in the series, the Boston Celtics have an advantage of their own that may prove just as valuable. Carlos Arroyo(notes) spent more than half of the regular season in the Heat locker room, and he is now a member of the Boston Celtics. Any information about his former team that Arroyo can provide to his new teammates and coaching staff just might benefit the Celtics before this series is over.

The team that wins this series will be the team that continues to operate efficiently in the midst of the tension, adversity and drama that this matchup is certain to have. The team that exhibits the mental fortitude to execute their defensive schemes and offensive sets despite their opponent's best efforts will be the victor.

Prediction: Celtics 4-2

More 2011 NBA Playoff Previews

2011 NBA Playoff Power Rankings
Preview and Predictions for NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs
2011 NBA Playoffs: Western Conference Preview and Predictions

Mark is a lifelong fan of the NBA who has loved the game of basketball ever since his first trip to an NBA arena. Mark has watched more basketball games than anyone can count and has more than 100 articles about the NBA published on the internet.

Information from ESPN's Boston Celtics 2011 Schedule, Miami Heat 2011 Schedule, Boston Celtics 2011 Statistics, Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics - Box Score - October 26, 2010, Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat - Box Score - November 11, 2010, Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics - Box Score - February 13, 2011, Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat - Box Score - April 10, 2011, Miami Heat 2011 Statistics and Hollinger's NBA Team Stats was used for this article.

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Updated Friday, Apr 29, 2011