April 15, 2010
Had Miami lost Wednesday night, they would be packing their bags for Atlanta to reignite a Heat-Hawks rivalry that began last postseason. Instead, the Milwaukee Bucks will grab that flight to Georgia. The Bucks hold a series record 1-2 against the Hawks this season, but all games were decided by an average of five points. Similarly, the Heat have struggled against their impending opponent as they dropped all three games versus the Celtics this season, yet did not lose by more than seven points in those match-ups.
The first game of the series will be played on Saturday April 17 at 8:00PM on ESPN.
While the Heat are tasked with a difficult challenge in the form of a playoff-tested Celtics team, they have improved over the course of this season. Having won five more games than last season, Miami has continued to progress all the while Dwyane Wade took a slightly reduced role and supporting cast members stepped up. Although the odds will be stacked against them, this team has challenged the league's best without regard for the stakes.
With the experience of a seven-game series underneath their belt, this postseason should be characterized by less jitters and more poise by Miami's younger athletes. Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers should be more prepared for playoff-level basketball and embrace their roles with greater maturity. The elder statesman on the team will be there to keep them in line and positively channel their talent.
Position match-ups will be the area of greatest concern for the Heat as Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen have found ways of burning Miami's defense on multiple occasions. However, Boston stumbled their way into the playoffs as they posted a 3-7 record in their final 10 games of the season. And it is clear: this is not the 2007 Boston Celtics, the same one's that hoisted a championship trophy. Age and injuries have caught up to the Celts and it could affect the outcome of this upcoming series.
Will age only act as a facilitator for wisdom in the Celtics elder core or will Miami's youth catch up to the aged Bostonians in a best-of-seven series? In this case, age is not only a number, it's a deciding factor.