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NBA Boston CelticsMiami Heat

Boston Celtics Still the Biggest Threat to Miami Heat in Eastern Conference

Paul Pierce

David Butler II- USA TODAY Sports

At the end of the last practice before the Boston Celtics season tipped off, head coach Doc Rivers spearheaded a “Beat The Heat” chant. Rivers urged his team to want to hate the Miami Heat, the defending champions and the team that eliminated the Celtics in seven games last season in an epic Eastern Conference Finals.

Rivers implored his team to use the heartbreaking series loss against Miami as a reason to detest the Heat. Rivers acknowledged the Celtics should feel cheated due to starting shooting guard Avery Bradley missing the entire series after separating his right shoulder in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Pile on the fact that they were without Jeff Green, who was expected to be the teams’ best bench player, and it is easy to see why the C’s were at a disadvantage against the Heat.

The Celtics have unfortunately been used to playing playoff series undermanned. After winning the title in 2008, the Celtics have been unable to remain healthy come playoff time. Emotional leader and star forward Kevin Garnett was sidelined for the duration of the 2009 playoffs with a knee injury. The next year, starting center Kendrick Perkins tore his ACL in Game 6 of the 2010 NBA Finals, a major blow as they fell one win short of the title. All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo dislocated his elbow in the 2011 playoffs, although he was able to fight through the pain without missing a game, it still affected his play. As you can see, the Celtics have dealt with their fair share of injuries.

With the offseason additions of Jason Terry (via signing), Courtney Lee (via trade) and Jared Sullinger (via draft) to go along with the re-signings of Garnett, Brandon Bass and Green, the Celtics believed they could take down the Heat.

The first half of the season was a disaster for Boston, though, losing closing games constantly as the team could never quite get in rhythm. The Celtics were 20-23 when news broke of Rajon Rondo’s torn ACL, an injury that would cost him the season. The next game starting rookie power forward Jared Sullinger was lost for the season as he needed back surgery.

Wouldn’t you know it, the Celtics were ravished by injuries for yet another season. Analysts began to write the Celtics off, saying they would miss the playoffs and trade away their veteran stars Paul Pierce and Garnett.  The Celtics seemed destined to crumble with two starters shelved for the season.  But if the last six years of Celtics basketball has us taught anything, never count out the Green, no matter how many injuries they might have.

The Celtics have played inspired basketball since losing Rondo and Sullinger, ripping off 13 wins in 17 games. Boston is undefeated at home in this recent stretch and has taken numerous playoff teams, including the Heat, Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Chicago Bulls, Utah JazzGolden State Warriors and most recently the Indiana Pacers.

With the Heat on a remarkable 16-game win streak, the question has come up: Can any team actually beat the Heat in a playoff series? That question will not be answered for a couple months, but the team with the best shot of knocking out the villains from Miami in the Eastern Conference is the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics have regained their mojo, using their inner “unbuntu” from prior seasons to dominate games with their distribution of the rock on offense and solid team defense. Although the standings do not currently say so, the Celtics are the second best team in the Eastern Conference.  The doubters remain with the C’s, given they are currently seeded 7th in the conference standings. But Boston is a mere game and a half out of fourth place, and teams should know by now the Celtics kick it into an extra gear come playoff time.

So if you are looking for a team to “Beat the Heat” in the East, look no further than the soldiers in Green. Come May, the Celtics will reclaim the honor of “America’s Team”, which of course is given to any team going up against the detested Heat in a playoff series. The Celtics have put the NBA on notice as all teams should fear them, including the Heat, who will likely face off against Boston come playoff time in what should be another classic playoff series.