Speaking with the Enemy: Celtics vs. Heat
|05.06.11 at 2:36 pm ET|
In advance of Saturday night’s Game 3 between the Celtics and Heat at the TD Garden (8 p.m.), we caught up with David Dwork at the ‘Peninsula is Mightier‘ blog. He answered our six most pressing questions as the C’s attempt to climb their way out of a 2-0 hole …
How confident are Miami fans with this 2-0 lead against the Celtics?
I think that Heat fans are feeling pretty good after taking the first two games of the series. Considering our history against the Celtics over the past several years I think it’s safe to say that while there is some obvious confidence that comes with a 2-0 series lead, Miami fans are certainly wary of how quickly things can change. Heat fans do know, however, after watching this team grow and improve throughout the course of the season, that if they continue to play well and don’t fall into a funk, Miami should win this series.
Who gets credit for the Heat playing their best basketball at the right time?
No one person gets the credit for the Heat playing as well as they are. The team as a whole has been working extremely hard since training camp to get acclimated to playing with one another, learning the offensive playbook and defensive system that Erik Spoelstra and his coaching staff put together — and doing it on the fly during the season, regardless of whether it was during practice, home games or on the road in very hostile environments. This has been a total team effort, and they all equally deserve credit.
Joel Anthony has been playing this role all season, and as he has done over the past few years he is only going to continue to get better. Whether it be in the starting lineup or coming off the bench, Anthony has been a defensive monster for Miami. Blocking shots and shutting down the painted area is what he has become known for, but his help defense is what has really gotten my attention in the postseason. Also, while he has a very limited offensive game, his hard work during practice and in the video room combined with his non-stop hustle has him suddenly setting picks like a seasoned veteran. He has quietly become an all-around defensive specialist and has earned the fans respect, getting chants of M-V-P.
Other role players such as James Jones, Mario Chalmers and even Mike Miller are finding ways to produce for the Heat and give them solid minutes on both ends of the floor. All three have shown they can hit big outside shots, but on this team you earn your stripes playing defense and that is where they have really stepped up their game.
What’s the difference between the Dwyane Wade we’re seeing now and the one that struggled against the Celtics in the regular season?
The first couple times Miami played Boston was in the first two weeks of the season, and at that time the Heat were a much different team. They were reliant solely on individual efforts, because they were still in the very beginning stages of becoming a team. That allowed the Celtics to shut down the painted area and keep Miami on the perimeter, and Dwyane Wade is at his best when he can cut and slash around the court and create his own options.
When Boston made it so that Wade and his teammates could only take outside shots, it seriously limited what they could do. You can also take into account that Dwyane missed all of the preseason with a hamstring injury and his first action of the year was that first game against Boston. Remember, during last season’s playoffs, when the Celtics took out Miami in 5 games, a healthy Wade averaged 33.2 points on 56 percent shooting.
Now that the Heat have implemented their offense and everyone is on the same page, it allows them to stretch the floor and gives D-Wade the room and freedom that he needs to be at his best. He is able to pick and choose what he wants to do. Whether it be driving with the ball, taking guys off the dribble or just pulling up for a jumper, Wade is now very much in his comfort zone, which is why you see him looking like his usual self as opposed to the way he looked early in the season against the Celtics.
What is the perception of LeBron James in Miami, especially now?
The way that Heat fans view LeBron James has not changed throughout the season at all. Once he said that he was bringing his talents to South Beach he instantly had all of Miami in his corner. Heat fans have been very understanding this season, and they knew that the team was going to go through growing pains, and that included LeBron. Any time he struggled, the fans’ support for him never waivered, and it meant a lot to this team knowing that while they got nothing but hate on the road, it would be the total opposite at home. LeBron (and his teammates) have been the ‘toast of the town,’ and they are respected and admired for ignoring the critics and following their hearts, choosing to play together and try to make history.
And, finally, from your perspective, how can the Celtics make this a series?
Offensively, they need to get some consistency from their Big Three. Other than in spurts here and there, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce haven’t been around much, and Ray Allen had a big fourth quarter in Game 1, but that’s about it. You don’t have to be a basketball genius to know that if Boston doesn’t get production from their stars, they aren’t going anywhere.
On the defensive end, they need to get back to what they did successfully against the Heat during the regular season, and that’s shutting down the painted area and forcing Miami into playing a perimeter-type offense. Getting Shaquille O’Neal back in the lineup will certainly help them in that sense, but I don’t know how easy that will be for the Celtics anymore now that the Heat has so many more weapons to use out of their offensive playbook.
Boston needs to step it up, because they haven’t really been that good in the playoffs despite what their record may indicate. The first two games of the Knicks series could have gone either way, and it certainly helped that two of New York’s three best players (Amar’e Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups) were injured. Of the six playoff games that the Celtics have played, only two of them have been really good games. If they are going to turn this postseason around, they need to do it right now with these next two home games. But, as a Heat fan, I sure hope that Miami keeps them from doing that.