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Game of the Week: Miami Heat at Boston Celtics

US Presswire

US Presswire

Hello again, Hickory High. Sorry I wasn’t around last week. I was in Istanbul. And the first thing I saw when I got out of the airport was a giant poster of Hedo Turkoglu, the Turkish Michael Jordan.

Hedo gets a pretty bad rap because we feel he hasn’t reached his potential. There were moments when he was in Orlando when it seemed like he could be a key player on a contender, but when he went to Toronto, he pulled a Vince Carter and begged his way out. His reputation hasn’t been the same since.

A big reason Miami and Boston have had success over the past few years is that they haven’t thrown money at guys like Hedo Turkogulu—and I don’t mean Turks. I mean guys who don’t become the players they should be. After the Decision, some people, including me, thought LeBron James might have been squandering his potential by teaming with two other stars, but that seems pretty silly now. Both these teams are full of guys who became the best players they could be.

So when the Heat and the Celtics meet Monday night, lets give thanks that Hedo Turkoglu will be nowhere near the game. He might be the best Turkish player ever right now, but Ersan Ilyasova is getting better every year.

Alright, let’s talk about the game.

Key Players

Dwyane Wade has really picked up his game during Miami’s winning streak. He’s been the Heat’s leading scorer in the month of March, shooting 57 percent. His performance has kept Miami winning while LeBron James has come down from the ridiculous heights he reached at the beginning of the Heat’s streak. People like me have long prophecied Wade’s decline. But he’s still performing at a superstar level. It’s hard to say he’s losing his athleticism when he gets to the free throw line more than all but seven other guys in the league. It’s tough to call him old when he’s still one of the best defenders in the league. Until further notice, Dwyane Wade is still a great player.

As he ages, Dwyane Wade can look to Paul Pierce as an example of a star aging gracefully. Since he came into the league in the late 90s, Paul Pierce has been the Celtics’ best player. He’s had to take that role again with Rajon Rondo out. With Rondo out, he’s Boston’s best shot creator, passer and closer. In his past nine games, he’s averaging 20.2 points per game on 52% shooting. It might not be enough to salvage what would would be his worst shooting season in years, but he’s contributing in other ways—his TRB% of 11.1 would be a career high. He still gets to the line a lot—almost as much as Dwyane Wade, and he’s a big reason why Boston is one of the best defensive teams in the league. He’s had solid games against the Heat as well, notching a triple double in Boston’s January win. This is how you get old in the NBA.

What to Watch For

This is a classic offense-defense matchup. Though Miami has improved on defense, they’ve been winning all season with their scoring. A lot will depend on whether Kevin Garnett, who is injured with a strained left adductor, will be able to play. He’s still one of the best defenders in the league, and the Celtics will be hard-pressed to replace his ability and leadership.

The Miami Heat actually play at a pretty slow place, even slower than the Celtics. But no one turns a turnover into a basket faster than LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. The Celtics simply don’t have that kind of speed without Rajon Rondo. Both defenses are excellent at forcing turnovers, but it will be more important for the Celtics to be careful with the basketball.

Why Else Should I Watch?

This is one of the few real rivalries in the league. You can feel the animosity.

How to Watch

ESPN, Monday, 8 p.m. eastern

League Pass Bonus Game

Oklahoma City Thunder at Memphis Grizzlies, Wednesday, 8 p.m. eastern. The rubber match between two western conference powers.

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