Boston Celtics vs.  Miami Heat
Why the Celtics can win: Boston swept the season series against Miami -- with all the games played before the all-star break. The Celtics are two years removed from a championship, but while most of the cast remains the same, it has also gotten older. And that doesn't mean better. The Celtics are staggering into the playoffs, as they lost seven of their past 10 games, including an embarrassing home loss to the lottery-bound Wizards. Boston has gone just 27-27 and has been inconsistent on both ends of the floor. Despite the presence of Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace, the Celtics are a poor rebounding team. They also have a suspect bench that has rarely delivered. But now the Celtics can show whether that late-season malaise was because they were experienced and saving themselves for the postseason and not because they are old and finished. This could be the final run for Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, with Allen set to become a free agent this summer. Coach Doc Rivers has also hinted that he might not come back next season. They have too much pride for a meek first-round knockout.
Why the Heat can win: The Celtics may have the edge in experience, but the Heat has momentum, as it won 18 of its final 22 games. As he showed in the 2006 NBA Finals, Dwyane Wade always seems to raise his game in the playoffs. The Celtics lack a lockdown individual perimeter defender and their overall defense has faltered of late, which should create more opportunities for Wade. The Heat has an underrated defense, with Jermaine O'Neal protecting the paint. Michael Beasley has been inconsistent, but his quickness and scoring ability could pose problems for Garnett.
Difference maker: Rajon Rondo. He has been the Celtics' best and most consistent player this season, and he has also been dominant against the Heat, averaging 20 points and 11 assists while shooting 58.3 percent. His energy and youth can will the team to victory.
Bottom line: Celtics in seven.
Saturday: Miami at Boston, 8
Tuesday: Miami at Boston, 8
April 23: Boston at Miami, 7
April 25: Boston at Miami, 1
April 27*: Miami at Boston, TBD
April 29*: Boston at Miami, TBD
May 1*: Miami at Boston, TBD