Bumblederping around the Web today it's surprising to see how many people expect the Celtics to curl up and die quiet in their series against the Heat, which begins tonight. David Steele over at the Sporting News is among the rare authors who believe three future Hall of Famers plus a tripler of doubles in Rajon Rondo, plus the best Brandon Bass anyone has seen lately can actually beat a Boshless Heat. Fact he's expecting the C's to romp in six. It's that interior matchup. Without Bosh in the frontcourt Kevin Garnett is going to hold Joel Anthony to zero points per game, and Lebron is going to be forced to expend his (considerable) strength banging on the blocks, leaving Wade's careening as the only threat of any kind from outside, which is to say, if Miami needs Mario Chalmers bail-out 3s to spread the floor, yes, there may be some hope for Boston.
Meanwhile everyone else likes Miami to coast in this series, including all 12 ESPN.com opinionators. But if that pans out and if San Antonio continues to cruise at a historical pace, you're going to see a banged-up Miami colliding with an old, fresh Spurs team that will mow through the Heat. LeBron wants his first ring? Tim Duncan is going for a fifth. It doesn't matter if Duncan's shoulders sound like a drawbridge opening every time he goes up for a shot; Duncan is skinny, spry and apparently ageless. On Sunday the Thunder stayed just close enough to San Antonio to suggest that the Spurs' title isn't a fait accompli, not yet. Obviously Rick Reilly likes OKC enough to quite explicitly phone in a column on the Thunder's behalf, but until the Thunder can solve the question of how to score anywhere near Duncan, their alleged resistance will be futile. The Spurs look poised to arrive in the Finals having played just 12 or 13 playoff games.
I'm at the point where I enjoy watching LeBron but don't really care to contemplate him. Until he makes good on his cubic mile of potential, I'd almost rather see Duncan continue to win games with all the joy of a commuter playing "Angry Birds." If LeBron is ever going to be interesting he needs to play with urgency. The consensus is, he's capable of crushing the Celtics, if he cares to. But no one makes being favored look like more of a pain in the ass than Miami, and the Heat could drag their haunches. Dithering in the Conference Finals increases the odds of having Bosh re-enter, maybe, but the better strategy will be to hustle ahead on Spurs time, if there can even be said to be such a thing for those amber-encased bastards. LeBron's cram session starts now or it ends right soon. Then it's just a long summer of baseball on the other side. So: Go, LeBron, go.