Greg M. Cooper/US Presswire
LeBron James averages 30.2 points in his postseason career in the Conference Finals. The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat square off in Game 1 tonight (ESPN, 8:30 ET) in what is the third postseason meeting of all time between these two squads. Boston defeated Miami 4-1 in 2010 in the first round, while the Heat beat the Celtics 4-1 in last season's conference semifinals.
Tonight will be crucial, as the winner of Game 1 in the conference finals has gone on to win the series 80 percent (88-22) of the time in NBA history. The Celtics won the 2011-12 regular season series 3-1, but Mario Chalmers is the only one of the projected Game 1 starters to have started in all four meetings this season.
The Heat have performed well in these situations under coach Erik Spoelstra. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Miami is 5-0 in playoff series opening games at home under Spoelstra, and only four other head coaches in NBA history were 5-0 or better in series-opening home games: Doug Moe (8-0), Mike Dunleavy (6-0), Fred Schaus (5-0) and Bill Russell (5-0).
More good news for Heat fans: LeBron James has averaged 30.2 points in his postseason career in the conference finals, his highest scoring output of any postseason round. James has also averaged 27.1 points per game in 18 career postseason games against the Celtics.
LeBron James Career PPG by Round
Teammate Dwyane Wade has been even better against Boston, however. In 10 career postseason games, Wade has averaged 31.7 points against the Celtics, his highest against any team.
One aspect to watch for will be when the duo is in transition. James (72) and Wade (57) are ranked first and second in individual transition points this postseason, and the Heat are 7-0 this postseason when they score at least 14 transition points.
Boston, meanwhile, has had to combat history to even reach this stage in the playoffs. According to Elias, the Celtics are just the fourth team since the ABA-NBA merger in 1976-77 to make the conference finals after entering the All-Star break under .500. The last team to accomplish the feat was the Phoenix Suns in 1983-84 (lost to the Los Angeles Lakers 4-2 in the conference finals).
Much of the Celtics' postseason success has been thanks to Kevin Garnett, who has increased his offensive production this postseason. He is averaging a double-double and has already recorded six games this postseason with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Teammate Rajon Rondo has also been key, having recorded at least 11 assists in nine of his 12 games this postseason. Rondo also has nine career postseason triple-doubles, second-most among active players and tied for the fourth-most all time. Rondo's nine triple-doubles have all come in the last four postseasons and are more than all other NBA players combined over that span (seven).