The Miami Heat and Boston Celtics will face each other in the Eastern Conference Finals. Game 1 of the best-of-seven series is Monday night in Miami. The winner advances to the 2012 NBA Finals against the victor of the San Antonio-Oklahoma City series. Here’s a preview of the Eastern Conference Finals:

(2) Miami Heat vs. (4) Boston Celtics

Game 1: American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL; Mon. May 28, 8:30 p.m. (EDT); ESPN-TV
Earlier playoff series wins against the Knicks and Pacers have helped test the Heat’s resolve. With center Chris Bosh (abdominal strain) out indefinitely, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade will have to carry Miami to its second consecutive NBA Finals berth. Expect Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to rely on superstars James and Wade, who have averaged 29.0 and 23.8 points per game respectively in the playoffs. Miami may also force the tempo with guards Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole, as well as veteran forward Shane Battier. Centers Joel Anthony and Ronny Turiaf must contain the Boston front court scoring.

The Eastern Conference Finals are familiar territory for the Boston Celtics and coach Doc Rivers, who topped the Hawks and 76ers to advance. Boston is led by veterans Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo. While the ‘Big Three’ of Pierce, Garnett and Allen are given much accolade, Rondo is perhaps the Celtics’ most dangerous weapon. His triple-double (18 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) in Game 7 on Saturday allowed Boston to shake off a pesky, young and athletic Philadelphia team. The Celtics will miss the defense of injured guard Avery Bradley (shoulder), but they know how to get big stops when they need them. If forward Brandon Bass can score and draw defenders away from the Celtics’ stars, Miami could be in trouble.

Boston won the regular season series between the teams 3-1. Regardless of who wins this series, one of these teams will be Eastern Conference champions for the fifth time in seven years. Game 1 is Monday night in Miami.

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