So while I admit that some may consider it premature to assume that Miami is going to win that series, there is absolutely no reason to think that Philadelphia is going to get back into it, nevermind win that series.
With that said, it would be appropriate to take a look at these two teams' benches and how much of an impact they will play into the outcome of the second round series between the Celtics and the Heat.
When this season started, one of the main things that Celtics fans pointed to when considering their championship chances was their bench. Perkins was coming back before the all-star break and KG was considered by many to be back at 100% following his knee injury that hampered him most of 2009-2010. Paul Pierce was said to have worked as hard as he ever has in his career to get ready for marathon that is the NBA season. Ray was Ray, and Rondo would hopefully maintain the consistency that he had showed in his breakout 2009-2010 campaign.
Then came along Shaq for the league minimum, a first-ballot hall of famer who came off the bench for the first time in his career in 2010-11. Marquis Daniels and Nate Robinson were solid guards off the bench, along with newcomer Jermaine O'Neal and returning fan favorite Delonte West. Add Glen Davis, a potential 6th man of the year candidate and the Celtics bench was looking as good as any team in the league. Then the infamous trade went down, love it or hate it, it reshaped Boston's bench for the remainder of the season.
So here we are. About to face a familiar foe in Lebron James, a 2010 victim in Dwayne Wade, and the Rupaul of all big men, Chris Bosh. Our bench has newcomers Troy Murphy, Carlos Arroyo, Sasha Pavlovic, nenad Krstic, and Jeff Green. 5 new faces that Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge have added to this roster,. Out of Boston's entire bench, only West, Green, Davis, and possibly Krstic will see any real minutes during the playoffs. Troy Murphy may get some time, but it is likely only to be during a blowout game or a possible injury, God forbid.
Playoff Statistics 2010-2011 Boston's Bench (Minutes Per Game/Points Per Game/Rebounds (or Assists) Per Game/Field Goal Percentage):
16.8 MPG, 13.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG, .333 FG%
5.8 MPG, 1.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG, .667 FG%
13.5 MPG, 2.0 PPG, 1.3 AST, .273 FG%
24.8 MPG, 6.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, .458 FG%
1 Game Played, 3 MPG (3 DNP-Coach's Decision)
At this point this is what Boston is working with. We can't take Shaq's return as a given, although many reports indicate that he is hoping to be back in time for this series with Miami. If that does happen, it is probable that Jermaine O'Neal will start with Shaq coming off the bench to give enough minutes to make a contribution.
Miami's bench doesn't exactly scare their opponents, their team is clearly built on the performance of the starters, even moreso than Boston. Miami's bench is as follows:
Guards: Eddie House, Mario Chalmers, and Mike Miller
Forwards: James Jones and Juwan Howard
Centers: Joel Anthony, Erick Dampier, Jamaal Magloire, and Dexter Pittman
Playoff Statistics 2010-2011 Miami's Bench:
2 MPG, 1.0 PPG, 0 AST, .333 FG%
23.0 MPG, 4.3 PPG, 2.3 AST, .286 FG%
23.3 MPG, 7.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, .500 FG%
3 MPG, 0 PPG, Zero Shots Made
29.0 MPG, 3.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, .214 FG%
Has not played
2.5 MPG, 1.5 PPG, 0 RPG, 1.00 FG%
Looking at the benches, it is clear that Boston has the advantage. However, this series is more than likely going to come down to the performance of the starters on each team. If Paul Pierce scores 38 points again like he did in game 3 versus New York, the Celtics likely won't be relying on their bench quite as heavily. The same applies to Miami with Wade/Bosh/Lebron. Last year Dwayne Wade averaged 33.2 PPG against Boston in the first round, but because his team was so outmatched, they ended up losing in 5 games to Celtics.
Likewise, Lebron James scored 29.1 PPG in the playoffs before losing to Boston as well. These are going to be the guys that carry it for Miami, not their bench. Boston on the other hand needs solid games out of Davis and Green especially, but also some solid minutes out of West and Krstic could prove important as well.