The National Basketball Association (NBA) secured its final four championship playoff teams with Boston’s 85-75 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on May 26. The Celtics will travel to South Beach to visit the Miami Heat (less injured forward Chris Bosh) who secured their final four entrance late last week as they vanquished the Indiana Pacers in six games.

Miami and Boston will revive last season’s playoff matchup where Miami triumphed in five games as forward LeBron James, guard Dwyane Wade and a healthy Bosh proved too strong for an aging Celtics team. That Celtics team is still aging but seems to have found a fountain of youth for sturdy power forward/center Kevin Garnett. At 36, Garnett has been a force this postseason and could wreak havoc on Miami’s depleted front line without Bosh.

The Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs have been wreaking havoc on undermanned Western Conference opponents as both teams have combined for an 18-1 postseason record this year. And both teams are fresh off convincing series wins over a pair of teams from Los Angeles. The Spurs swept the Clippers with little problem while the Thunder disposed of the Lakers in five games. In perhaps the most anticipated matchup of the past few postseasons, a series between the Thunder and Spurs has the potential to go the full seven games. It’ll be San Antonio’s Big Three vs. the Thunder’s Big Three. Forward Kevin Durant and guards Russell Westbrook and James Harden lead Oklahoma while center Tim Duncan and guards Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker pace the Spurs.

Should Miami advance to the NBA Finals, the importance of Bosh (groin injury) looms large. Since Bosh was sidelined early in Round Two against the Pacers, James and Wade have been forced to carry the load extensively. Wade and James have combined for nearly 60 percent of Miami’s points for the past three straight games. That type of dominance shouldn’t be so easy against a defensive-minded team like Boston but it most definitely won’t fly against the Spurs or the Thunder. Miami is going to need all hands on deck for the rest of the way while Boston and San Antonio just need to stay fresh. The Thunder are the only team left in the postseason with the ideal combination of youth, depth, superstars and defense which should make them the de facto favorite for the rest of the way.

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO