Kryptonite for Finals contenders
Ranking the worst matchups for the playoff contenders in both conferences
Every team has weaknesses, but only certain opponents have the personnel and ability to exploit them. Last week, we took a look at the Achilles' heel of each playoff team (East | West), and this week we take it a step further. Below is a list of each title contender (with sincere apologies to the Orlando and Portland fan bases -- your teams just aren't legitimate contenders this season) and the opponent it doesn't want to see on its path to the Finals.
Of course, surging teams like the Bulls and Lakers could be kryptonite for just about any squad, but we're looking at the teams that pose the biggest threats based on matchups and personnel.
Kryptonite: Boston Celtics
For the Heat, the Celtics are like that older brother who always seems to have the upper hand, no matter who holds the brighter future or the edge in talent. Sure, it's possible that Chicago Bulls wield a more potent Heat antidote (ahem, Derrick Rose), but the Heat's Big Three have maintained all season long that the Celtics are the team to beat in the East -- and with good reason. The Heat match up poorly against the Celtics because of that strongside defense, which is anchored by Kevin Garnett and walls off penetration by perimeter players. The Heat flourish when LeBron James or Dwyane Wade is able to weave into the paint, but Boston's defense is predicated on preventing just that. There's a reason that LeBron and Wade have shot 38 percent against Boston this season and 51 percent against everybody else.
Much will be made about Kendrick Perkins' departure, but Boston's defense has been just as suffocating without him. Since dealing away its longtime center, the Celtics' defense has allowed just 98.6 points per 100 possessions, good for fourth-lowest in the NBA during that time. There's also this precedence in Boston's corner: The Heat are already 0-2 this season against the sans-Perkins Celtics.
To read the rest of Tom Haberstroh's list of kryptonite matchups for the league's Finals contenders, become an ESPN Insider today.