LeBron James has had some bad times in Beantown, including last year's Game 6 loss in the East semifinals that ended his career as a Cavalier. Dwyane Wade's had even less success, losing 10 straight games in Boston going into tonight's Game 3. They were 0-2 at the Garden as teammates this season, but those losses came back on Oct. 26 and Feb. 13. The Heat feel like they're a different team now and ready to win in the most hostile of environments. Just as importantly, the banged-up Celtics, minus Kendrick Perkins, don't look like the same team that's vigorously defended their home court in past playoffs.
Will Shaq cause a seismic shift in this series?
The Celtics certainly need something to change after dropping the first two games of their Eastern Conference semifinal series in Miami. Shaquille O'Neal, expected to play in Game 3, has the size and physicality to keep the Heat from attacking the basket with impunity, but he's also sure to be rusty and out of shape after playing a grand total of five minutes since Feb. 1. If the Celts have seemed old and slow without Shaq, imagine how they'll look with him.
Did the Thunder figure out Zach Randolph?
Memphis power forward Zach Randolph is happy to tell everyone how unguardable he is. And for most of the playoffs, he's been right. Fresh off his destruction of the top-seeded Spurs in the first round, Randolph torched the Thunder for 34 points in a Game 1 win. But smothered by frequent double teams, he missed 11 of 13 shots in Game 2 as Oklahoma City evened the Western Conference semifinal series. Now, back in Memphis for Games 3 and 4, Randolph can expect the same extra defensive attention from Nick Collison and Co. as the Thunder try to turn him from a scorer to a passer.
Is Rondo ready to get up and go?
Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo was the driving force behind Boston's improbable run to the NBA Finals last season and its first-round sweep of the Knicks this year. He's been pretty good against the Heat in the East semifinals, averaging 14.0 points, 9.5 assists and 6.5 rebounds in two games, but he hasn't been able to impose his will on the series. Hampered by foul trouble in Game 1 and back issues in Game 2, he needs to stay on the court and take advantage of his matchup with Miami's mediocre point guards. If he doesn't dominate, Boston has no chance.
Who'll score besides Durant and Westbrook?
The Thunder have two explosive offensive players in Durant, the NBA's leading scorer, and Westbrook, their irrepressible point guard. But it's always a mystery who else will put points on the scoreboard for OKC. Ideally, the third option is backup guard James Harden (pictured), the only other player on the roster averaging double digits (12.2 ppg). When he's passive, as he was in taking five shots in Game 1, the Thunder often suffer. When he asserts himself, as he did with 21 points and five assists in Game 2, this is a much more dangerous team.