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Celtics at Heat – Free Pick Against the Spread

Boston Celtics at Miami Heat (Total: 183)

The NBA opens its season tonight, and I for one couldn’t be more thrilled.  As great as the baseball postseason run was, like many professional bookmakers (and maybe Pete Rose too) will tell you; baseball is an unpredictable and wacky sport that often defies logic.  A team goes from complete incompetence to brilliance overnight, and switches back just as quickly.  If you look at the margin between GREAT teams (90-100 wins) and dreadful ones (60-65 wins) it is a slimmer margin than in any other professional sport.

Tonight we get the return of the thrilling fast-paced (and somewhat more logical) action of basketball – and I think we have an interesting and potentially historic season getting ready to unfold.   All signs point towards a ratings-bonanza, Heat v. Lakers NBA Finals.  Especially in the wake of the Thunder dealing James Harden to the Rockets for a couple of shoot-first wings, the Lakers look primed in the West to make a serious run at a Kobe’s sixth title.

In the East, I think the Heat are poised to make a historic regular season run.  This team is much deeper than last year, the roles are more defined, they added perimeter shooting and solid defenders, Wade is comfortable deferring to Lebron  James, and the King is about to switch the narrative from “is he clutch” to “is he the greatest player of all time?”  And it’s not just how good the Heat are, it’s also how “not good” the rest of the East is.  Boston?  Aging rapidly and perhaps a tad overachieving last year.  Brooklyn, Phily?  Not even close to ready to challenge.  The Pacers?  A solid ballclub, but clearly not on a talent plane with the Heat.  Chicago?  Derrick Rose will be sidelined until Christmas, and besides we’ve already seen what Lebron can do to DRose in the playoffs.

The fact is the Heat will run away with the East, and I see no one stopping them from repeating as champs in 2013.  But it’s going to be a fun ride getting there… and it all starts tonight.

Heat vs. Celtics – October 30th

The Heat will begin the defense of their crown with a visit from hated rival Boston.  TO add a little hot sauce to the festivities, Ray Allen will make his debut in a Heat uniform.  When Kevin Garnett was asked about Ray’s departure, he replied with a terse, “I don’t even have his number anymore.”  Expect tonight to be a lot chippier than a season opener usually provides.

Breaking down the matchup, the Heat have a huge edge.  I doubt they will resort to sliding Lebron over to Rondo this early in the season, but of course it is an option.  However, his consistent ability to completely eliminate Paul Pierce as a relevant offensive contributor is key to sparking a Heat victory.  The Heat also have a healthy Chris Bosh – something they did not have in Eastern Conference Finals when Boston pushed them to seven games.  A healthy Bosh gives a defender who can follow Garnett out to 15-18 feet away from the rim and challenge him.  I don’t expect him to have near the success tonight he did against the Heat in the Playoffs.

Both teams are underplaying tonight’s significance, but there will certainly be some extra emotions in tonight’s season opener.  I am interested to see how Boston’s new look front-court fares against the smallish Heat.  The Celtics added Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo and Darko Milicic – as well as the healthy return of 6’9’’ swingman Jeff Green.  For all their age, they have some interesting younger pieces… but it isn’t enough to be even close to the Miami Heat.  I like the Heat to raise the banner before the game, and play like a team hell-bent on hanging another afterwards.

Give me the Heat laying the six and a half at home, winning in the eight to twelve range.

Free Pick:  Miami Heat -6.5