Miami Heat at Boston Celtics -2 (Total: 180.5)
Despite the fact that Rajon Rondo put up arguably as fine a post-season performance as we’ve seen since Lebron single-handedly beat the Pistons to advance to his first NBA Finals, the talk is more about what happened to Rondo rather than what he DID to the vaunted Miami Heat defense.
All the postgame conversation centered around an obvious missed foul call late in the game when Dwyane Wade (seems like these are always involving D-Wade these days…) fouled Rondo across the face. No whistle. It left many fans and players alike questioning whether the Celtics were not getting a fair shake, including coach Doc Rivers and Team President Danny Ainge. Their contention that Lebron shot 24 foul shots himself while the Celtics earned only 29 as a team is a valid point, and one that certainly raises eyebrows.
But it doesn’t raise eyebrows for the right reason. Instead of searching for a conspiracy, one needs to only look at the style and aggression of play to easily account for the discrepancy. Miami slashes and attacks the basket at will. Both Lebron’s punishing style and Wade’s shifty explosiveness to the rim have EARNED many a free throw attempt, and will continue to do so. Meanwhile Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are all predominantly (if not entirely) jump shooters at this point in the career. Jump shooters don’t get fouled much. Aggressive penetrators do. It’s that simple. No conspiracy is at foot…
Which brings me to tonight’s contest. The scene shifts tonight to the Boston Garden, and if last night’s complete undressing of the Spurs is any indication, a change in venue can often be more than just a small shift in series momentum. It is often said that a playoff series doesn’t truly begin until the home team loses a game. If that’s true, the West is still up in the air. And if the Heat were to win tonight, I’d argue the opposite is true; this series isn’t beginning, it’s OVER.
I am normally a huge fan of a veteran team returning home and playing a fantastic game, mounting a huge effort and getting an emotional win; they generally play their best game upon their return home. The problem tonight? I think the Celtics might have peaked in Game Two… and it still wasn’t quite enough. They have absolutely no answer for Lebron or Wade, and I don’t see them (ever) getting quite the same mesmerizing historically-awesome performance from Rajon Rondo. Garnett has been given all he can and playing at his 36-year old ceiling. Ray Allen is hobbled and not likely to give them much more, and Avery Bradley isn’t coming back to guard D-Wade.
The Celtics, as valiantly as I expect them to play, just don’t have the legs or quickness to play with Miami for consistent stretches. It is possible Miami will allow them to churn it into a half-court game and then struggle to score, but I don’t think it is likely.
Give me the Heat tonight plus the two points, and I like them on the money line as well.
Free Pick: Miami Heat +2