Philadelphia 76’ers at Boston Celtics -5 (Total: 170.5)
Everything is set for the Conference Finals, except for this evening’s climactic Game Seven between two long time Eastern Conference rivals, Boston and Philadelphia. The day could have had a rare treat; two do-or-die Game Sevens back-to-back, but then Dwyane Wade happened. The Heat guard was simply sensational in closing out the valiant Pacers in Indianapolis, going for a series high 40 points and 10 boards. Between Wade’s Game Six and Lebron’s Game Four, I defy anyone to find two better individual games by two different players on the same team in any series in the last 15 years. Simply awesome.
Now the Heat sit comfortably at home, buying Bosh a few extra days to nurse his ankle and wait for the the winner of tonight’s game. The public perception is that Boston “can’t lose” and many pundits have already been previewing and discussing the Heat v Celtic conference finals. But can Philly pull the upset tonight? Do they have a chance to be the first #8 seed to reach the conference finals since the Knicks in 1999 (also a strike-shortened season)?? Let’s dig into the numbers and trends and take a peek.
The desperate Sixers stayed alive Wednesday night, winning 82-75 in game in which young point guard J’Rue Holliday thoroughly outplayed Rajon Rondo (who finished with just 9 points and 6 assists). I don’t expect Rondo to have a repeat performance, and the long term trend in this series is that Rondo has a significant edge. He is averaging nearly a triple-double in the first five games; including two triple doubles in individual games.
I also like the experience factor tonight. It sounds contrite and tired, but The Celtics core has done this before. They’ve won three Game Sevens together in the past, including one in their Championship run of 2009. They will also have the crowd buoying them tonight, and quite likely rattling the young Sixers.
The Celtics have some real issues moving forward, having lost their best perimeter defender and sharp-shooting sub Avery Bradley for the remainder of the season. This leaves them even less likely to dethrone the defending Eastern Conference champion Heat in the Conference Finals, but I think they will be able to overcome the loss tonight.
“Anything is possssssible!” as Kevin Garnett himself would gladly tell you; however, tonight I’m going to go with “likely” over “possible.” And the most likely scenario is that Boston overwhelms the Sixers tonight and puts them away comfortably, I like them by double-digits and easily covering the five point line.
Free Pick: Boston Celtics -5