Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals gets underway on Monday as the Boston Celtics travel south to take on the Miami Heat. The game is scheduled for an 8:30 pm start time and it will be televised live on ESPN. Currently the odds have Miami favored by 8 points with the total sitting at 180 points for the contest.
Free Analysis: Both teams have experience in this situation, as one of these two squads will represent the East in the NBA Finals for the fifth time in seven years. Boston beat Miami in the first round two years ago, but the Heat returned the favor with a five-game series victory last postseason. Although Miami dominated points in the paint in the regular season series (178 to 128), Boston was the superior offensive club, outscoring the Heat 97.8 PPG to 90.0 PPG and outshooting them 51% FG (52% threes) to 43% FG (38% threes). Seven Celtics players averaged at least 10.0 PPG against Miami this year, led by SF Paul Pierce (19.3 PPG on 50% FG), PG Rajon Rondo (18.7 PPG, 13.7 APG, 7.7 RPG) and SG Ray Allen (18.5 PPG, 3.5 APG). PF Kevin Garnett pitched in with 15.3 PPG (58% FG) and 7.3 RPG, and is coming off a monster series versus Philadelphia (19.7 PPG on 50% FG and 11.0 RPG). PF Brandon Bass also played well against the 76ers (14.0 PPG on 47% FG and 92% FT), and posted strong numbers versus Miami this season with 12.3 PPG and 8.3 RPG. Despite being a veteran squad, the Celtics have played very well with just one day off this season, going 28-17 (26-19 ATS, 58%) in this scenario. Miami had three off-days before Monday’s series opener, and the team is 11-3 (9-4-1 ATS) with at least two days of rest this season, outscoring these opponents by an average of 101 to 91. This includes a 4-0 mark (SU and ATS) and 14.0 PPG margin on 3+ days of rest. SF LeBron James had a tremendous three meetings with Boston this season, averaging 28.3 PPG (54.4% FG), 5.7 RPG and 4.0 APG. James has also faced the Celtics 18 times in the playoffs, putting up 27.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG and 6.3 APG, but he’s shot just 41.6% FG (29.5% threes) in these 18 postseason meetings. SG Dwyane Wade struggled shooting the basketball versus Boston this year (43% FG), but still posted 19.7 PPG, 5.3 APG and 2.0 SPG in three meetings. However, in his two career playoff series (10 games) against the C’s, Wade has been unstoppable, dropping 31.7 PPG on 55% FG (37% threes) while adding 6.2 RPG and 5.8 APG. Miami PF Chris Bosh averaged 11.7 PPG and 10.3 RPG against Boston this season, but he remains sidelined indefinitely with an abdominal strain. That puts the onus on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to continue their hot streak, as the duo has put up an astounding 197 points in the past three games, all Heat victories.
Free Pick: I like the Over in this one. Boston showed at times that they will run and they will need to in this series if they hope to keep pace with the Heat. Miami has averaged 100.2 ppg at home this year, including 99.2 ppg at home in the playoffs. They also come in having averaged 107 ppg in their last 3 games vs a good Indiana defensive team. This team is rolling right now and should get plenty of points tonight vs an aging Boston team that may be a bit tired after going 7 games with the Sixers. Boston showed that they can ruin and put up some points on a good defense as they did hit the century mark twice vs the Sixers and they should be able to hit at least the 91 ppg that they have averaged on the road this year. Yes both teams do play very good defense, but I see this game as an uptempo game that should have both offenses putting up 90+ points.
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