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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, June 9, 2012 at 9:18 AM

So, who's gonna step up to the plate in this NBA Eastern Conference Finals Game 7?

The Miami Heat- a prohibitive betting favorite in this series (see 5 ½-to-1) -- is listed as a hefty 7 ½-point betting favorite for this showdown in South Beach but as anyone can see from our accompanying game-by-game chart below the Celtics have thrived spreadwise in the Sunshine State with a Game 2 cover in overtime and that dramatic Game 5 outright winner and there's reason to believe Boston's aging crew has at least one more big game in 'em here.

The flip side says the Heat- fresh off Thursday's electric and never-in-doubt 98-79 one-sided win in Boston- is coming off its best single-game showing this post-season and so confidence is high and there's no real reason why LeBron James can't have another monster game after going for 45 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists the other night.

Now talk about a Hall of Fame performance, why don't you!

The truth of the matter is we haven't seen all that many emotional flare-ups in this series but with things all knotted up at three games apiece, it's safe to say that Celtics-Heat has reached its boiling point ... so let's see what bubbles over tonight and it will be extremely interesting to see if the referees "let 'em play" or will the zebras call it tight. If you ask us, the more hand-fighting allowed the better for Boston who may need to knock James (and Dwyane Wade too) off their pegs here.

Winner moves on to play at Oklahoma City this coming Tuesday night to start the NBA Finals ... and whatta sports day/night with the Belmont Stakes (yes, minus I'll Have Another) on tap in the late afternoon and a Game 7 conference finals clash at night.

Get the popcorn and soda pop ready!

#4 BOSTON at #2 MIAMI - Series tied 3-3; Game 7 is at 8:30 p.m. ET

Let's face it: At this stage of this series every player on both teams know what the strengths/weaknesses are for every player on the floor but what would conceivably happen if everyone played their "A game" here?

Well, suffice to say the aforementioned James cannot be covered one-on-one by Boston's elder statesman and so isolating him one-on-one figures to be a Miami boon but "The King" could get tired if forced to play another 45-or-so minutes here. Will Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra give James any five-minute-or-so rest break here? Hmmm.

On the flip side, the Celtics' single-biggest strength is getting point guard Rajon Rondo out in space and having him dissect the Miami defense. No doubt Rondo (10 assists but 7 turnovers in Game 6) must not get careless with the ball as was the case in the second half of Miami's 19-point win the other night but Boston boss-man Doc Rivers needs his one-guard to still be aggressive and so expect much of this game to see Rondo spread the floor and look for cutters who might catch the Heat napping (and they've done that both in full-court and half-court situations).

If Rondo finishes with- let's say- a 13-assist-to-5 turnover ratio here (we're looking at 2.5-to-1 or better, folks) than Boston could be in business right there at the old finish line and keep two other stat lines in mind here:

The Celtics need to get at least 25 points from their three-ball shooting as that ugly 1-of-14 effort from beyond the arc in Game 6 ain't gonna cut it and Boston needs at least one reserve to be a major energy source here and that likely means Mikael Pietrus (just 2 points in 21 minutes on Thursday) needs to get his right arm cranked up.

Two quickie Heat keys that don't include James:

Miami must bang the boards again as that 44-to-34 glass advantage in Game 6 was ultra-important;

And the Heat must now allow Boston's Kevin Garnett too much room to operate in the paint. We could see the tag-team tandem of starter Udonis Haslem and current reserve Chris Bosh double-teaming him once he gets the ball in scoring area here as "The Big Ticket" often gets the C's jump-started by banging home those wing jumpers.

Okay, we'll have the Game 7 re-cap in Sunday's Jim Sez, so check back with us than.

Now, here's how the Celtics-Heat playoff series has gone so far while heading into tonight's Game 7 clash in Miami (note that all home teams below are in CAPS):

5-28 MIAMI - 8 Boston MIAMI 93-79
5-30 MIAMI - 8 Boston MIAMI 115-111 (ot)
6-1 BOSTON - 2.5 MIAMI BOSTON 101-91
6-3 Miami - 2 BOSTON BOSTON 93-91
6-5 MIAMI - 8 Boston Boston 94-90
6-7 Miami - 2 BOSTON Miami 98-79

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers continue to crush the folks in Las Vegas with this year's NBA Conference Finals action and there's lots more Side & Totals Hoop Winners straight ahead -note the NBA Finals will begin Tuesday night in Oklahoma City -- plus get all the Major-League Baseball Winners too.


It's never too early to think National Football League action and so with the 2012 campaign now less than three months away we begin to present Week 1 Betting Trends- we'll have the other half of 'em in tomorrow's Jim Sez:

On Wednesday, September 5th it's ...
DALLAS at NEW YORK GIANTS - The Jints are 12-4-1 ATS (against the spread) in head-to-head showdowns with the 'Boys since the start of the 2004 season and that includes last year's clean sweep in regular-season action  (a 37-34 win at 4 ½-point favorite Dallas in Week 14 and than a 31-14 triumph over the 3-point visiting Cowboys in Week 17).

On Sunday, September 9th, it's ...
INDIANAPOLIS at CHICAGO- Believe it or not, the Indy Colts have failed to cover their season-opening game the past four years in a row while the Bears are a dead-even but vig-losing 5-5-2 ATS when playing AFC teams the past three seasons.

NEW ENGLAND at TENNESSEE- The Patriots are a scintillating 46-25 against the odds away since the start of the 2004 campaign (that's a .648 winning rate) and that includes both Super Bowl setbacks against the NY Giants the past five years. Meanwhile, the Titans ended last year on a shoddy 0-3-1 ATS spread slide ... remember?

BUFFALO at NEW YORK JETS - The J-E-T-S have covered nine of their last 14 AFC East duels while dating back to late in the 2009 campaign while the Bills are a very tasty 6-1 spreadwise in their last seven season openers and that includes last year's rollicking 41-7 win at 4-point fav Kansas City.

WASHINGTON at NEW ORLEANS- The Saints covered nine consecutive games at the end of last year prior to that crushing 36-32 playoff loss in San Francisco and did you realize that N'Orleans is 12-1 versus the vig in its last 13 home games?

JACKSONVILLE at MINNESOTA- Last year's Jaguars finished a rotten 3-7 ATS when playing non-AFC South foes while the Vikings are a smashing 7-2-1 against the prices in season-opening games the past 10 years.

ATLANTA at KANSAS CITY- The 2011 Falcons registered a shabby 3-6 ATS away mark after the Birds had gone a collective 11-5 ATS away the prior two seasons. Note that the KC Chiefs are 1-4-1 vig-wise in home openers the past six seasons.

PHILADELPHIA at CLEVELAND- Last year's non-playoff season was a mess for the Philly Eagles (both 8-8 straight-up and 8-8 against the Las Vegas prices) but the NFC East crew did cover its final four games while the '11 Browns matched that with four consecutive season-ending covers and that included a pair of spread "W's" against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers.

NOTE: More NBA Playoff News & Notes as we re-cap Celtics-Heat Game 7 plus more NFL Week 1 Betting Trends in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez ... so don't miss out!

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