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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, June 9, 2012 at 1:22 AM

LeBron James reminded everyone Thursday Night what he’s capable of doing on a basketball floor. Now, the big question…can he do it TWO GAMES IN A ROW! If so, then Miami will have no trouble winning tonight’s Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals. If not, then we’re looking at a potential replay of Games 2-5…where Boston looked like they might be the slightly better team through the course of four relative nailbiters.

James is the best player on the floor when he’s playing well. But, we all know he can be surprisingly invisible late in close games (Thursday’s sixth game in this series never got close!). How you project what James will do Saturday Night will pretty much determine how you pick the game.

We normally recommend handicapping at the “team” level. Defense and rebounding. Treasuring possessions. Recognizing that offenses have more than one weapon…and that defenses have to figure out how to contain or at least slow down all of them. But, the two teams in this Eastern Conference Final are fairly well locked in stone. Boston is healthier than they had been, but not capable of dominating Miami. They’re capable of hanging around then getting the job done at the end. No new weapon is going to fall from the sky and give Boston a leg up.

From the Miami perspective, Dwyane Wade certainly has a higher upside than he’s been showing. But…either a bad knee or the ravages of age have taken him down at least one notch in this series. He’s not attacking the basket with authority. His jumpers look like they’re off the second they’re released from his hands (form is the first thing to go when you’re favoring an injury). The Heat can’t assume Wade is going to explode for 40 if James falls back to earth.

Another big night from James equals a Miami win and cover

An “average” night from James equals a close game and probable non-cover

An “average” night from James and somebody getting hot on Boston means a Celtics upset

Most indicators suggest it’s really that simple. JIM HURLEY has been working closely with his sources to find out whatever he can heading into what could be a dramatic finale. Miami did make some defensive tweaks in the last game. But, Boston was still getting open looks…they just weren’t making any! Does either coach have a surprise strategy in store for the other? Is it possible that an off-the-radar guy like Brandon Bass or Mike Miller steps up to score the difference-making points? Even though many indicators do seem relatively locked in to place…JIM HURLEY is experienced enough to know that anything can happen in a Game Seven. He’s been winning NBA playoff games for more than 25 years!

 

MIAMI vs. BOSTON

Game Seven Vegas Line: Miami by 7.5, total of 178.5

Boston leads 3-2

The Vegas number is in line with previous games at this site. That tells you the market doesn’t think much of Chris Bosh! We’ll see about that. Bosh did have a larger presence in Game Six with more minutes…but nobody besides James mattered in that game. The market is assuming this medium-sized line will split the difference amongst betters. Those who like home teams in Game Seven or betting on favorites in general will back the Heat and hope for another double digit win (which happened in Game Six, Game One, and late in the Indiana series). Those who respect Boston’s defense and experience will take what, to them, may seem like an inflated price given how close games 2-3-4-5 were in this matchup.

The total has dropped a bit from the 180 we saw in Game Six. The final scoreboard tally in that one was 177 points. We mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Game Seven’s often drop WAY down in scoring. That’s held true this year as it has in the past. NETWORK is certainly look at the possibilities for an Under play in this one as a result.

 

GAME SIX SUMMARY

MIAMI 98, BOSTON 79

Field Goal Pct: Miami 49%, Boston 43%

Three-Pointers: Miami 7/16, Boston 1/14

Free Throws: Miami 17/22, Boston 14/20

Rebounds: Miami 44, Boston 34

Turnovers: Miami 12, Boston 13

Vegas Line: Miami by 2, total of 180

Two big problems for Boston in that boxscore. They couldn’t make any three-pointers. And, there’s just no way you’re going to hang with LeBron in samurai mode unless you’re making some of those. Rebounding disappeared at the worst possible time because there were long stretches where no Celtics were making shots. There was no chance to rally…no chance to get the crowd involved…and no chance to even make the fourth quarter interesting because of those two categories.

The good news for Boston is that a replay of 1 for 14 isn’t very likely given prior shooting in this series. Something in the 5-6 range is a best expectation…which gets them to their norm of the low 90’s in this matchup. The bad news is that even that won’t be enough if they don’t find a way to slow down LeBron. Boston had breakdowns on both sides of the ball Thursday Night. The end of the Garnett-Pierce-Allen era may come to an end Saturday Night if improvements aren’t made on each end.

JIM HURLEY has a HUGE Saturday planned across the full sports spectrum. Friday’s surprise announcement that I’ll Have Another won’t be able to go in the Belmont through the third leg of the Triple Crown into turmoil. That has created a fantastic big money opportunity because of how the dynamic of race strategy has changed.

You can purchase NETWORK’S Win-Place-Show choices right here at this website with your credit card for a very affordable price. You can also get the whole card at Belmont if you’d like to enjoy a full DAY AT THE RACES with JIM HURLEY before tip-off of Boston-Miami.

And, of course, a great weekend of Interleague action continues in Major League Baseball. Games we’re looking at today include:

Washington at Boston (Gonzalez vs. Matsuzaka on MLB Network)

Philadelphia at Baltimore (Worley vs. Hunter)

Toronto at Atlanta (Hutchison vs. Hanson)

Texas at San Francisco (Feldman vs. Vogelsong)

Detroit at Cincinnati (Verlander vs. Arroyo)

NY Mets at NY Yankees (Gee vs. Hughes on FOX)

Tampa Bay at Miami (Moore vs. Zambrano)

Wow…big matchup there at Fenway as Dice-K returns to action after Tommy John surgery. We talked on Friday about how many great NL East vs. AL East matchups there were going to be in the next couple of weeks. JIM HURLEY and his exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach will be all over those in the coming days. Look for major releases at least 4-5 days each week. And, be sure you’re using the split schedules to take full advantage of money management possibilities on days like today…where a solid set of day games is followed by plenty of action under the lights.

If you have any questions about Saturday’s special SPORTS TRIFECTA of basketball, horse racing, and baseball, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453. Please ask about combination packages that include the full NBA Championships…and/or the rest of baseball. The summer is already sizzling and it’s only the beginning of June!

BIG JUICY WINNERS from Miami-Boston…the BELMONT…and the best of Interleague action are all just a few clicks away thanks to JIM HURLEY!

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