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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, June 4, 2012 at 7:56 PM

The Eastern Conference Finals have turned into a very entertaining series after things looked so bleak out the outset. Miami looked to be at the top of their form in the last two games of the Indiana series, even if Chris Bosh was out. Boston was barely able to walk in a straight line after a grueling seven-game series with Philadelphia. When Miami won the first game by 14 points, it looked like a sweep was at hand.

Instead…we’re knotted up at two games apiece…and Miami looks to be pinning its hopes on the return of Chris Bosh to the lineup. As of press time, there’s a chance he’ll play in Game Five after recovering from a pulled abdominal muscle. Miami clearly needs him because:

*They’ve lost the last two games, and had to go overtime to arguably steal a win (with help from the refs) in Game Two. The Heat almost lost three straight to the team that struggled to shine vs. Atlanta and Philadelphia!

*They can’t guard Kevin Garnett inside, which is something that Bosh would help with immediately if he’s healthy. In recent action, Garnett has been the obvious linchpin player. Boston had a big plus/minus when he’s on the floor. Miami comes storming back whenever Garnett needs a breather. If Bosh can neutralize Garnett inside, then Miami goes back to being the clearly superior side.

*They can’t ask LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to carry so much of the shooting load vs. a physical, quality defense. You can tell James is tired by his poor free throw form…and he’s once again shying away from attacking with full authority late in close games. Dwyane Wade has played the last two games like his knee needing drained again. It’s true that the supporting cast has done a pretty good job of contributing points (if not internal defense). Bosh would become a third weapon that’s definitely needed.

*They need options besides James and Wade standing around and hoisting guarded treys on last second possessions. Maybe the return of Bosh won’t change that (Coach Erik Spoelstra seems content to let his superstars flounder with hero ball). There’s at least another big on the floor to rebound misses if James and Wade ever learn to shoot with five seconds left instead of trying to nail the buzzer beaters that will put them on magazine covers.

How did it come to this? How could the team that looked so dominant in the latter stages of the Indiana series and in Game One here flail so badly? In addition to clear fatigue on both sides of the ball, we think the Heat are taking first halves way too casually. You saw how much trouble Boston had scoring vs. Philadelphia and Atlanta in the earlier rounds unless somebody happened to get hot. Well, now Boston ALWAYS seems hot in the first half. They’ve topped the 50 mark in each of the last three games. And, if you’re watching closely, you’ll see that many baskets are coming inside virtually uncontested. Miami keeps digging holes they have to climb out of. That’s not the mark of champions. That’s the mark of teams who eventually lose to champions.

Let’s see what’s happening in the markets…



Game Five Vegas Line: Miami by 8, total of 179

Series tied 2-2

Miami was -8.5 and -7.5 in the first two games. This just splits the difference. Is that because the market sees Bosh as “worthless,” and it’s just going with the prior numbers? Or, has the market decided that Miami should be more like -5.5 or -6 at home without Bosh, but a solid -8 with him? We’ve heard different opinions from various places within the marketplace. To us, the key is knowing how healthy Bosh actually is. If Bosh can cut down on all the easy points Boston’s been getting in the paint…then he’s arguably worth a lot more than the market is giving him credit for. But, if he’s rushing back and playing hurt…then he’s just going to be putting shooters at the free throw line rather than blocking shots.

JIM HURLEY is working very closely with his sources on site (many of the old New York guys have relocated to Florida over the years and know this team inside and out). He’ll find out the true status of Bosh…and he’ll find out if there are any strategic changes in store that might lead to better first half performances.

The total is still in the 170’s. Game Four landed on 178 in regulation, after 192 and 198 in regulation the prior two games. The return of a healthy Bosh should probably encourage Under money because Boston will have trouble making a run at 90-100 points if they’re not getting cheapies inside.



BOSTON 93, MIAMI 91 (in overtime)

Field Goal Pct: Miami 43%, Boston 41%

Three-Pointers: Miami 6/19, Boston 9/27

Free Throws: Miami 17/24, Boston 14/20

Rebounds: Miami 40, Boston 39

Turnovers: Miami 17, Boston 15

Vegas Line: Miami by 2, total of 179

Boston was so red hot to start the game Sunday Night that it’s hard to believe they ended at 41% overall and 33% on three-pointers. They really had a dead second half, and then scored only four points in overtime. They won anyway! Credit Boston’s defense for disrupting shots and forcing turnovers. Their defense in the final minutes when it was time to win the game was outstanding. And, though ESPN doesn’t want to mention it, having Paul Pierce foul out is a GOOD thing because he moves so poorly on his bad knee. That’s the second time Boston has won in extra time without Pierce. Tired, he’s a weak link defensively that can be exploited (which is why he keeps fouling people!).

This was the first outright win for an Underdog in 20 postseason games. Does this mean that dogs are going to start offering value? This may be the single biggest underdog we see in the rest of the playoffs. JIM HURLEY has been checking his numbers and checking long term playoff trend histories for guidance about what to do in tonight’s situation. Yes, BOSH is going to be important. But you can’t ignore the lessons of history, particularly with key players who have histories all their own. This isn’t like the West where you have to wonder about Durant, or Westbrook, or Harden. The key elements in Boston-Miami have a history…and that’s going to loom large over the rest of the series.

Tuesday’s selection can be purchased here at the website a few hours before tipoff. Be sure you check out our baseball too. Games of interest tonight include:

Tampa Bay at NY Yankees

Baltimore at Boston

Cleveland at Detroit

Atlanta at Miami

LA Dodgers at Philadelphia

NY Mets at Washington

We’ve been encouraging you for days to get into the swing of baseball. Hopefully all the excitement of the past several days has encourages you to do so.

If you have any questions about NETWORK’s basketball or baseball service, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. Be sure to ask about combination packages that include race day at Saturday’s Belmont. You can buy the big race by itself (as I’ll Have Another goes for a Triple Crown!). Or, sign up for the full day’s card in New York and make it a day you’ll never forget.

We’ll return tomorrow in the NOTEBOOK to preview Game Six of San Antonio/Oklahoma City. The conference finals have been fantastic already, and we may be in store for a week that’s destined for the history books.

Have you been struggling on your own? Are you spending too much time yelling at the refs and not enough time counting your winnings? Stop losing with your own leans, hunches, and gut feelings. Sign up the man who’s run a HANDICAPPING JUGGERNAUT for 25 years. Get on board with JIM HURLEY!

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