Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 1:22 AM
If the Boston Celtics don’t discover a fountain of youth…or at least a fountain of health…this series could be over very quickly. The men in uniform in Monday Night’s series opener against the Miami Heat were clearly outmatched on both ends of the floor. Not because Boston is bad. But, because many key components of Boston’s attack aren’t able to play at anything resembling full speed.
*Ray Allen was so hobbled that head coach Doc Rivers talked to the press Tuesday about sitting him out for a game in hopes that some rest could do him good. Remember that Boston had to jump right into this series after winning Game Seven of the Philadelphia series last Saturday. Allen was 1 for 7 shooting Monday Night…and couldn’t provide enough movement on defense to be very helpful. Worse, he was on the floor for 39 minutes! Rivers didn’t feel comfortable replacing him even though he wasn’t contributing much. Imagine 39 minutes for a couple of guys who Rivers didn’t even trust to play much in Game One.
*Paul Pierce is clearly feeling the effects of his strained knee ligaments. That was obvious whenever LeBron James or Dwyane Wade flew at the basket. Many of those replay highlights showed Pierce well below the rim looking up at the ball because he couldn’t jump! On offense, Pierce was 5 of 18 shooting because he has limited ability to get his own shot, and limited lift when he does get one. Strained ligaments need extended time to heal…so it’s not like Pierce is likely to improve any time soon.
*Avery Bradley was the key player during Boston’s second half surge. Well, Bradley and Kevin Garnett. Bradley did a fantastic job of shutting down enemy scoring threats and providing speed and movement on offense. He wasn’t a star scorer…but he could help stir the defense in a way that would get the shooters better looks. He’s been a non-factor in the playoffs because of a bad shoulder injury, and is now on the shelf until well into next season. That leaves you with the Boston team from the first half of the season that posted an unimpressive record vs. a very weak schedule.
When Pierce and Allen were healthier, the Celtics struggled without Bradley!
The good news for Miami is that all of those great historic “intangible” elements are in their favor tonight. All hope is NOT lost!
*Miami will obviously be in a letdown spot after a 14-point home win in the series opener. They played flat in Game Two of the Indiana series, losing outright as a favorite in the same price range as we see Wednesday evening.
*Miami showed letdown potential even within their Game One victory. After winning the first quarter by 10 points (21-11), they fell asleep in the second quarter (35-25 loss) to create a tie at the half. That wasn’t going for the jugular. That was seeing that you could go for the jugular but then getting distracted by some squirrels running by. Even in the fourth quarter when the Heat had built a 17-point lead, they got very passive on offense and kept settling for long (missed) jumpers. If Miami is going to lack a killer instinct in any particularly game…this spot at home is the best nominee. They lacked it for at least a quarter and a half in a series opener that shouldn’t have seen any flatness at all.
*Boston’s not afraid of playing and winning on the road. If the opportunity is there to pull off a surprise, this team will take it. Even hobbled, they are warriors who aren’t likely to throw in the towel this early in a series. They had that great second quarter Monday when Miami let up…and they did hold the Heat to below 95 points after the Heat had made it past 100 the prior two games vs. Indiana. Boston can cover this spread if Miami lets down. Miami can even replicate Indiana’s shocker if Miami lets down too much.
Let’s crunch some numbers…
MIAMI vs. BOSTON
Game Two Vegas Line: Miami by 7.5, total of 177
Miami leads 1-0
The line has dropped about a half-point to a point from Game One depending on when you may have jumped into the market. Clearly the market is giving Boston credit for bounce-back potential as of press time. Note that game day news regarding Ray Allen may influence the line. Should it? He’s not his usual self, so there may not be a drop-off to the bench backups. The absence of a guy who shot 1 for 7 and couldn’t defend consistently well won’t be as badly missed as what “the absence of Ray Allen” might usually mean.
The total has dropped a point from the 178 in Game One. That one landed on 172, rallying through the night after the very quiet 32 point first quarter. There is some potential to see scoring lift here because the teams were 9 of 39 on treys Monday Night, and because the tempo could pick up after a very slow opener.
JIM HURLEY is working closely with his Boston sources to monitor the injury situation, and with his Miami sources to monitor the Heat’s mindset. It’s possible that Miami’s intensity is the only thing that matters here. They’re clicking again, and now have three straight double digit wins. The control their own destiny at the moment. Miami smelling blood is a team that’s going to cover. Miami slacking off could be in for quite a dramatic fourth quarter.
GAME ONE SUMMARY
MIAMI 93, BOSTON 79
Field Goal Pct: Boston 40%, Miami 50%
Three-Pointers: Boston 4/14, Miami 5/25
Free Throws: Boston 11/21, Miami 16/23
Rebounds: Boston 33, Miami 48
Turnovers: Boston 8, Miami 12
Vegas Line: Miami by 8.5, total of 178
We always encourage you to focus on defense and rebounding here in the NOTEBOOK. Obviously Miami dominated those two categories in the extreme. They won shooting percentage by a whopping 10 points (a very big number for this deep in the playoffs. They won rebounding by 15, which really shows you the differences in athleticism right now between the healthy guys in Miami uniforms (not missing Bosh yet) and the injured guys on the floor for Boston. If the Celtics can’t hit their jumpers, they’re not going to rebound their misses.
Worse news for Boston, Miami was only 5 of 25 on treys! This was a blowout and the Heat couldn’t throw a trey in the ocean for long stretches of time. If Miami pops a more reasonable 7 of 20 tonight, then it will be even tougher for the Celtics. Miami actually went 9 of 16 in their Game Five blowout at home of Indiana. Pencil that in against Boston, and we’re looking at a 20-plus point victory.
To us, this boxscore fairly represents the on-court differences between these teams right now when both teams are in comparable states of mind. Miami HAS to let down for Boston to make this a series. Maybe Boston can shoot lights out one game and steal one vs. the standard Heat entry. Most likely, we’re looking at the Heat in five games, with a sweep not out of the question by any means. Handicapping each game forward will involve the question, “Can Boston cover this one as a dog?” Will this dog ever have a shot to hunt?
JIM HURLEY has an opinion about that. You can purchase a side and/or total play here at the website Wednesday afternoon. Be sure to take care of business EARLY because there’s some day baseball. Whenever you have the opportunity, you should try to press up afternoon winnings with night investments.
Early Wednesday Highlights
Kansas City at Cleveland
Chicago White Sox at Tampa Bay
San Diego at Chicago Cubs
Wednesday Evening Marquee Matchups
Detroit at Boston
NY Yankees at LA Angels
St. Louis at Atlanta
Philadelphia at NY Mets
Game day selections are always available here at the website at a convenient time before the games start. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. Be sure to ask about including race day at the Belmont when you check in. It’s easy to add the final jewel in the Triple Crown to any monthly or seasonal package. We will have special offers for just the race itself, or the full day’s card at Belmont.
We’ll return Thursday to preview Game Three of San Antonio-Oklahoma City. Please be with us EVERY DAY in the NOTEBOOK for playoff analysis in the Eastern and Western Conference Finals. WHEN CHAMPIONSHIPS ARE ON THE LINE, you need WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!