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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, May 27, 2012 at 1:29 PM

The Boston Celtics have no time to rest, get heatlhy, or prepare for the extremely formidable challenge of battling the Miami Heat for the Eastern Conference championship. After surviving a steel cage wrestling match Saturday Night against Philadelphia (in what was a seven-game series of wrestling matches!), Boston will be right back on the floor Monday Night in Miami.


*Ray Allen's ankle still isn't back to 100% based on his movement and shooting form Saturday Night.

*Paul Pierce is looking older and older with each passing game, as the Celtics warrior continues to battle through a variety of aches and pains.

*Avery Bradley will miss the series and some of next season because of shoulder surgery.

*Kevin Garnett has been able to contribute with jumpers on offense, but isn't the physical force he used to be

*Rajon Rondo has been unable to carry the team on his back every time out, managing only to get the job done when it's most needed (which is better than not getting the job done!)

One reason Celtics/Sixers was such a grind was because Boston can only win in a grinding style. They don't have team speed. They don't have team athelticism any more (there are occasional athletic moments, but the team as a whole plays like the walking wounded). And, they don't have anyone on the bench who's going to come in and light a fire.

Frankly, the team that just beat the Philadelphia 76ers has no chance to hang with Miami. Boston needs to lift its game significantly just to be competitive. What we've seen in the first two rounds of the playoffs is the Celtics squad from the first half of the season...the one that consistently failed to impress night in and night out. They've done enough to survive mediocre Atlanta and inexperienced Philadelphia. No more smoke and mirrors.

Let's crunch some numbers and see what our favorite indicator stats are saying.


Game One: Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC

Series Price: Miami -550, Boston +450

Game One Line: Miami by 8.5, total of 180

The market makes Boston a significant favorite here...with prices suggesting the'll be favored in every game that's played in this series. Maybe, if Boston finds the fountain of youth (which is allegedly located in Florida!), there's a chance the Celtics will be impressive enough to become a small home favorite in Game Three or Game Four. What's more likely is that Miami will be in the -2 to -3 range in Beantown, possibly more if the Celtics can't get up to speed.

A series price of -550 is very high for a conference final. Some would suggest, on principal, that no number should ever be that high when you're in the Final Four. We'll see. Miami did find championship caliber form in the last two-and-a-half games against Indiana. Boston will occasionally have a good half. There's just no comparison right now in terms of who's most likely to survive a best of seven series. Remember that Indiana was on the brink of a meltdown vs. Indiana and still ended up winning 4-2.

Efficiency Rankings

Boston: 24th on offense, 2nd on defense, 28th in rebounding

Miami: 6th on offense, 4th on defense, 6th in rebounding

As we reminded you Sunday, these are full season rankings in points scored and allowed per possession, as well as a ranking in percentage of available rebounds grabbed. Boston can compete with Miami defensively...but the offense is way behind, and rebounding isn't going to be an area where Boston can make up ground. In fact, one of the reasons Boston ranks 2nd on defense is that they don't crash the offensive glass. That lets their older guys get back in time to defend. Miami is great on defense but also rebounds!

What's the pathway for Boston to compete in this series given those numbers? There isn't any. Boston will have to shoot much better than the 24th offense would suggest. They're not going to get second chance points from offensive boards. They must earn open looks then drain them. And, they must do that on four different occasions.

And, obviously, they're going to have to drag Miami into the mud to make it another wrestling match. If they can slow things down and disrupt LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, then there's a chance to win more 85-83 type snoozers. That could happen. What's more likely is that Miami picks up enough points in transition vs. the slow, aging Celtics to give them a shot at 90-100 on most nights. Boston's not going to win straight up in that range, and might have trouble covering spreads in the +8 range as well.

JIM HURLEY has been working very closely with his sources to get a read on Monday's first game as well as the whole series. If Miami comes in overconfident, while Boston has recuperated faster than expected...we could have quite a Game One on our hands. But, if Boston is beat up, and Miami is fired up to make a statement...then Miami could double or even triple the Vegas pointspread.

Be sure you check the home page of this website Memorial Day afternoon for details on the side and total possibilities. Game day releases always go up well in advance for your convenience. Of course, you'll want to take care of business EARLY Monday because of all the DAY BASEBALL!

Among the afternoon highlights: Washington/Miami, Philadelphia/NY Mets, St. Louis/Atlanta, Detroit/Boston, and Chicago White Sox/Tampa Bay.

Of note in the evening: Milwaukee/LA Dodgers, Baltimore/Toronto, NY Yankees/LA Angels.

If you have any questions about service, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. Be sure you ask about the Belmont when you call. The final jewel in the Triple Crown can be added to any combination package for a nominal fee (the whole day at Belmont or just the big race).

Back again Tuesday to run the Game One numbers from Oklahoma City/San Antonio and to outline expectations for Game Two. We'll take you day-by-day through the conference championships right here on these pages. For BIG JUICY WINNERS, link up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

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