While most of the buzz this week has been about the Super Bowl line and NFL predictions, the NBA is in mid-season form as the all-star break and the trade deadline are fast approaching. This Wednesday features a matchup of two of the Eastern Conference’s top teams and star players.
Miami Heat (24-24, 8th in Eastern Conference) @ Boston Celtics (30-16, t-3rd in Eastern Conference)
Betting Services (*note lines are approximations as they have not been posted at time of writing)
Spread: Celtics -6.5
Money Lines: Celtics -230, Heat + 185
[adinserter block=”1″]The Miami Heat, as their .500 record indicates, have had an up and down year. It was to be expected with their reliance on young players (PG Mario Chalmers, F Michael Beasley) declining players (C Jermaine O’Neal, PF Udonis Haslem, G Quentin Richardson, G Rafer Alston). If they were without G Dwayne Wade, this team would be a high lottery team. Fortunately for them, they are not. Wade is putting in an MVP-type season averaging 27 points with 6.3 assists and 4.9 rebounds with 1.77 steals and 1.15 blocks a game.
He’s done it in much the same way Peyton Manning has with the Colts; getting the ball to his teammates and facilitating the offense and extraordinary defense. Let’s just say Daequan Cook makes an excellent Curtis Painter.
The Celtics have lost three of their last four. Those three were the Hawks, Magic and Lakers who all have better records than the Celtics and appear at this point to all be better than them. The Heat do not matchup extremely well with the Celtics plus PG Mario Chalmers is going to be out for a while (torn thumb ligament). Wade has been bothered by back spasms according to Head Coach Erik Spolestra, but he is a warrior and will gut it out for this one. Celtics All-Star forward Paul Pierce sprained his ankle in a win against the Wizards Monday night but was able to return to the game. Pierce only played 28 minutes and had 12 points and 8 boards.
Keys to the Game
The Heat play about as well on the road as they do at home but the key to their success will be the play of PG Rafer Alston. Alston led the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals last season after a midseason trade from Houston. He was replaced by Jameer Nelson who returned from injury just in time for the finals and threw the team’s chemistry off for that series. Alston will now get the chance to start and play big minutes for the Heat. He had success versus the Celtics in their series last year and F Michael Beasley is looking more and more like an emerging star in this league. If Alston can find Beasley and Wade it will be a tough night for the Celtics who are actually a only an average home team (13-8).
[adinserter block=”2″]The Celtics will look to take advantage of the lack of a way to guard Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins. Kevin Garnett has not looked like an all-star since his return from injury and has slipped in the speed and jumping departments noticeably. Garnett is still a very good player but has to learn how to play more efficiently on the offensive side of the ball with his new deficiencies.
The Celtics will be too much for the Heat in this one as the Heat adjust to playing with a new point guard. Dwayne Wade will have a great game as always to keep this one close and we may see a few highlight dunks by Michael Beasley, but the Heat will fall short. Boston’s team defense has its missing piece refit and they are tough to score against. The Heat do not have the defensive stoppers to hold down Boston’s dominant starting lineup.
Final: Celtics 91- Heat 82
Best bet: Take the Celtics and the under.