#2 Miami Heat (62-25) vs. #3 Boston Celtics (60-26)
2011 NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs – Second Round
Series Price: Heat -200 / Celtics +170
Game 1 – Sunday, May 1, Boston at Miami, 3:30 pm, ABC
Game 2 – Tuesday, May 3, Boston at Miami, 7:00 pm, TNT
Game 3 – Saturday, May 7, Miami at Boston, 8:00 pm, ABC
Game 4 – Monday, May 9, Miami at Boston, 7:00 pm, TNT
Game 5 * – Wednesday, May 11, Boston at Miami, TBD, TBD
Game 6 * – Friday, May 13, Miami at Boston, TBD, TBD
Game 7 * – Monday, May 16, Boston at Miami, TBD, TBD
All Times Eastern
* if necessary
The most highly-anticipated NBA playoff series of the year starts on Sunday when the third-seeded Boston Celtics (60-26) visit the second-seeded Miami Heat (62-25) for the right to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Both teams were expected to meet in the next round, but the Chicago Bulls snuck up on everybody and ended up seizing the top seed in the East.
The Celtics are the defending Eastern Conference champions and upset top seed Cleveland and current Miami star LeBron James last year as the fourth seed in the second round after knocking out Dwyane Wade and the Heat in the first round. They were the most impressive team in the first round in sweeping the sixth-seeded New York Knicks, especially the last two games that were played on the road and decided by a combined 29 points. The team’s two home games were won by a total of five points and neither resulted in covers.
Miami (-5 in Game 1) was favored in all four regular-season meetings with Boston – losing three of them – but made a serious statement in the last one on April 10 with a dominant 100-77 home victory. That game essentially tilted homecourt advantage in the Heat’s favor since the Celtics essentially conceded by deciding to rest their starters the rest of the way. Boston head coach Doc Rivers has been questioned for that decision but obviously feels his team can win anywhere.
Rivers has a major coaching edge over Miami’s Erik Spoelstra, who relied heavily on his Big Three of James, Wade and Chris Bosh in the first round against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Heat won that series in five games, but center Zydrunas Ilgauskas and point guard Mario Chalmers were the only other players besides the Big Three to score in double figures at any point. Ilgauskas and Chalmers accomplished that feat in one game apiece and will need to provide more support against a much more balanced Celtics team.
Spoelstra was hoping to have power forward Udonis Haslem available for this series to give his team more depth inside, but a foot injury is expected to keep him out. The Miami bench could get even shorter if sharpshooter Mike Miller continues to sit out with a thumb injury. New acquisition Mike Bibby has been a major disappointment as a starter at the point since joining the team in March and might not play much either because he is such a poor defender.
While Boston is not expecting center Shaquille O’Neal to offer much, the team still figures to have an advantage on the interior with Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal and Glen Davis. The Celtics also own an even bigger edge at the point with Rajon Rondo playing arguably the best basketball of his career. Rondo averaged 19 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds per game against the Knicks, and his potential to continue that stellar play means Chalmers and Wade will have to chase him around most of the time, possibly taking away from their offensive production.
Series Pick: Boston Celtics (+170 at Bookmaker) in 6
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