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When looking at all eight of the NBA’s first-round matchups, I foresee really only one higher seed having a good chance of upsetting a lower one, and that’s No. 5 Miami over No. 4 Boston in the East.
As of this writing none of the books have released series lines, but the Celtics
probably will also be the shortest favorites of them all. I guarantee you that Boston was hoping that New Jersey could have upset the Heat in double overtime last night because that would have gotten the Celtics a Milwaukee team without Andrew Bogut. It almost seemed like the Heat wanted to lose and potentially get Boston because they didn’t play Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem and Jermaine O'Neal against New Jersey. Haslem and O’Neal had minor injuries but will be on the floor for Game 1 in Boston on Saturday.
The Celtics rested pretty much everyone in getting bombed at home by the Bucks on Wednesday night, so don’t read too much into that. I would also say not to read much into the fact that Boston was 3-0 (2-1 ATS) against the Heat this year – all three games were decided by less than seven points and one in overtime on a Rajon Rondo miracle shot. The Heat actually are 1-11 in their last 12 games against Boston, with Miami’s only win coming when the Celtics were without Kevin Garnett and Rondo.
However, Miami closed the season winning 12 of its final 13 games (only two opponents reached 100 points) and going 7-1 ATS on the road. Boston has lost seven of 10 -- five of six at home -- and is 27-27 since Christmas (Miami is 32-23 since Dec. 25). Plus the Celtics have had no answer for Wade this season, with “Flash” averaging 33.7 points (50.7 percent shooting), 8.7 assists and 5.0 rebounds. Rondo and Ray Allen likely will share the main assignment on Wade, who averaged more against Boston than any Eastern Conference opponent.
`We feel we're a different team now,'' Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said to the Miami Herald of the 0-3 record against Boston in 2009-10. ``All three games were competitive, so it is a little bit deceptive. You have to respect what they have done.''
The Boston media is reporting the locker room is “fractured” (gee, what did the C’s expect by adding Rasheed Wallace?) and there’s talk that Coach Doc Rivers will walk away after this season because he is fed up.
Young, athletic teams like Miami have given Boston trouble in the playoffs in the past – think Atlanta taking the Celtics to seven games in 2008 and Chicago doing the same last year. And these Celtics, particularly Garnett, look old. The key no doubt will be Michael Beasley for Miami. He is just as capable of putting up a 25-point, 13-rebound line like he did Wednesday as he is 5 points and 5 rebounds like he did in a 112-106 loss to Boston on Jan. 6.
Boston has been able to flip the switch against some of the league’s elite teams this season, and maybe the Celtics will be able to do so starting Saturday. But if Wade is simply Wade, Beasley is at least good and O’Neal is healthy, the Heat can pull this upset. If you are going to take one underdog in the first round, it has to be Miami.