It’s the first NBA preview of the new season, and you can’t ask for a much better opener than when Boston visits Miami in a rematch of last season’s epic Eastern Conference Finals series.
Boston looked in command of that series with a 3-2 lead heading into Game 6 in Boston, but LeBron James had one of the great playoff games in history with 45 points (19-for-26 from the field), 15 rebounds and five assists as Miami blew out the Cs 98-79 to force a Game 7 back in South Florida. LeBron played all 48 minutes of that one, finishing with 31 points and 12 boards in a 101-88 victory. Rajon Rondo had a triple-double in that one for Boston, which had an 11-point early lead.
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The Heat will be getting their rings and raising the championship banner before Tuesday’s game, and that’s probably going to feel quite awkward for Ray Allen. The future Hall of Famer and all-time three-point king chose not to re-sign with Boston this offseason – some say because he couldn’t stand Rondo – and instead inked with Miami for much less money than what Boston offered. Allen said he thought Miami gave him a better chance of winning a title. One of Miami’s few weaknesses last year was three-point shooting, and obviously Allen should solve that problem. The 37-year-old is a 10-time all-star who averaged 14.2 points and 3.1 rebounds last season. He is the NBA's all-time leader in three-pointers made (2,718) and 34th in career three-point percentage (40 percent). He shot a career-best 45.3 percent on three-pointers last season.
It definitely wasn’t an amicable split as there has been plenty of talking back-and-forth through the media this offseason. According to ESPNBoston.com, Kevin Garnett said he lost Allen’s phone number, Coach Doc Rivers said ego played a role in Allen’s departure, and Rondo doesn’t even use Allen’s name, just referring to him as him “No. 20.”
The Celtics arrived in Miami a day early to get ahead of Hurricane Sandy. Only four current Boston players competed in the Game 7 loss to the Heat.
Celtics at Heat Betting Story Lines
Other than Allen, the Celtics brought back most everyone else of note this offseason, and they made two big moves to essentially replace Allen by signing Mavericks free agent Jason Terry and trading for Houston guard Courtney Lee. Terry is one of the league’s top sixth men. He averaged 15.1 points last season in 31.7 minutes per game, shooting 37.8 percent from three-point range. Terry is fourth in league history with 1,788 three-pointers, trailing only Allen, Reggie Miller and Jason Kidd.
Lee will start at shooting guard until Avery Bradley returns from shoulder surgery that sidelined him after 10 playoff games last season. The Celtics are hoping to have him back by mid-December. Lee averaged 11.4 points in 30.3 minutes per game last season with Houston and shot 40.1 percent beyond the three-point arc in 58 appearances, including 26 starts. He’s a good defensive player.
Boston also welcomes back Jeff Green. He was diagnosed with an aortic root aneurysm last December and underwent heart surgery, missing the season. Celtics boss Danny Ainge surprised many when he gave the forward a four-year, $36 million deal in August despite those health worries. Green averaged 9.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in 23.5 minutes for Boston in 2010-11 after coming from Oklahoma City in the Kendrick Perkins trade. Green can play multiple positions and will help spell both Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The Celtics had a minus-27.6 point differential per 100 possessions in last year’s playoffs when Garnett was on the bench. Boston was 16-2 last season when Garnett scored at least 10 points in the paint. New addition Darko Milicic and rookies Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo also are likely to help spell the 36-year-old Garnett. Even with the loss of Allen, this team looks better and certainly deeper on paper than last year’s.
Meanwhile, Miami’s other main offseason acquisition was Rashard Lewis, another three-point shooter. Really, the Heat are just counting on Dwyane Wade being fully healthy this season. Also expect to see Chris Bosh see a lot more playing time at center (he led the team in scoring and field goal percentage during the preseason). And, of course, there is that LeBron guy, who was clearly the best player on the U.S. Olympic team and scarily might just now be entering his prime years.
Boston won three of four regular-season meetings with the Heat in 2011-12 (1-1 in Miami).
Celtics at Heat Betting Odds and Key Trends
On WagerWeb, the Heat are six-point favorites with the total at 186. Boston was 34-31-1 ATS last season and 16-17 ATS on road. Miami was 32-34 ATS overall and 18-15 ATS at home. “Over/under” records: BOS 29-37, MIA 25-39-2. The Celtics are 8-3 ATS in the past 11 meetings. The over is 5-1 in the past six meetings.
NBA Picks: Celtics at Heat Betting Predictions
I can’t help but think back to last season’s opener when the Heat went into the defending champion Dallas Mavericks’ house and, well, housed them. It was an immediate statement game. I think the Celtics are very motivated to make their own and badly want to stick it to Allen. Take the points and the under.
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