These are the types of games that basketball fans dream of during every NBA postseason: the absolute last possible showdown of an incredible 7-game series between two exciting NBA franchises, which will undoubtedly find both contenders throwing everything they can muster into the battle on the hard court. For tonight’s final clash in South Florida this evening, the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics get set to duke it out for a shot at the NBA Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder, with tip-off set for 5:30 PM ET at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. Grab ahold of the edge of your seat tonight folks, as this match-up is certainly one that will be the most engaging, entertaining, and exciting sporting events on Saturday for online sports betting action at one of the best online sportsbooks reviewed here at CR.
There’s little question that for tonight’s critical match-up, the hosting Miami Heat have all the confidence in their corner. Winning in Boston for just the first time over the course of the entire 2011-12 NBA season, and for just the second time in the last 10 games played at the TD Garden, the Heat come home with their heads held high after a dominating 19-point victory which saw LeBron James completely blow the Celtics out of the water to the tune of 45 points and 15 rebounds. Where in the past James has been unable to be clutch at the most important moments, the tides have changed and now King James looks like a man that simply can’t miss in the heat of the moment, outmatching any Celtics defender and making even the toughest of shots look simply commonplace. Perhaps it has been wrong of us to say that if Boston focuses its attention on preventing strong efforts from the rest of the Miami Heat, they can survive and stay in contention each night regardless of what LeBron James does. It has become more and more apparent as this series rolls on that James is indeed the X-factor for every game in this series, now averaging a whopping 34.0 points/game with 10.8 rebounds/game to boot. Coming off a silly 73.6 percent shooting night in Game 6, there is no question who the Heat will lean on this evening at home, as they’ll need their floor leader to have another big game to rally behind and set the tone of the match-up from the beginning. For Miami, getting LeBron James out and scoring from the early on could seal the deal in this series. The Heat obviously can win huge even with only one other player in double figures, so long as the King is able to have a hot hand and frustrate the Boston defense from start to finish.
Though Miami can’t expect James to put up the ungodly numbers he did in Game 6, what they should expect and demand is a stronger performance from the James’ support group, starting with Dwayne Wade. Wade was pretty awful in Game 6, producing just 5 points in the first half on 1-for-6 shooting, before coming on a little better in the second half to close with 17 points and 8 rebounds. Dwayne Wade, typically a standout against the Celtics over history, has been up and down in this extended series, but should be back up to par shooting-wise at home in a critical Game 7. His efficiency at home in this series is encouraging for the Heat, as he takes less shots, and is more effective, averaging 24 points on 16.6 shots per game while shooting 53.4 percent from the floor (contrast that with 18.3 points on 19.6 shots/game, 37.6 percent shooting at Boston). Expect Wade to step up big time tonight, and be a key factor in the Heat’s game plan as undoubtedly the Celtics will look to put even more defensive pressure on LeBron James.
Outside of James and Wade, there should be a couple other Miami players who should be major influences in Game 7. Chris Bosh will be a major key, as his minutes should once again be around 30 with his strained abdomen preventing head coach Erik Spoelstra from playing the big man for the entire stretch of the contest. Though Bosh hasn’t been hugely effective on offense, going 3-for-8 from the floor in Games 5 and 6, his presence on defense is essential to slowing down Boston’s Kevin Garnett, who no doubt will be playing a hard, physical game down in the paint this evening. Garnett was completely off his game in Game 6 with Bosh stepping up, getting just 12 points and only 5 rebounds, snapping his run of 3 straight double-doubles. Though Bosh will need some help from guys like Udonis Haslem, expect him to play a major role on the defensive side once again in Game 7 tonight. Also, make sure to keep some attention on Mario Chalmers, who will look to shadow Rajon Rondo this evening, and to Shane Battier, who despite not being a hugely efficient contributor on offense, has shown his strengths on the defensive side of the basketball. Expect the Heat to really hone in on preventing big scoring nights from the Boston Big Four of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo.
On the Boston side of the story, Game 6 was undoubtedly hugely defeating for a team who has rallied back, won on the road in Game 5, and looked to be in control of their own destiny at home at the TD Garden. It simply wasn’t meant to be however, as the Celtics shot just 1-for-14 from beyond the arc, where outrebounded 44-34, and had simply no answer on defense for LeBron James’ epic performance. The good takeaway from Game 6 for the Celtics however, was the fact that they were the better team in scoring around the basket (42-32 on points in the paint), and were a +10 on fast break points. The bad; Paul Pierce’s efforts continue to get worse and worse as the series wears on, culminating in Game 6 with a dud of a performance getting just 9 points on 4-for-18 shooting (0-for-6 from 3-point range). There is no question that Paul Pierce has to be the Celtic player to step up his game tonight, as he has shot a miserable 33.6 percent from the floor in this series through 6 games. Without someone to step up and match LeBron James’ or Dwayne Wade’s efforts, Boston will have to hinge their entire game plan on the defensive end of the court, which will mean they are playing back on their heels. The Celtics have to come out aggressive on offense, and getting Pierce out to a good start would no doubt build the confidence back quickly for Boston. While Pierce, Garnett, Rondo and Allen all must step up their games this evening, two other Celtics players who must play their roles well tonight are Brandon Bass and Mikael Pietrus. Pietrus was a non-factor in Game 6, getting just 2 points and 3 rebounds, but his 13 points in Game 5 at Miami is encouraging. Brandon Bass on the other hand simply needs to keep playing well, averaging 11 points and 6 rebounds in the last 3 games. He’ll be key in the paint tonight to keep Udonis Haslem in check and provide support against the penetration of LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, so look out for Bass to be a crucial piece of Boston’s game plan once more.
Betting Lines for the Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics at WagerWeb Sportsbook.
The Miami Heat, after trouncing the Celtics by 19 points back in Boston, certainly have the attention of the bookmakers at WagerWeb, getting huge odds as favorites to win tonight at -450 odds straight up. Boston, despite winning at Miami in their last trip out, will get +370 odds to win as heavy underdogs.
Against the Spread, the Heat have a huge margin to make up in such a critical final showdown, getting -8 points against the spread at -110 odds. This could favor a shot at the underdog here, despite their crushing home loss on Thursday, as the veteran Celtics should bring their A-game and stand a good chance of staying withing the +8 points given to them against the spread. This is our pick of the day for Game 7 wagers, hoping that in any case this final showdown will at least be close and exciting towards the finish.
What has been the trickiest play for online sports betting in this series is the over/under, which tonight stands at 178 ½ points for the total points line. The over/under continues to go down after a couple of high scoring games, but we’re interested in going out on a limb to expect a faster paced contest tonight as both teams try to get out of the gates strong from the start. It’s going to be close, and no doubt the bookmakers are temping sports fans to challenge to over side of the total points line with the lower mark here tonight, but with step-up performances likely to come from a variety of sources on both sides of the ball, look out for a breakthrough of the over/under in this Game 7.
Make sure to do as much research as possible for this crucial Game 7 showdown in Miami tonight, as unfortunately this will be the last opportunity to wager on what has been an outstanding and incredibly exciting series between the two top teams representing the NBA’s Eastern Conference. Good luck placing your wagers for this match-up, and we certainly hope that whichever way your wagers lie, you come out a success at WagerWeb Sportsbook, or any one of the top reviewe online sportsbooks found at CR.