Celtics try to close out Heat Thursday at home
NBA PLAYOFF GAME PREVIEW
No. 2 MIAMI HEAT
at No. 4 BOSTON CELTICS
Eastern Conference Finals
Game 6 – Boston leads series 3-2
Tip-off: Thursday, 8:35 p.m. ET
Line: Miami -1½, Total: 179
The Celtics have taken control of the Eastern Conference Finals with three straight wins, and will look to finish off the Heat in Thursday night’s Game 6 in Boston.
Despite Miami All-Star PF Chris Bosh returning to the floor after a nine-game absence on Thursday night, Boston was able to win Game 5 at AmericanAirlines Arena, 94-90. The Celtics overcame poor shooting nights from three of their four stars (Rajon Rondo 3-of-15 FG, Paul Pierce 6-of-19 FG and Ray Allen 2-of-9 FG), thanks mostly to PF Kevin Garnett (26 points, 11 rebounds) and partly to reserve SF Mickael Pietrus scoring 13 points with two huge threes late in the fourth quarter. The Heat dynamic duo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined for 57 points on 21-of-47 FG (45%), but the rest of the team made just 11-of-35 shots (31%). Bosh logged only 14 minutes, but still managed nine points and seven rebounds. Now the series shifts back to TD Garden where Boston is 8-1 SU (5-4 ATS) this postseason, allowing a mere 84.2 PPG to its visitors. Can Miami force a Game 7 on Thursday? For the answer, connect to NBA Playoffs Best Bets for all the Expert picks for every playoff game during the 2012 postseason. Since May 18, StatFox Dave is on a 14-7-1 ATS (66.7%) run, including 6-1-1 in his Best Bets.
Although Miami outrebounded Boston substantially on Tuesday (49-39), the foul calls in this game were dead-even at 21 apiece. That resulted in 27 Celtics free-throw attempts and 25 trips to the line for the Heat. Miami committed three more turnovers (15-12) and shot just 7-for-26 (27%) from behind the three-point arc, while Boston made 6-of-15 threes (40%). For the series, neither offense has been great. The Heat are averaging 96.0 PPG on 45% FG (29% threes), while the Celtics have 95.6 PPG on 44% FG (33% threes).
James has been unguardable all series, scoring 29+ points in each of the five games (31.8 PPG), while chalking up 10.0 RPG with 4.0 APG. The one knock on James in his past three contests is his inability to cash in at the free-throw line. After making 18-of-24 freebies in Game 2, James is a dreadful 11-for-21 from the foul line during his team’s three-game skid. Wade is also having a great offensive series with 18+ points in each game (22.0 PPG). But his rating is just +1 over the past three contests. PF Udonis Haslem scored just three points in 33 minutes on Tuesday, but he grabbed double-digit rebounds (14) for the third time in four games. PG Mario Chalmers has seen both his points and ratings decline in each of the past three games, averaging just 11.7 PPG (41.9% FG, 2-of-10 threes) with a combined minus-15 rating during the Heat’s three defeats. SF Shane Battier has also had a rough three games with a paltry 11 points (4-of-14 FG), five rebounds and minus-6 rating in 112 minutes of action. Battier began the series with 9.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG and a cumulative +28 rating in Games 1-2.
Although Rondo has had a fantastic East Finals series (20.6 PPG, 11.0 APG, 6.8 RPG), he appeared to have tired legs in Game 5 with his 3-for-15 shooting night. He has played 46.2 minutes per game in this series after logging 40.3 MPG in the seven-game series versus Philadelphia in the East semifinals. The rims have been kind Rondo at TD Garden though, as he’s making 47.2% of his shots at home in the playoffs. Garnett has 19.9 PPG and 10.8 RPG in the 2012 playoffs, including double-digit rebounds in 14 of 18 games. After posting a minus-15 rating in Games 1-2, he has a stellar +38 rating during the three-game win streak. Pierce has been putting up bricks all series (35.8% FG), but has still managed 19.6 PPG, thanks to 22-of-24 FT. His other stats in the East Finals haven’t been stellar either with just 4.4 RPG, 14 assists and 12 turnovers. But he did make the biggest shot of Game 5, burying a three-pointer with 52 seconds left to extend his team’s lead to four points. SG Ray Allen has also been ice-cold from the floor in this series (35% FG), but he was clutch from the foul line on Tuesday (8-for-8) and hit the boards hard with seven rebounds. Starting PF Brandon Bass scored 10 points (4-of-8 FG) in Game 5, increasing his modest series scoring average to 8.2 PPG.