Miami’s drive to an NBA title will begin Tuesday on the road in Boston.
The much-hyped Miami Heat start the NBA season, and their ‘championship or bust’ campaign, when they visit the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night.
Bookmaker.com has the game at even odds with a total of 192-points. This is the first game of an NBA tripleheader with Phoenix (plus 7 ½) at Portland and Houston (plus 7 ½) at the L.A. Lakers late from the West Coast.
The Heat made the biggest splash in NBA free agency history when it signed both LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join incumbent Dwyane Wade. Anything less than a title will be deemed a major disappointment and Miami is the plus 125 favorite to win the whole thing.
Not many pundits are doubting that Miami’s ‘Three Kings’ are going to be great together, but there are still question marks with the supporting cast and health.
The injury bug has already hit Miami hard. Swingman Mike Miller has a thumb injury and will be out until at least January. The swingman is a great outside shooter who was going to spread the floor for James and Wade to operate in the lane. Veteran Jerry Stackhouse was just signed to provide depth.
Wade has been out (hamstring) since the preseason opener, but returned to practice on Saturday and is probable for Tuesday. James, Mario Chalmers, Carlos Arroyo, Eddie House and Jamaal Magloire have all dealt with ailments, but are ready to go.
Losing Wade in the preseason could affect early play as coach Erik Spoelstra needs to get guys used to his system and playing together in real games. Miami went just 3-4 straight-up in the preseason, losing the last three. It hasn’t played since last Thursday, with Friday’s night’s Orlando game canceled due to a slippery court.
Either Chalmers or Arroyo will start at point guard and center Joel Anthony rounds out the starting five. House, Udonis Haslem, James Jones and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are four more options off the pine in an underrated unit.
Miami went 47-35 SU last year (43-37-2 against the spread), losing in the first round to Boston in five games. The ‘over’ was 45-36-1. However, it’s hard to infer much from those stats with a complete roster makeover.
The Celtics made an unexpected run to the NBA Finals last year, beating the Heat, Cavaliers and Magic in the playoffs. They even led the Los Angeles Lakers 3-2 in the NBA Finals before losing the last two games out west in heartbreaking fashion.
Boston is an old team with starters Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce ranging from 33-35. Free agent acquisition Jermaine O’Neal was supposed to start at center with Kendrick Perkins (ACL) out until February, but he’s been hampered by injuries and Shaquille O’Neal will start Tuesday.
Point guard Rajon Rondo is the only young player in the starting five. The bench is going to play a lot of minutes and they’re talented with Nate Robinson, Glen Davis, Marquis Daniels and Jermaine O’Neal (probable for Tuesday).
One name not on that list is Delonte West. He’s serving a 10-game league suspension and will be an effective combo guard when he gets back. Veteran Von Wafer will see time in his absence.
The Celtics went just 50-32 SU in the regular season last year with Garnett and Pierce each missing double-digit games with injuries. They really struggled (24-17 SU, 12-28-1 ATS) at home. They did get their ‘mojo’ back in the playoffs, 9-3 SU and ATS at home.
Boston shined in the preseason (7-1 SU) and is plus 1200 to win the NBA title at Bookmaker. Other sportsbooks have the team as low as plus 800.
Tip-off from TD Banknorth Garden is at 4:30 p.m. (PT). TNT will have the broadcast.
Boston will play at Cleveland on Wednesday against the LeBron-less Cavaliers. Miami will also play a ‘back-to-back,’ making the short flight to Philadelphia.