News that Shaquille O’Neal had started practicing Friday in hopes of playing in Sunday’s Game 1 had little influence on the price of the Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat.
Most offshore sports books monitored by Don Best Sports’ Real-Time Odds have installed Miami as a 200 series favorite, with Boston listed at plus 170. Miami opened as a five-point home favorite in Game 1, with the total set at 182 ½ points.
The contest will be played at AmericanAirlines Arena starting at 12:35 p.m. (PT), with ABC providing television coverage.
O’Neal, who has not played since suffering a right calf injury on April 5, would give the Celts a much needed inside presence that would make Miami’s LeBron James and Dwyane Wade at least think twice about driving the lane.
“The price for Sunday’s Game 1 wouldn’t change even if O’Neal was in uniform for Sunday’s Game 1,” reported Sports Club oddsmaker Pete Korner. “When O’Neal was in his prime, his absence could affect the line by as much as four points.
“However, with Boston trading center Kendrick Perkins earlier this season, they certainly could use O’Neal’s big body to clog the paint.
“If O’Neal does return at some point in the series and proves effective, that could move the opening line for the next game just a bit,” concluded Korner.
The Don Best Sports injury report lists O’Neal as “doubtful” for Game 1. Miami forward Mike Miller is “questionable” with a thumb injury.
How they got here
Miami dismissed Philadelphia in five games during the Eastern Conference quarterfinal round. But the Heat failed to cover the spread on three occasions, including two of three at home. As a result, Miami is now a less-than-impressive 42-44-1 ATS overall and a dismal 17-27 ATS on its home court.
The ‘under’ cashed in three of the five games against the 76ers, leaving the ‘over/under’ 43-43-1 in Miami’s 87 overall outings this season.
The Heat’s “Big Three” of James, Wade and Chris Bosh had a fine five-game series against the 76ers. James averaged 24.2 PPG, 10.6 RPG and 6.2 APG. Wade averaged 22.2 PPG, 8.4 RPG and 5.2 APG. Bosh hauled down 9.2 RPG while averaging 19.8 PPG.
Boston registered a four-game sweep against the injury-plagued Knicks in its opening round match. The Celtics failed to cover in their two home games, but covered both road encounters. As a result, Doc Rivers’ troops are 40-44-2 ATS overall and 26-16-1 ATS in enemy territory.
The ‘under’ cashed in three of the four games against the Knicks, leaving the ‘under’ 47-38-1 overall and 26-16-1 in 43 road dates.
The Celtics used a four-pronged attack to dismantle the Knicks. Paul Pierce led the way with an average of 22.3 PPG, while Ray Allen chipped in with a 22.0 PPG average. Rajon Rondo averaged 12 assists in the four games, while Kevin Garnett averaged 15.5 points and a team-high 11.3 rebounds per game.
Regular season series
Boston was 3-1 both SU and ATS versus Miami during the regular season, with the ‘under’ also going 3-1. The Celtics captured the first three meetings before suffering a 100-77 loss as a six-point road underdog on April 10 in the most recent matchup.
That April game was played with postseason intensity. Jermaine O'Neal was given a flagrant foul for a body check while James was driving to the basket in the second quarter. James was hit with a technical foul for throwing the ball at O'Neal. Pierce and Wade were given technical fouls during the incident, while Bosh was later given a technical for arguing with the officials.
Boston is 8-3 ATS in its last 11 playoff games in the role of an underdog. Miami is 10-3-1 ATS in its last 14 conference semifinal games. The ‘under’ is 19-6-1 in Boston’s last 26 overall outings and 6-2 in Miami’s last eight contests. Boston is 9-3 ATS in the last 12 series meetings in Miami.