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Heat vs. Celtics

Game 6

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6/7/12

The second-seeded Miami Heat are freezing up at the worst possible time again, bringing back memories of losing four of five games to the Dallas Mavericks in last year's NBA Finals following a big win in Game 1.  The Heat (-1.5) are following a similar script this year and could end up dropping four straight if they fail to win Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals on the road against the fourth-seeded Boston Celtics on Thursday night.

The Celtics have shown tremendous heart in this series and played like the 2008 NBA champions, who turned the tables on the favored Los Angeles Lakers en route to the title.  Many of the players from that team remain on the current Boston squad, including original "Big Three" members Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to go along with Rajon Rondo.

The difference this time around for the Celtics is that Garnett, Pierce and Allen are all aging while Rondo has hit his prime and carried the team at times.  Miami copied the "Big Three" model with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, but it has not worked out nearly as well so far.  Anything less than winning an NBA championship is considered a failure, so another loss at Boston would result in another disappointing end to their season.

The Heat melted down the stretch in a 94-90 loss in Game 5 at home on Tuesday with nobody besides James (30 points) and Wade (27) scoring in double figures.  Bosh returned to action after missing nine games with an abdominal strain, but he was limited to 14 minutes and sat the entire fourth quarter when his team could have used him.  Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra has been questioned for his decision to keep Bosh on the bench, and rightfully so.  Bosh could have definitely contributed more and seemed like he was capable early on before finishing with nine points and seven rebounds.

For the Celtics to close out Miami, they simply need to keep doing what they have been doing, getting a balanced effort offensively and defensively led by Garnett and Rondo.  Garnett has made the biggest impact of any player in the series, exploiting the Heat's weakness inside, including 26 points and 11 rebounds in Game 5.  While bettors can expect to see more Bosh in Game 6, it may not be enough.  Boston has covered the spread in the last four games with the OVER cashing each time.

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