How Quick Things Change

Friday's matchup between the Miami Heat and the host Boston Celtics is evidence of how quickly things can change in the NBA.

The last-place Heat (1-7), the Southeast Division champions last season and NBA champs in 2005-06, reached a new low Wednesday, losing 104-95 at home to previously winless Seattle despite Dwyane Wade's return from injury.

Boston (7-0), meanwhile, has gone from the second-worst record in basketball last season to its best start since the storied franchise began 10-0 in 1972-73.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Boston -11 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 185.5 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 92% of bets for this game have been placed on Boston -11 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

Many expected a drastic improvement for Boston after the team acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in the offseason to complement veteran Paul Pierce. All three are averaging more than 20.0 points.

"Anything is possible," Garnett said of the 7-0 start. "You never have a detailed kind of vision like that. You want to jell as a team. You want to make sure that you're having fun. But, at the same time, as a team, you're accomplishing something.

"So far so good."

The Heat's struggles have been more surprising, even without Wade in the lineup for the first seven games. Shaquille O'Neal's numbers continue to decline, the offense is the worst in the league at 84.8 points per game and coach Pat Riley has publicly threatened lineup changes along with questioning the team's desire.

"Unless you feel like you have something at stake or something to lose as a player, then things won't change," Riley said. "If you don't feel like the Heat mean something to you ... you have to have a real meeting with yourself about what you care about. I don't see a team that really feels like they have anything at stake here. They come in, they play, they get beat, they go home, they go out into the night."

Against Seattle, Miami shot 39 percent and was outrebounded 52-34. O'Neal had 10 points, and is averaging 14.6 this season - 11.3 below his career average. Even Wade, who averaged 27.4 points last season, couldn't provide enough spark off the bench despite scoring 15 points in 25 minutes.

"I'm excited. I came out of the game healthy and got some things I can look at to build on," said Wade, who had shoulder and knee surgeries in the offseason. "But as a team, it hurts to lose another ballgame, especially at home, in front of our fans."

Boston has been especially dominant in front of its fans this season. In four wins at the TD Banknorth Garden, the Celtics' closest game was a 20-point victory over Washington in the season opener Nov. 2. They're coming off a 91-69 home win over New Jersey on Wednesday.

Despite Boston being the NBA's lone unbeaten team and allowing an Eastern Conference-low 87.1 points per game, Garnett is trying to keep his team grounded.

"I think we're a lot more in tune to what we're not doing well versus the things we are doing well," said Garnett, who had season lows in minutes (31), points (16) and rebounds (eight) Wednesday due to foul trouble.

Reserve guard Eddie House, averaging 10.2 points, missed Wednesday's game after spraining his ankle in a 101-86 win at Indiana Tuesday. His status is unknown.

Heat leading scorer Ricky Davis (15.3 ppg) spent parts of three seasons with the Celtics before heading to Minnesota in January 2006 in the trade that brought Wally Szczerbiak to Boston. Szczerbiak was dealt to Seattle on draft day in June as part of the Allen trade, while Davis was traded to the Heat.

Davis averaged 31.5 points on 62 percent shooting in two games against the Celtics last season, including a 35-point effort in Boston.

The Heat have won nine of 12 against the Celtics, including three of four in Boston.

By: Marc Young - - Email Us

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