Charles Barkley called the Celtics a mentally weak team during the NBA on TNT halftime show Tuesday night, but he significantly changed his tune after the Boston extended its Eastern Conference finals series with a Game 4 win over the Miami Heat.
“… But I’m telling you, they got no chance,” Barkley said on the NBA on TNT broadcast in reference to the Heat. “I said it’s a cakewalk. I’m going to remember I said it. When I call my bookie, I?m gonna say, ‘Whatever I can bet (on the Celtics), give it to me, buddy.'”
Producers then clearly got into the ear of Barkley, before the talkative analyst followed up with: “They (Celtics) were the favorite in this series, let’s not forget that. … And let me tell you something, I cannot get to FanDuel quick enough (to bet Game 5).”
Colleagues Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal gave the Celtics credit for their Game 4 win but didn’t have the same thought as Barkley. Both believe the Heat will bounce back and Miami’s mindset won’t let Boston run away with another series-extending win.
“I disagree with that,” Barkley said when Smith explained why Game 5 would be more difficult for the Celtics. “I think Game 5 is going to be a cakewalk. I think they’re going to have so much energy because not getting swept, they don’t get a cookie, but now they’re going to go back home. That place is going to be loud, incredible. I think they’re going to kill Miami next game and they’re going to come back down here (to Miami), and I’m going to tell you something else, Game 6 in Miami going to be Game 7 for Miami.”
But bettors might still want to proceed with caution. Sure, the Celtics are riding the momentum after a road victory, but this team has been incredibly inconsistent all season. It has the talent to not only beat Miami in Game 5 but be the first NBA team to come back from a 3-0 series deficit. It also has the maddening résumé to lose Game 5 in front of its home crowd just as belief was being restored.
And it’s not like the Celtics are a stone-cold lock as a betting favorite. Boston was favored in each of the first three games of the series, and not only failed to cover the spread but lost straight up. The number of times the group has lost as the moneyline favorite this season is historic.
Barkley clearly isn’t overly concerned about that, though. Maybe he’s on to something, or maybe not.