Through two games, the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics are already showing why they were the top-two teams in the Eastern Conference this season.
In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Jimmy Butler’s 41 points helped the Heat cruise to a 118-107 victory over the shorthanded Celtics. However, Boston exacted its revenge on Thursday with a massive 127-102 win, with three players scoring 24 points or more.
Game 3 will now see the teams play at TD Garden for a 2-1 series advantage. Boston is a considerable -6.5 point favorite at home, with the Over/Under pegged at 207.5.
Miami Heat Betting Preview
The results may have been completely different, but Games 1 and 2 had something in common. Both contests saw the Heat face considerable halftime deficits.
Miami actually trailed Boston by eight points in the series opener before out-scoring the C’s 39-14 in the third quarter. However, the Heat fell behind by 25 at halftime, which ended up being the final deficit in their Game 2 loss.
With Butler, former All-Star Bam Adebayo, and Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro, the Heat managed to end the regular season as a top-10 offensive team. But their defense, which finished the year ranked fifth, let them down in Game 2.
Miami will need its elite defense to step up on the road. And it might be tough given its recent injury report, as veterans Kyle Lowry and P.J. Tucker, along with surprise role players Max Strus and Gabe Vincent, are all questionable for Saturday’s contest.
Additionally, the Heat are still waiting for their three-point shooting to come around. Miami is hitting just 31.3% of its long-range attempts, a far cry from the league-best 37.9% it shot in the regular season.
Boston Celtics Betting Preview
Despite a lower seed and no homecourt advantage, the Celtics were actually favorites going into this series. Game 2 proved exactly why.
With the seventh-ranked offense in the NBA, one could view Game 1 as an anomaly. Jayson Tatum scored 29 points but registered one made field goal in the entire second half. But he made up it with 20 first-half points in their Game 2 blowout.
Boston clearly received a boost from a couple of players who missed Game 1. Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart registered a 24-12-9 stat line in Game 2. Meanwhile, veteran Al Horford also made an impact after missing the series opener, shooting a perfect 4-of-4 from the field.
Unlike Miami, the Celtics now have a clean injury report as the series shifts to TD Garden. When healthy, Boston finished the regular season ranked seventh in offensive rating and second in defensive rating, besting the one-seed Heat in both categories.
The Celtics are also shooting better than anticipated, registering a 41.9% clip from three compared to their average 35.6% rate in the regular season.
Heat/Celtics Betting Prediction
This series has the makings of a seven-game thriller. However, Saturday should belong to Boston. The Celtics proved themselves as a true championship threat with a dominant Game 2 victory on the road.
The Heat have also been vulnerable after a loss, dropping back-to-back games against the Philadelphia 76ers earlier this postseason and registering six separate losing streaks during the season.
Butler will be forced to carry a Heat squad that may be very shorthanded. While they’ve overcome that in the season, doing so in Boston is a different story. Look for a healthy and rejuvenated Celtics squad to cruise to a Game 3 victory.
Betting Pick: Celtics -6.5
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