Celtics at Heat betting preview: Boston primed to bounce back in Game 2

Brian Babineau / National Basketball Association / Getty

The Celtics outscored the Heat in three of four quarters but still lost Game 1 by double digits thanks to a disastrous third quarter. Can they even the series with a more complete showing in Game 2?

Here's how we're betting Thursday's contest:

Celtics @ Heat (-3, 207), 8:30 p.m. ET

Ahead of Game 1, we liked the Heat's chances to secure the first game of this series against a tired Celtics group. But we love Boston to even the series Thursday.

After roaring back to beat the Bucks in an exhausting seven-game series just days earlier, it was entirely predictable that the Celtics would eventually run out of gas against a rested and underappreciated Miami squad.

It's hard to overstate just how detrimental that third quarter was. The Heat outscored the Celtics by 25 points, holding them to 2-of-15 shooting and forcing star Jayson Tatum to commit six turnovers. They also completely walled off the paint in the second half, limiting Boston to six points as Al Horford (COVID-19) watched from the sidelines.

He's available for Game 2, and he'll likely be joined by guard Marcus Smart (foot), a crucial addition to their rotation after the Heat relentlessly picked on backup point guard Payton Pritchard in two-man actions. Smart's presence should halt the damage from Miami star Jimmy Butler, who feasted on a diet of tough but makeable shots over the 6-foot-1 Pritchard.

With the Celtics' strengthened defense and the difficulty of converting those looks in back-to-back games, don't expect as many of those shots to fall Thursday. Boston also shows incredible resolve after a loss, boasting a 10-1 record straight up and a 9-2 record against the spread since Jan. 23. That includes a 3-0 record this postseason, which came by a combined 44 points.

With Horford and Smart both expected to return, the Celtics will be much better equipped to handle the Heat's physicality on both ends of the floor. I expect Tatum to have a better plan of attack and carry his team to an outright upset, similar to how he did in multiple elimination spots against the Bucks.

Pick: Celtics +3

C Jackson Cowart is a sports betting writer at theScore. You can follow him on Twitter (@CJacksonCowart) or email him at cjackson.cowart@thescore.com.

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Celtics at Heat betting preview: Boston primed to bounce back in Game 2
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