Celtics at Heat betting preview: Boston to carry momentum into Game 5
Just like that, it's a three-game series after the Celtics blasted the Heat to knot the Eastern Conference finals as they head back to Miami. And for the first time all series, the road team is favored entering Game 5.
Here is how we're betting Wednesday's affair.
If you took a cursory glance at this series ahead of this game, you might be surprised to see the road side favored here after each team's wins were relative blowouts. But a closer look reveals the Celtics have dominated this matchup.
The Heat have won just three of the 16 quarters in this series thus far, using a monster third quarter in Game 1 and first quarter in Game 2 to steal two victories. The last time these two played in Miami, the Celtics built a 25-point halftime lead and never looked back; the last time they played in Boston, the C's led by 22 at the break in a wire-to-wire win.
Boston is clearly cracking the code of a scrappy Heat team that bullied the Celtics early in this series. Miami relied heavily on turnovers to fuel its offensive production in Games 1 and 3, getting a combined 52 points from 39 turnovers in those two contests. So how did the Celtics respond in Game 4? They coughed it up just nine times, and the Heat shot a measly 33% from the floor with 82 points to show for it.
Without easy scoring opportunities in transition, Miami is running out of ways to generate offense - especially with Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro, two of the team's best shot-creators, nursing knee injuries that have already cost each of them time in this series. The Heat's five starters scored a paltry 18 points in Game 4, the worst figure by any playoff team since that started being tracked in the 1970-71 season. Only Bam Adebayo (3-for-5) and Dewayne Dedmon (3-of-4) shot better than 50% from the floor.
Conversely, Jayson Tatum (31 points) bounced back from a rough Game 3 for one of his best performances of this postseason, chipping in eight rebounds and five assists and getting to the line 16 times. It represented a clear shift from how he's usually taken over in these playoffs - he made just one triple but was a stellar 7-of-9 inside the arc, attacking the paint and taking Miami's defenders one-on-one before the defense could collapse.
How can the Heat counter that? If Tatum is processing the defense quickly enough to make the right pass, as he was for all of Game 4, that presents a devilish dilemma for Miami given how prolific Boston's secondary shooters have been this entire postseason. And if Marcus Smart (ankle) and Robert Williams III (knee) play in Game 5, it further complicates the Heat's ability to generate offense in the half court.
It's tempting to bet the Heat to win this game, even in blowout fashion, given the see-saw nature of the first four contests. But those results belie how strong the Celtics have been. After the way they responded to Miami's latest attack, I just don't see them slowing down in Game 5.
Pick: Celtics -2.5