The Miami Heat enters Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday night with a golden opportunity. Ordinarily, they might be thrilled to come away with a split at the TD Garden in this best-of-seven. Instead, they are returning to their building with a 2-0 lead and a chance to really put the Celtics down.
BetOnline customers know this is not the same Heat team they saw in the regular season. After all, getting to these playoffs in the first place was difficult. As the seventh-place team in the East, Miami had to participate in the Play-In tournament and lost the first game to the Atlanta Hawks. That left them with just one opportunity to get in, and that was a game against the Toronto Raptors, which punched their ticket.
So as a #8 seed, they took out the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks – with or without Giannis – in five games. Then it was a cruise through the New York Knicks. And now they can complete a run where they would have taken out the #1 and #2 seeds in the East.
Yet they are underdogs at home in Game 3 at many top NBA betting sites. Maybe the Celtics are considered a desperate crew “with their backs to the wall” and all of that. It’s used often, and sometimes it works. But somehow, we don’t see this Miami team crumbling under any circumstances.
Here are the NBA betting odds on Sunday night’s game, according to BetOnline:
Boston Celtics -4.5
Miami Heat +4.5
Over 214 Points -110
Under 214 Points -110
There are several things you notice over the first two games. One of them is that when it came to crunch time, the Heat could figure out a way to keep Jayson Tatum off the scoreboard and deny him opportunities. When you have one of the league’s leading scorers, someone who is on the All-NBA team and who exploded for 51 points in clinching the series against Philadelphia, he’s the guy you want to go to if things get rough.
But now, the Celts don’t know that to be the case because the scheme (or schemes, as it were) that has been employed by Miami coach Erik Spoelstra has allowed Tatum to take just four shots from the field in the fourth quarter of these last two games. So now Boston coach Joe Mazzulla, a relative newcomer to playoff basketball in his position, has to wonder how he will be able to rev up his biggest star. And they’ll try to force some plays or some shots with him. The advantage there has to go to the Heat.
There have not been a lot of numbers for Al Horford, and Robert Williams is not the kind of player you can put out there for 35-40 minutes. So Bam Adebayo has taken advantage of that to be the matchup problem in the middle. He had 22 points and 17 rebounds in Game 2, and for a Heat team that doesn’t possess a lot of natural size, that’s something they need.
Yes, Boston needs to shoot better than the 31% it’s produced from three-point territory in the first two games, but is there any guarantee that will happen? Miami has done a phenomenal job of getting out on the perimeter, and some of this involves Adebayo’s versatility. Wasn’t Boston supposed to be the superior defensive team? Didn’t Miami score about 45 points in the third quarter of Game 1?
The Heat have not allowed negative situations to get out of hand, and it has been that way for them throughout these playoffs. When you can stay within range, even during the bad stretches, you are keeping yourself eligible for a comeback. And that is what they’ve been able to do. It’s a credit to coach Erik Spoelstra, and it’s why this team looms as a “live dog” in Game 3.
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