Malcolm Brogdon of the Boston Celtics says, “We’re best when our backs are against the wall.’
Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat says, “We’ve got to play like our backs are against the wall.”
Well, if everybody’s back is against the wall, somebody has to step forward.
And who will that be?
The Heat were cruising after three straight wins in the Eastern Conference finals. And most BetOnline patrons may have written them off. But the Celtics came roaring back in the second half of Game 4, and they have now given themselves a chance.
We would have to point out that if past history is any indicator, the odds are against them, as none of the 150 teams in NBA annals that have gone down three games to zero in a series have returned to win four games in a row. But all of New England remembers those 2004 Red Sox, who dropped the first three games of the ALCS to the Yankees and then swept the next four. So if they take it one game at a time, anything’s possible.
And meanwhile, whoever wins this series is giving the Denver Nuggets (winners of four straight over the Lakers) some extra rest time.
So what did Boston do differently to win Game 4 on Miami’s home floor, and what do they have to do going forward? Well, maybe the second part of that question is easy to answer, as they have to continue to do what brought them victory on Tuesday night. But that is almost always easier said than done.
Let’s take a look at the NBA playoff odds for Game 5 at the TD Garden, as they have been established at BetOnline:
Boston Celtics -9 (-105)
Miami Heat +9 (-115)
Over 217.5 Points -109
Under 217.5 Points -111
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So what did the Celtics do to affect a 17-point win in Game 4? Well, for one thing, they started hitting triples. The Celtics like to shoot from long range, and they were shooting just 29% from beyond the arc over the first three games of the series. Miami was doing a good job of closing out, and they also were playing a zone that confused Boston a bit. That means coach Joe Mazzulla, who is in his first conference final, while his counterpart, Erik Spoelstra, has been here a whole bunch of times, keeping things interesting on top NBA betting sites.
But you can sometimes shoot over these zones, which is what Boston did. One of the interesting analytical stats tells us that the Celtics had only 43 “wide open” (no defender within six feet) shots at a triple over the first three games, but on Tuesday, they had 19. That probably contributed to them making 18 out of 45 from out there (40%). That’s an improvement, and coupled with the fact that Miami was off the mark (25%), it created the opportunity for a margin.
Boston obviously made some halftime adjustments. They went into the locker room down six but then came out and scored 38 points in the third quarter. In the second half, they had separate runs of 18-0 and 12-0, and if you’re the other team, you will have a hard time overcoming that.
Jayson Tatum, the first-team All-NBA performer, had 25 points in the second half when it really counted. And he led the charge in the assist category, as Boston held a 28-28 edge.
Letting things get out of hand was unlike the Heat team that we have seen throughout this playoff run. So I would not expect another effort like Tuesday night. They have a nice cushion to work with, so we are confident in taking the points.
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