It was supposed to be David vs. Goliath when the Miami Heat took on the Boston Celtics to settle the score from last year’s loss in the Eastern Conference Finals. After watching Miami dismantle Boston en route to a 3-0 series lead, it’s clear Miami didn’t get the memo that they were playing David’s role.
In fact, if you haven’t seen these two teams play in the regular season, you might be convinced that the Celtics are the team that is just minutes away from being eliminated from the play-in, and the Heat owns the league. second best record.
Disruptions of this magnitude are rare. The Heat are the first play-in team to win a playoff series, let alone win their conference. They are still one game away, but they have a chance Tuesday to end a run that has seen them walk past two of the league’s winningest teams. It’s been complicated for the Celtics in this series. The Erik Spoelstra-Joe Mazzulla matchup taught us a lesson in how to count coaching edges in the playoffs. Also, Boston’s late-game breakdowns and defensive lapses finally caught up with them when playing a more disciplined team.
What can we expect from Boston on Tuesday as it tries to stave off a crushing end to its season? It’s hard to say. Sunday night’s loss revealed that it wasn’t Mazzulla’s adjustments that could save the Celtics, and after playing with such disinterest, bettors had to wonder if they wanted to be saved.
The Heat host the Celtics as -1.5 favorites at BetMGM. In a game where I don’t expect many big changes in either coach, it makes sense to dive into the prop market. The first three games may be unpredictable, but they are consistent. And that’s all a bettor can ask for.
Jimmy Butler Under 41.5 points, rebounds and assists (-120)
Butler was one of the best players in the playoffs, but this number feels a bit low. Butler’s production has only topped this number once in the last five games (Game 1 at Boston), and dipped below the mark (30) in Game 3. Granted, Butler played 31 minutes as the Heat put up a whopping 30 points. leading after three quarters. Who says Game 4 doesn’t follow the same script? If the Celtics’ performance struggles early and still falters, I’m glad they’re betting on it based on new behavior. If there’s one team I don’t trust to fight for four quarters, it’s this Celtics team.
One of the reasons that the Heat have been so successful in this series, is that another player, apart from Butler, will step up every night. Even Gabe Vincent or Caleb Martin, the Heat’s supporting role players delivered so Jimmy didn’t have every possession. Now that Duncan Robinson has found his stroke, I don’t think Jimmy needs to do it himself.
Derrick White Under 13.5 points and rebounds (-105)
Being short by starting Derrick White didn’t have the impact Joe Muzzulla had hoped for. In 26 minutes, White shot 33% from the floor for nine points and four rebounds. It was the most minutes White has logged since Game 5 against Philadelphia, when he shot 33% in a 12-point loss. You never know what Mazzulla is wearing, but I think it’s safe to assume that White didn’t see the floor on Tuesday. He’s dropped under 13.5 points, rebounds and assists in six straight games, so I see this as a solid bet the trend continues.
Caleb Martin Over 1.5 3-pointers (-150)
Miami’s white-hot 3-point shooting was the reason for the series. Don’t expect the Heat to cool off at the Kaseya Center in Game 4. They shot close to 48% for the series, and drained over 50% from downtown in Games 1 and 3. It’s a different person every night, but Caleb Martin regularly contributed a barrage of 3s. Martin is 47.6% from 3-point land in the series, and has drained at least three in every game in the conference finals. He is coming off one of his best games, scoring 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, and Miami is +34 when Martin is on the floor. I see him getting a solid opportunity to shine again, and I’ll pay the -145 price to see those shots continue to fall.