East Finals, Game 7: Boston at Miami

Jimmy Butler was spectacular in Friday's Game 6 at Boston, finishing with 47 points, nine rebounds, four steals, one blocked shot and eight assists compared to only one turnover.

Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics

Line: Boston -3

Total: 196.5

Where: FTX Arena

When: Sunday, 5/29 at 8:30 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

Jimmy Butler delivered the performance of the postseason in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, sending the series to a deciding game with a 111-103 win on Friday night.

He poured in 47 points and added nine rebounds, eight assists and four steals as the Heat sprung the upset as 8.5-point underdogs. They will need to add an upset win on their home court if they want to punch their ticket to the NBA Finals.

Boston opened as a 1-point favorite, but the early betting action has pushed the line to three at most books. (As of early Sunday afternoon, BetMGM had Boston at -2.5.) Tonight’s total opened at 199 points and has seen significant movement, causing the number to dip as low as 195.5. By early this afternoon, though, most spots had it at 196.5.

This will be the first time that the total has closed under 200 in this series. Friday night’s game easily went ‘over’ the total of 201.5, marking the fourth time in the series that has cashed the ‘over.’

Butler’s performance was a big reason why, as he bounced back after scoring a combined 27 points over the previous three games. He missed the second half of Game 3 due to knee inflammation, so his health had been in question.

“They’ve got so much belief in me,” Butler said. “The players and coaches have so much belief in me that they just give me that confidence to go out there and play basketball the right way and just hoop.”

Butler is not the only player on the team dealing with an injury. Shooting guard Tyler Herro, the Sixth Man of the Year, has missed the last three games due to a groin injury. He is ‘questionable’ to play tonight, while point guard Kyle Lowry is also battling through a hamstring issue.

Boston is going to have to get the job done on the road after blowing its chance to close the series at home. Four of its current starters were part of the Celtics team that blew a 3-2 lead to Cleveland in the 2018 Eastern Conference finals.

“It’s no secret,” star Jayson Tatum said. “It’s Game 7, trip to the NBA Finals, a lot on the line. A couple of us have been in this situation before, so we know what’s at stake. We know how much this means to everybody.”

Tatum has been Boston’s leading scorer all season and is coming off a 30-point effort in Game 6. He is averaging 24.8 points per game during the series, while Jaylen Brown is averaging 22.9 points during the playoffs.

The Celtics have had no problem on the road this year, covering the spread in 11 of their last 12 games away from home. They have covered in four of their last five trips to Miami, including each of their last two. Miami had won 10 straight home games prior to losing its last two.

Boston has lost five straight games when a trip to the NBA Finals has been on the line. The Celtics have dropped four straight series in the Eastern Conference finals, with their last trip to the NBA Finals coming in 2010.

Miami has been more clutch in recent years, going to the NBA Finals in 2020. Sunday night will provide both teams with an opportunity to face Golden State in this year’s championship series.

“This is the way it should be with these two teams,” Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra said. “The margin for error on both sides is so small. There’s no better words in pro sports than Game 7.”

The pick: Boston -2.5 (BetMGM)

This series has been as back-and-forth as it can get, even though the games have not been close on an individual basis. Miami was able to pull off a big upset in Game 6 with an incredible performance from Butler, but I sense some regression is in store on Sunday night. He had scored 27 combined points in the previous three games against Boston’s elite defense. The Celtics have more scoring options than Miami, so there is less that needs to go right in order for them to win Game 7. They have not struggled on the road in the playoffs, covering the spread in 11 of their last 12 road games. I expect Miami’s injury issues to play a key role in Sunday night’s game, giving Boston the edge as a road favorite.

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