Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat
Line: Boston -8.5
Where: TD Garden
When: Friday, 5/27 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Miami was in firm control of the Eastern Conference Finals last weekend, holding home court advantage with a 2-1 lead in the series.
The Heat have proceeded to lose consecutive games since then, with Boston dominating both games. The Celtics now have a chance to close the series out at home on Friday night against an injury-riddled Miami squad.
Oddsmakers are expecting Boston to get the job done, opening the Celtics as 9-point favorites. There has been some slight movement towards Miami since then, as the line has dipped to -8.5. Friday night’s total opened at 201 and remains there as of Thursday afternoon.
Boston was a 5.5-point favorite at home in Game 3 and was a 6.5-point favorite in Game 4. The Celtics are bigger favorites in Game 6 due to recent form and some of Miami’s injury issues.
Veteran point guard Kyle Lowry has played through a hamstring injury in the last two games, but he has scored a combined three points in 46 minutes of action. Shooting guard Tyler Herro has missed two games with a groin issue and is listed as ‘questionable’ for Friday’s game.
Leading scorer Jimmy Butler has not had a clean bill of health either. He is coming off a disastrous performance, going 4 of 18 from the floor with 13 points in Wednesday’s 93-80 loss.
Butler has scored a combined 25 points over his last three games after scoring 41 and 29 in the first two games, respectively. Shooting guard Max Strus, who is dealing with a hamstring issue, went 0 of 9 from the floor in Game 5. The Heat have shot a combined 31 percent over the past two games.
“We are not going to make any kind of deflection or any kind of excuse,” Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra said following Game 5. “Boston beat us tonight. And let’s be clear about that. There’s guys that are far from 100 percent on both sides.”
Boston’s defense, which ranks second in the NBA in points allowed per game this postseason (100.7), deserves plenty of credit. The Celtics have held Miami to an average of 81 points per game over the past two contests.
Shooting guard Jaylen Brown and small forward Jayson Tatum each broke the 20-point mark in Game 5. Tatum scored 22 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out nine assists. He is averaging a team-best 26.9 points during the playoffs, while Brown is adding 23.1 points.
The Celtics have not taken their foot off the gas pedal this postseason, sweeping Brooklyn in the first round. They dominated Milwaukee in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, rolling to a 109-81 win.
Miami’s starters have now struggled in consecutive games. Lowry, Butler, Strus, P.J. Tucker and Bam Adebayo scored a combined 18 points in Game 4, getting outscored by Victor Oladipo off the bench. The Heat shot 7 of 45 from beyond the arc in Game 5, which was the first time all season that they failed to crack the 100-point mark in two straight games.
They have covered the spread at an 11-4 clip in their last 15 trips to Boston. The Celtics have been the more profitable team overall this postseason though, going 15-5 ATS in their last 20 games. These teams have played ‘over’ the total in 10 of their last 15 head-to-head meetings.
The pick: Miami +8.5
This pick won’t have a chance if this game follows the trend of blowout games this postseason. However, I think this spread is inflated and there is value on Miami in an elimination game. The Heat have thrived as underdogs, winning outright in 16 of their 29 games as underdogs. They are dealing with less injury issues heading into Game 6 than they were over the past two games, which is certainly a positive. These are the top two defensive teams in the playoffs, so I feel good about getting nearly double digits with Miami. Boston has a losing ATS record at home this year (22-25-2), while Miami is 28-19-1 ATS on the road.