Miami Heat vs Boston Celtics
Line: Boston -3.5
Pick: Celtics -3.5
So far this series is playing out almost exactly to the plan I laid out. Early on in the series Miami would do some stuff Boston hadn’t seen before and they would get some wins out of it. What the Celtics had to do was not go down 3-0 and get to a 2-1 game four.
The reason for this was because this Miami team has some obvious limitations that are exploitable over seven games but in a quick five game series can be missed by what they do so well. That’s why my pick for the series was either Heat in five or Celtics in seven and I locked in Celtics in seven.
To me it just felt like Boston had too much upper level talent that if they could win one of the first three, that they could extend the series in a way that put the Heat in serious problem.
Guess what ladies and gentlemen, the Celtics did it.
That dirty little secret the Heat have I’m sure you’re wondering about by now what I was eluding to is simple, they quietly play a bunch of really bad defenders. Literally half of their ten man rotation includes the likes of Goran Dragic, Duncan Robinson, Kelly Olynyk, Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro who are all varying levels of weak defenders. This also doesn’t include an undersized Jae Crowder, Derrick Jone’s Jr who offers almost nothing on offence and Andre Iguodala who appears to be on the wrong side of the is he washed question.
The reality for the Heat is Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler and Crowder have been so good that they’ve masked the inefficiencies of their team. Part of why is they haven’t been exposed is because they haven’t played a team with enough isolation scorers to make them pay for their weaknesses.
Enter the Celtics into the equation. Kemba Walker is the little guard that’s killed them all year (look at Trae Young’s numbers versus the Heat), Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are both very good and with now Gordon Hayward in the mix again, look how many dudes they have all of a sudden that can get a bucket.
Erik Spoelstra showed his hand early in the series when they went to a zone so much. Zone’s are used to accentuate great help defenders (Adebayo and Butler) and mask the weaknesses you have on the floor. Once you solve how to score on them by taking and forcing them to move, that doesn’t really become a major option.
So, Spoelstra has to try and matchup man for man in a more traditional NBA defence. Guess how it went in game three with Hayward back.
See, Hayward is the great problem for Miami. Without him, there’s more chances for Smart to play ahead of himself or for Brad Wanamaker, Grant Williams and Semi Ojeleye minutes. All of a sudden, the Celtics have one less offensive weak link that Miami can hide their defensive weak link on.
All of a sudden, the Heat are exposed.
The key for the rest of the series for each team therefore are as follows:
Hayward has to be good Hayward and stay healthy and active on the floor. Part of why he exposes Miami is you actually have to guard him but if he sucks then the Heat are let off the hook and can go back to the styles and tricks that won them games one and two. I know Celtics fans are about to cringe but this series may well be as simple as the type of minutes Hayward provides them.
Their defensive gimmicks may be off the hook now but that doesn’t change the advantages they have on offence. Boston still has really yet to figure out Bam as a roller at all and if the Celtics go small down the stretch the Heat better play through this look. Also, Butler has been weirdly quiet offensively in this series. If he can find another gear at that end it could very well be enough to over come the Celtics new advantages with Hayward.
As much as just bloviated over the Celtic’s new advantages, they have to win tonight or it will be all for nothing. You’re not beating this Heat team three straight times when they have a chance to finish you off. Go re-watch the fourth quarter of the Bucks series, they choked them out in a way few teams can, you can’t give them that type of advantage.
Tonight’s game comes down to two really interesting players. As I said above, Boston’s series may just come down to how good Hayward is and how easily he can replace their horrendous bench minutes from earlier in the playoffs.
Similarly as I said about Miami, if Butler is the level of guy that can be that first guy on a title team, the Heat will win this game with him leading the way. Up 2-1, This should be his chance to pull the chair out of the positive Celtic locker room and put a young team on the brink of elimination in a place they’ve never been before.
My pick tonight is Boston because I think they really found something on Saturday that I’ve seen as a weakness for this Miami team all year. I don’t feel great about the pick but I just think this series has the feeling of a six or seven gamer which as stated above just will not happen if this Heat team goes up 3-1.
I don’t think the series is over for Miami if they lose tonight, it’ll just cause them to half to re-set in a way we haven’t seen them do yet. Knowing this Heat team though, they’re going to do everything they can to avoid a 2-2 series.
Both teams have an incredible amount on the line tonight, buckle your seatbelts and prepare for something special.