Miami Heat vs Boston Celtics
Line: Boston -3.5
Pick: Heat +3.5
The second half of game five of the Eastern Conference Finals finally saw the Boston Celtics reach the potential many of us envisioned for them in this series.
For really the first time, the Celtics sustained offensive aggressiveness and with their high-level talent, were just too much for the Miami Heat to handle. Jayson Tatum found his next level, Kemba Walker extended his range and Jaylen Brown was an absolute menace in the open floor.
Consistently, Boston was able to get stops and then get out and run, flashing the elite athleticism their best players have in the open space.
How the Heat can respond to this is pretty simple, they have to slow the game down. No more turnovers, no more early good shots that could’ve developed into great shots, they can’t allow themselves to be at risk in the open floor.
Once Boston is able to run, their entire offence just has a way of flowing better than before. It’s as if the momentum they gain from being free and creative on the fast break impacts every other aspect of how they play the game.
Brad Stevens said it best, they finally played Celtic basketball. For the first time all series, they generated the space the Heat had refused to give them.
Now what Erik Spoelstra has to do is look up and down his roster and figure out how he can slow the pace of the game down again. Miami is built for a slow, physical and methodical style of play, it’s part of why they run so much zone.
The zone tricks you and confuses you to the point where you have to be calculated and understanding in how to attack it. Essentially, it slows you down when it’s working at its best which is why Boston struggled so much. When they found a way to pick that pace up, look what happened.
How the Heat can slow it back down starts and stops with Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic. The two veterans have to be the catalysts for pace of play of this game. Particularly Butler who is officially out of time to wait for the game to come to him.
Butler took 11 shots in game five, tied for fifth on the team. Tonight needs to be a game where he leads them.
Look at what LeBron did last night for the Lakers. He understood as the best player in a close out game, it was up to him to set the tone for how it was played. That’s why all of the first half his only move was downhill, relentless with every touch. It may sound silly but him playing like that empowered his team to do the same and it’s a huge reason why they won the game.
In a closeout game, you have to match your opponents desperation to end their season. Yesterday the Lakers did just that with the Nuggets. On Friday night though, it was abundantly clear the Celtics wanted that game more.
Sure, it would be great if Tyler Herro had another great game or Jae Crowder found his stroke again but the truth of the matter is this: Jimmy Butler went to Miami to be that organization’s best player and best player’s are always the defining guy in any close out game.
This is a star driven league and it starts and stops with how your guy plays in these moments. Bam Adebayo may be every bit as good as Butler but his game isn’t one geared to controlling pace or scoring the basketball.
Jimmy’s is, he’s the guy that can end the Celtics tonight.
My reason for betting on the Heat tonight is I’m betting on Jimmy Buckets. He’s been saving himself all series long.
I believe tonight he re-affirms his status as best player in the series and hands the Eastern Conference Finals trophy to Pat Riley.