At 8:30 PM ET on Thursday, we will be playing the Miami Heat (549) plus the points versus the Boston Celtics (550) in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals. THE SITUATION: Miami (56-43) looks to bounce back from their 116-99 upset loss at home to the Celtics as a 1.5-point favorite on Tuesday. Boston (66-33) snapped their three-game losing streak to stave off elimination.
REASONS TO TAKE THE HEAT PLUS THE POINTS: The Celtics played with professional pride on Tuesday after their embarrassing 26-point loss in Miami on Sunday. They made 51.2% of their shots in Game Three which was the best shooting effort in their last three games — and they nailed 18 of their 45 shots (40%) from behind the arc which was their best 3-point shooting mark in this series. But can Boston continue this effective shooting back at home? They were only making 28.3% of their 3-pointers in this series before Game Four. Frankly, this team simply seems too dependent on the 3-point shot — and teams that live and die by the 3 are usually inconsistent. And the fundamental problems with this team regarding their relationship with head coach Joe Mazzulla — the last-minute replacement for Ime Udoka who was suspended for his off-the-court shenanigans. Boston still looks broken despite the momentary display of life. The Celtics have failed to cover the point spread in 5 of their last 7 games after a straight-up win — and they have failed to cover the point spread in 5 of their last 7 games after a point spread loss. They have failed to cover the point spread in 7 of their last 11 games after an upset win by 15 or more points. They have also failed to cover the point spread in 17 of their last 24 games after playing their last two games on the road. Boston has also been unreliable when playing at home where they have failed to cover the point spread in 5 of their last 7 games after getting upset in the first two games of this series. They have failed to cover the point spread in 24 of their last 35 games at home with the Total set in the 210s including six of those eight circumstances this season. The Celtics have also failed to cover the point spread in 5 of their last 6 Game Fives in a series. Miami only made 8 of their 25 shots (25%) from behind the arc while settling for a 43.6% shooting percentage which was the worst offensive effort in this series. But the Heat have covered the point spread in 4 of their last 5 games after a straight-up loss — and they have covered the point spread in 5 of their last 6 games after a point spread loss. Expect a more aggressive effort from Bam Adebayo who has only scored 11.5 Points-Per-Game on six shots per game after averaging 15 shots per game in the first two games in this series. On the road, the Heat have covered the point spread in 5 of their last 6 games — and they have covered the point spread in 5 of their last 6 road games against teams with a winning record at home. They have also covered the point spread in 7 of their last 10 road games as an underdog getting 6.5 to 12 points — and they have also covered the point spread in 26 of their last 39 games as an underdog getting 3.5 to 9.5 points. Miami has covered the point spread in 10 of their last 13 games against teams with a winning record — and they have covered the point spread in 8 of their last 10 playoff games when leading in the series.
FINAL TAKE: The books still have Boston as an 8-point home favorite which is the range they were in for Games One and Two. Frankly and in hindsight, that number seems flawed based on an overreliance on the Heat’s regular season numbers before they (somehow) flipped the switch and started making their 3s. Gabe Vincent’s rolled ankle late in Game Four worries me — he did come back and play on Tuesday but is listed as questionable for Game Five (UPDATE: Vincent is out tonight — but this is still a play. It’s a Jimmy Butler night). Ultimately, I think this Heat team has too much heart and team unity to get blown out again. Perhaps Boston extends this series to a sixth game, but this should be a close game if they do — and Miami has covered the point spread in 11 of their last 17 games when avenging a double-digit loss to their opponent. 25* NBA Eastern Conference Game of the Year with the Miami Heat (549) plus the points versus the Boston Celtics (550). Best of luck for us — Frank.