It was supposed to be David versus Goliath when the Miami Heat faced the Boston Celtics to settle the score from last year’s defeat in the Eastern Conference Finals. After watching Miami dismantle Boston en route to a 3-0 series lead, it’s clear Miami never got the memo that they were playing the role of David.
In fact, if you never saw these two teams play in the regular season, odds are you would be thoroughly convinced that the Celtics were the team that was minutes away from being eliminated in the play-in, and the Heat were owners of the league’s second-best record.
Upsets of this magnitude are rare. The Heat were the first play-in team to win a playoff series, let alone win their conference. They are still one game away, but they have the opportunity Tuesday to put the finishing touches on a run that saw them walk right through the league’s two winningest teams. What happened to the Celtics in this series is complicated. The Erik Spoelstra-Joe Mazzulla matchup taught us a lesson on how to quantify coaching edges in the playoffs. Also, Boston’s late-game breakdowns and defensive lapses finally caught up with them when playing a more disciplined team.
What should we expect from Boston on Tuesday as it tries to delay a crushing end to its season? It’s hard to tell. Sunday night’s loss revealed that it won’t be Mazzulla’s adjustments that saves the Celtics, and after playing with such apathy, bettors have to consider whether they even want to be saved.
The Heat host the Celtics as -1.5 favorites at BetMGM. In a game where I don’t expect many massive adjustments by either coach, it makes sense to dive into the prop market. The first three games may not have been predictable, but they have been consistent. And that’s all a bettor can ask for.
Jimmy Butler Under 41.5 points, rebounds and assists (-120)
Butler has been one of the best players in the playoffs, but it feels like this number is a little inflated. Butler’s production only climbed over this number once in the last five games (Game 1 at Boston), and fell well below the mark (30) in Game 3. Granted, Butler played 31 minutes as the Heat built a gigantic 30-point lead after three quarters. Who is to say Game 4 doesn’t follow the same script? If the Celtics show fight early and still fall behind, I’m happy to bet they pack it on based on recent behavior. If there is one team I don’t trust to fight for four quarters, it’s this Celtics team.
One of the reasons the Heat have been so successful in this series, is that a different player, outside of Butler, is stepping up each night. Whether it’s Gabe Vincent or Caleb Martin, the Heat’s supporting role players are delivering so it’s not on Jimmy every possession. Now that Duncan Robinson is finding his stroke, I don’t think Jimmy has to do it himself.
Derrick White Under 13.5 points and rebounds (-105)
Going small by starting Derrick White didn’t have the impact that Joe Muzzulla had hoped for. In 26 minutes, White shot 33% from the floor for nine points and four rebounds. It was the most minutes White logged since Game 5 against Philadelphia, when he shot 33% in a 12-point loss. You never know what Mazzulla has up his sleeve, but I think it’s safe to assume White doesn’t see the floor as much Tuesday. He has fallen under 13.5 points, rebounds and assists in six consecutive games, so I see it as a solid bet the trend continues.
Caleb Martin Over 1.5 3-pointers (-150)
Miami’s white-hot 3-point shooting has been a key factor in this series. Don’t expect the Heat to go cold at the Kaseya Center in Game 4. They are shooting close to 48% for the series, and drained over 50% from downtown in Games 1 and 3. It’s a different person every night, but Caleb Martin has consistently contributed to the barrage of 3s. Martin is 47.6% from 3-point land in the series, and has drained at least three in each game of the conference finals. He is coming off one his best games, scoring 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, and Miami was +34 when Martin was on the floor. I see him getting a solid opportunity to shine again, and I’ll pay the price at -145 to see the shots continue to fall.