Celtics vs. Heat Bets: Is Defense Enough for Miami?

Can a injury-plagued Miami roster find enough defense to force a Game 7 back in Miami?

In one of the most volatile NBA playoff storylines of this season, the Eastern Conference Finals return to Boston for a potential closeout Game 6 for the Celtics.  Boston took advantage of a terrible shooting performance by the Heat at home to grab a 3-2 series lead, inching one step closer to a matchup with the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.

The Heat shot just 7 of 45 (15.6 percent) from three-point range, and 30 of 94 (31.9 percent) overall from the field. Miami has injury concerns throughout their roster with Tyler Herro (groin), Kyle Lowry (hamstring), Max Strus (hamstring), PJ Tucker (knee), and Gabe Vincent (hamstring), all listed as questionable for tonight. The biggest concern is that leading-scorer Jimmy Butler, while not listed on the injury report, has been woefully inefficient. Butler is shooting just 7 of 32 (21.8 percent) from the floor over the past two games.

This is an odd betting matchup, with a high spread and low overall game total. Can Miami fight its way to a Game 7, or will the Celtics reach their first NBA Finals since 2008?

Here are my picks for tonight’s matchup.

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Celtics vs. Heat Betting Odds

Celtics  Heat  
Spread -8.5 +8.5
Moneyline -420 +330
Over/Under 201

*Lines accurate at the time of publication.

Celtics vs. Heat Friday Night Picks

Jayson Tatum Under 39.5 Points + Rebounds + Assists (-120, BetMGM)

The Heat cannot win this game without a superior defensive effort, and that starts with containing Jayson Tatum.

Tatum is averaging 37.4 PRA in this series, but has been below his normal efficiency levels. He is shooting just 43 percent from the field and 28 percent from beyond the arc, relying on volume and free throw opportunities to carry his scoring. Tatum’s production can be sporadic, and he has even been below this number on his full playoff average (39.2 PRA).

In a game that carries just a 201-point game total, this is listed at Tatum’s production ceiling. I hate taking overs on a number that I feel is at the max of a player’s production. With an eight-point spread, there is also the possibility of a blowout, similar to Game 7 against Milwaukee.

I’m backing Tatum to go under this number in a physical Game 6 matchup with Miami.

Risk: 1.25 units on DraftKings to win 1 unit. (Bet up to -130)

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Celtics vs. Heat Under 201 Points (-110, DraftKings)

This number appears to be very low, causing the majority of bets to back the over for a Friday night Game at TD Garden. Given the injury concerns for a Miami team facing elimination, I see at most one team cresting 100 points.

The Heat and Celtics both rank among the seven slowest paced teams this season per John Hollinger. The Heat play at the second-slowest pace overall, only ranking ahead of Dallas. The Heat have failed to crest 82 points in either of the past two games, struggling to find consistent scoring options with Butler limited.

Miami needs to turn this into a “rock fight,” and as the defenders and bench to execute a physical defensive strategy. The Heat cannot win a high-scoring game, and could suffer a blowout loss. Either way, I don’t see Miami approaching 100 points in this matchup.

The Heat are 11-5 (69 percent) to the under in this playoffs, and I’m backing another low-scoring game, even with a game total barely above 200 points.

Risk: 1.1 units on DraftKings to win 1 unit. (Bet up to -120)

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