Celtics vs. Heat Game 5 Preview: Injury Report to Play Major Factor

Austin Wang previews Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Celtics and Heat that will be played on Wednesday, May 25.

Celtics vs. Heat Odds

Celtics Odds -1.5
Heat Odds +1.5
Over/Under 203.5
Time 8:30 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

On paper, this was supposed to be an epic matchup between the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the Eastern Conference.

This series may be tied at two, but none of the games have been competitive. This has been a “zig-zag” series, with each team trading blowout wins.

In addition, there have been key players out in each of the games:

Game 1: Marcus Smart, Al Horford, Kyle Lowry
Game 2: Lowry, Derrick White
Game 3: Robert Williams III, Jimmy Butler (second half)
Game 4: Tyler Herro, Smart

On Wednesday, the Celtics and the Heat return to Miami for Game 5. Will the zig-zag trend continue with the Heat bouncing back at home for the win? Or can the Celtics steal another game on the road to gain a 3-2 lead?

Let’s break down this pivotal Game 5.

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Lots Riding on Celtics’ Injuries

The Celtics pounced on the Heat early, jumping out to a 18-1 lead and never looking back in a 102-82 victory in Game 4. Jayson Tatum had a fantastic outing, scoring 31 points on 8-for-16 shooting.

The Celtics came out with a sense of urgency in order to prevent falling into a 3-1 hole. None of the Heat starters scored in double digits against the stifling Celtics defense.

Smart and Williams III are both questionable for Game 5. Smart sat out Game 4, and the Celtics survived without him. Payton Pritchard came off the bench to drop 14 points and three 3-pointers.

Without Williams III in Game 3, the Celtics had to resort to some unproductive Daniel Theis minutes and playing smaller lineups with Grant Williams.

As a result, Bam Adebayo took advantage of this with his playoff-high 31 points. Time Lord played in Game 4 and was able to have a short 18-minute night and get some additional rest thanks to the blowout win.

Potentially having two of their starters and best defenders out would be painful. However, it was promising to see White and Pritchard step up in Smart’s absence in Game 4. Also, Williams has not been playing his usual minutes, as he’s still playing through discomfort.

Will Herro Play For Heat?

The Heat are also ailing with a myriad of injuries. Sixth Man of the Year Herro (left groin strain) and starting point guard Lowry (left hamstring strain) are both being listed as questionable for Wednesday.

In addition, Max Strus, P.J. Tucker and Gabe Vincent are listed as questionable on the injury report, as well.

This has been common for the Heat, as they prefer not to be transparent with their injury reports.

Fortunately, Butler is not one of those names on the list, but after a 3-for-14 shooting night, one has to assume that he’s not playing at full strength.

The player that is most worrisome is Herro. If he can’t go, that’s a huge blow offensively for a team that tends to go on scoring droughts frequently.

The Heat’s Offensive Rating improves by 2.8 points per 100 possessions when he is on the court, per Basketball Reference. They’ve gone 1-5 straight up and 0-6 against the spread in their previous six games without Herro, per the SDQL at Gimme The Dog.

Even when he’s on the court, Lowry has not been an effective player.

Victor Oladipo was a lone bright spot in the Game 4 loss, adding in 23 points. He’s proved to be an X-Factor for Miami in the playoffs.

The Heat have been great at home. Prior to the Game 2 blowout, they had won 10 consecutive games at home.

They’ve performed well at home after a road loss, going 19-9-1 ATS (67.9%) since the 2019-2020 season, per the SDQL.

Expect their offense to be a little more aggressive after their poor effort in Game 4.

Celtics-Heat Pick

The Heat may be great at home, but I still favor the Celtics in this game. I think they have an advantage with two of the three best players in this series in Jaylen Brown and Tatum. Butler may still be dealing with the knee injury he suffered in Game 3 that caused him to miss the second half.

With so many key players on the injury report, it may be prudent to wait for lineups to be announced.

However, I am grabbing the Celtics -1.5 ahead of time.

I think the impact of Herro potentially being out is more detrimental to the Heat than Smart for the Celtics. Herro is an offensive-minded player and if he is not 100%, it will have a greater impact on his effectiveness.

Also, I do not think the players that would be replacing his minutes are as strong, making him more valuable to his team.

Pick:  Celtics -1.5