Heat vs. Celtics Preview: Miami's Advantages Still Looming

Boston won three of the four quarters in Game 1, but still lost by double-digits. Can the Celtics even the series tonight in Game 2?

Despite losing Game 1 by a 118-107 score, the Celtics have reason for optimism entering Game 2. Boston actually won three of the four quarters but fell victim to a 39-14 third quarter blowout that became too much to overcome.

Boston played Game 1 extremely shorthanded, with both Al Horford (health & safety protocols) and Marcus Smart (foot) unavailable. Smart is probably to return tonight but Horford is still listed as doubtful, leaving a huge void on both ends of the floor. Horford’s timely three-point shooting and strong presence on the boards are critical to stopping a lengthy Miami run.

The Celtics actually tooka 47-34 lead in Game 1 behind the hot shooting of Jayson Tatum and the surprise contributions from center Robert Williams. Can Boston find a way to even up the series, or will they return home desperate for a Game 3 win on Saturday?

Here are my two picks for today’s Game 2 matchup between Miami and Boston.

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Heat vs. Celtics Betting Odds

Heat Celtics
Spread -3.5 +3.5
Moneyline -172 +140
Over/Under 208

*Lines accurate at the time of publication.

Heat vs. Celtics Thursday Night Picks

Heat -3.5 (-110, DraftKings)

Game 2 is always about adjustments, but I’m don’t see Boston doing enough without Al Horford. Even with the return of Marcus Smart, the Celtics are very limited on their bench in Horford’s absence. Guard Payton Pritchard played very well on offense (18 points), shooting four of 11 from three-point range. Howver, Pritchard was repeatedly hunted on defense, and struggled to contain the quickness of the Heat guards. Miami point guard Gabe Vincent scored 17 points, his most in a game since March 2nd.

I also question the effectiveness of Smart, who was not even able to warm-up prior to Game 1. Smart will be asked to help contain Jimmy Butler, which is a massive challenge coming off an injury. Smart was a critcal part of the Celtics series win over Milwaukee, but generates most of his points from 3P range. Against the Bucks, Smart made 13 three-pointers, which accounted for over 46 percent of his points. However, Miami ranks as one of the NBA’s best teams as guard the three-pointer, allowing just 33.8 percent (second-best) this year. In Game 1, the Celtics shot just 32.4% (11 of 34) from beyond the arc.

Boston also got a fantastic performance from center Robert Williams, who scored 18 points and tallied nine rebounds. This more than doubled his 8.2 PPG average in the playoffs, and was the most points he scored in a game since December 22nd.

Despite winning three of the four quarters, there are still major concerns with Boston as they enter Game 2. I doubt they get another elite performance from Williams, Smart should be limited, and Horford is still out.

I’m backing Miami to cover the spread and grab a 2-0 series lead with a comfortable win at FTX Arena.

Risk: 1.10 units on DraftKings to win 1 unit. (Bet up to -120)

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Heat vs. Celtics Under 208 Points (-110, DraftKings)

I was surprised at the high-scoring Game 1 result, and project Boston to slow the pace tonight, hoping to increase variance. The Celtics were blitzed at the start of the third quarter, with a myriad of turnovers, and shooting just 2 of 15 as a team from the field. Boston actually did a decent job on Miami center Bam Adebayo, but struggled with the perimeter attack of Miami. The return of Smart should help to a certain extent, but I also expect the Heat to do a better defensive job on the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum.

The Heat play at the second slowest pace in the league, only ahead of Dallas. Still playing without Horford, Boston should embrace the half-court battle, hiding their depth concerns with a limited bench.

Game 2 is about adjustments, and I project Boston to keep this game at a much lower total, increasing their chance of stealing Game 2.

Risk: 1.10 units on DraftKings to win 1 unit. (Bet up to -120)

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