The Boston Celtics are back in Miami tonight for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. After three lifeless games to kick the series off, Boston has come storming back. After thrashing the Heat in a Game 5 blowout, the C’s now are two steps away from doing what no team in NBA history has ever done: win a Playoff series after trailing 3-0. According to FanDuel Sportsbook, the Celtics are 3-point favorites.
Spread: Celtics -3
O/U: 210 points
ML: Celtics -144, Heat +122
Featured Parlay: Smart 4+ assists, Butler 25+ points, Tatum 30+ points, Adebayo 8+ rebounds, Brown 2+ made threes
Gabe Vincent (ankle) is questionable after sitting out Game 5. Tyler Herro (hand) and Victor Oladipo (knee) are out.
Malcolm Brogdon (forearm) is questionable but is expected to play tonight. He exited Game 5 early, and has seen fewer and fewer minutes as the Eastern Conference Finals have progressed. Danilo Gallinari (ACL) is out.
Celtics Projected Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Derrick White
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Al Horford
Heat Projected Starters
PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: Max Strus
SF: Jimmy Butler
PF: Kevin Love
C: Bam Adebayo
Boston Celtics Overview
The Celtics blew the doors off the Heat thanks to their three point shooting, but they really made their mark on defense. From the first play of the game — Marcus Smart forcing a steal and diving on the loose ball — Boston’s ball pressure was immense, creating 16 Miami turnovers. In particular, the team’s paint defense caused the most problems for the Heat, and led to 6 Bam Adebayo turnovers. When the C’s put in that much effort on the defensive end, they have a replicable formula for success that can easily demoralize a team like Miami that doesn’t have a great offense to begin with.
That increased effort and willingness to get physical also opens things up on offense. In Game 5, Boston scored 27 points off turnovers, taking it to Miami’s transition defense that’s been good throughout the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics also controlled the offensive glass, practically the only thing they’ve done well all series long. They outscored the Heat 17-7 in second chance points, and posted 12 offensive rebounds on the night. Not every game will be like Game 5, where Boston shot near 50% from three for most of the night. They may have the momentum heading into Game 6, but they have to keep playing tough to force a Game 7.
Miami Heat Overview
With Gabe Vincent out of the lineup, it became apparent how thin Miami’s rotation truly is. Some role players had nice nights (Duncan Robinson, Haywood Highsmith), others were abysmal (Kyle Lowry, Max Strus), but the reason they couldn’t hang with the Celtics was the play of their two stars. Jimmy Butler did a decent job facilitating and rebounding the ball, but with a key contributor hampered by injury, the Heat cannot expect to win if he’s only taking 10 shots. He has to be looking to score all night long, whether he’s taking more midrange shots or getting to the free throw line. Clearly, certain matchups have been bothering him, but Butler has to force the issue and carry the load or else Miami is in real trouble.
Then, there’s Bam Adebayo, who basically couldn’t have been worse on offense. A 3rd quarter scoring run saved his stat line a bit, but he looked completely flustered throughout the night, especially when Boston sent extra help his way. Just like how the Heat can’t win if Jimmy isn’t scoring, they can’t win if Bam is disrupting the flow of the offense and turning the ball over. If he can’t fill the box score with points, he needs to recognize when double teams are coming and be more decisive with the basketball, something he did very well in Game 3.
The Celtics are on a roll, and I think it continues tonight. With their defense looking like this, I don’t see Miami ever settling into this game offensively. Even if Jimmy and Bam can make more of an impact, the Heat’s roster is just not talented enough to keep up with the C’s at their best. Tonight may not be a wire-to-wire blowout, but I think Boston will become the fourth team in NBA history to force a Game 7 after trailing 3-0 in a series.