Celtics vs. Heat Game 2 Preview (Miami Leads 1-0)

Boston (-135) is favored by 2.5 points over Miami (+115) with the over/under set at 208.5 total points

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  • The Boston Celtics commanded the majority of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat, but Miami crept back in late in regulation and stole the game in overtime.

  • The Heat had big shots from Jae Crowder and Tyler Herro down the stretch, but the biggest turning point was Jimmy Butler’s strong drive on Jayson Tatum for an and-one. Bam Adebayo’s epic block on Tatum’s dunk attempt one possession later just about cemented the victory—as well as Adebayo’s defensive legacy.

  • Per DraftKings Sportsbook, the Heat (-162) are now favored over the Celtics (+132) to win the series and advance to the 2020 NBA Championship. The Heat are now 4-0 as underdogs in the 2020 Playoffs. The only other two teams to go 4-0 as underdogs in a single postseason won the NBA Finals (‘99 Spurs, ‘01 Lakers).

  • Boston (-135) is favored over Miami (+115) ahead of Game 2 with the over/under set at 208.5 total points. The Celtics are 2.5-point favorites. CLICK FOR LIVE GAME ODDS!

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A Defensive-Minded Series

Considering the Boston Celtics have been the best defensive team in the postseason (defensive rating and opponent field goal percentage), and the Miami Heat have been fourth in defensive rating, everyone knew this series would be a humdinger. But what transpired in Game 1 outdid all expectations.

The Celtics managed to lock down just about every Heat player during the majority of the first three quarters except for point guard Goran Dragic. They stayed in front of Miami’s perimeter shooters, shifted well on penetration and switches, and defended the rim in the post and on help defense.

Meanwhile, Miami was able to grind back late in both halves thanks to their gritty defensive execution. They erased a 13-point first quarter deficit to tie it by halftime and chipped away on a 14-point fourth quarter deficit to force overtime. They flashed a 2-3 zone at times and utilized a high-energy perimeter trap-and-switch defense to stifle Kemba Walker, who shot 6-of-19 from the field (1-of-9 from three-point land) and never really seemed in sync with the offense.

The cherry on top of a truly legendary comeback was, of course, a defensive stand. Bam Adebayo’s epic rejection of Jayson Tatum’s attempt to throw it down will be immortalized in NBA history if these Heat advance to the NBA Finals. It was a truly awesome moment that would impress fans of the sport from any era.

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Depth Matters

Defense wins championships, but so does offensive depth. The Celtics got off to an 8-0 lead at the beginning of Game 1 thanks to seamless team basketball, and then finished the first quarter up 26-18. Then, the Heat scored 37 second quarter points, a waterfall that seemed to start when Celtics coach Brad Stevens inserted various bench players—at one point, Brad Wanamaker, Semi Ojeleye, and Grant Williams were all on the floor at the same time.

The Heat have thrived with their depth all season. With Gordon Hayward injured, Miami has the best bench player in the series in rookie Tyler Herro, who scored 12 points, grabbed 11 boards, and dished nine assists in another grown-man performance Tuesday. They have two of the best defensive role player reserves in the NBA in Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodola. On top of that, they have a plethora of players who can hit shots when their star tandem of Butler and Adebayo need help. Dragic had 29 points to keep them in the game, and the always-fearless Crowder added 20, including some huge treys.

The Celtics relied too much on Tatum and Walker, and when they got trapped or stuck in tough, contested situations, they had nowhere to turn. Jaylen Brown, one of the stars of Boston’s second-round win over the Toronto Raptors, disappeared in the second-half. Marcus Smart never got the opportunity to help because they relied far too much on iso/hero ball down the stretch to even find the often-clutch veteran. Starting center Daniel Theis had a mere four points and four rebounds to go with six fouls, thoroughly outplayed by Adebayo from the jump. Wanamaker was the only bench player to score more than three points (he had 11).

Game Line

The Celtics ability to even the series at 1-1 Thursday night will hinge largely on Stevens’ adjustments following the Game 1 collapse. What’s the plan for the Heat’s stifling combination of zone and switch defense on Walker? How can they get Brown and Smart more involved in the offense? How can they slow down Butler on the drive down the stretch, including Herro and Dragic from the perimeter?

If Boston can’t answer some key questions, they may be staring down a huge hole in a heartbeat. They can't continue to play team basketball to start halves and isolation playground hoops to close halves. As long as Stevens recognizes that teams win in playoffs—not individual players—they will rebound from the Game 1 loss and flip the script back in their favor. Take the Celtics in Game 2, and stick with them to win the series in seven.

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