- The Miami Heat staged a comeback win in Game 2 on Thursday to take a 2-0 lead over the Boston Celtics
- Underdogs when the series tipped off, the Heat have moved to -360 favorites
- Where’s the betting value ahead of Game 3?
Up 13 at the half, the Boston Celtics were set to level the series on Thursday. An immense third quarter from the Miami Heat saw Erik Spoelstra’s team take a commanding 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, however.
Boston must now win four of the next five to progress to the NBA Finals.
Miami, an outsider in Eastern Conference odds for most of the season, is now 10-1 in the playoffs. Their come-from-behind triumph on Thursday was a huge win, and puts them two victories away from their first finals appearance since the Heatles era of LeBron, Wade and Bosh.
Boston was -134 favorites before the series. Miami was out at +110. The Celtics, as can be seen in the table below, have slipped to +270 with the Heat as heavy -360 favorites.
Celtics vs Heat Eastern Conference Finals Series Odds
Odds taken September 18 from DraftKings
Miami’s Zone Halts Celtics
A lot has been made of Spoelstra’s use of zone defense. It lived up to the billing in Game 2, stopping Boston in its tracks in the third quarter. The Celtics’ offense, which scored 60 first half points, was kept to 17 in the third on 33% team shooting.
Their offense looked clueless at times up against the zone. Miami’s combination of defensive length closing passing lanes and Bam Adebayo protecting the rim forced the Celtics into bad shots and a string of sloppy turnovers (seven in the third quarter alone).
The Celtics were shaky throughout the second half. Not only turnovers, but possessions that seemed to have no direction. There were too many isolation stepback threes, and they didn’t move the ball enough. Where the Heat were below their usual defensive standard in the first half, they turned it up a notch for the second half and the Celtics had no answer.
Boston has no answers for the Miami zone right now. And to the Heat's credit, they are really connected on defense. They cover for each other, the timing on every rotation — and rotation back — is on point. They appear to be everywhere at once.
— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) September 18, 2020
These are issues that have plagued the Celtics in previous matchups. Well-executed zone defense has been a problem. Spoelstra will run plenty more of it this series – Boston must be smart in passing and off-ball movement if they are to avoid offensive stagnation as they suffered on Thursday.
Heat Find Offense
Adebayo and Jimmy Butler combined for 10 points on four-for-12 shooting in the first 24 minutes of Game 2. The Heat were behind, but far from out of it. Duncan Robinson hit four first-half threes, Tyler Herro hustled his way to 11 points. Butler came up big in the fourth (as he always does) with massive defensive plays, including a clutch steal and finish.
Adebayo dominated the Celtics inside, particularly in the third quarter, on his way to 17 second-half points. Goran Dragic scored 16 in the second half on 11 shots, capped off by a dagger three over Daniel Theis.
Butler is a superstar who helps his team win even when shots aren’t falling. His defense created easy offense. The Heat also have so many ways to get buckets.
The Adebayo pick-and-roll was killing Boston in the third. Dragic glides his way to the rim and can finish from improbable angles. Crowder and Robinson provide shooting from the perimeter.
DRAGIC. SHEESH 😱 pic.twitter.com/yWsR0z1ANZ
— ESPN (@espn) September 18, 2020
The trademark hustle earns them extra looks, too. Boston was beaten on the boards on Thursday, with the Heat grabbing eight second half offensive rebounds (six more than the Celtics). There’s no hero ball on this team – isolations only come about with favorable matchups, like Dragic on Theis.
Positives for Boston
Marcus Smart was furious after the Game 2 loss. Boston, having been so close to a win in Game 1 and led by as many as 17 in Game 2, will feel like they should be 2-0 up.
Yet again, the Celtics blow the game in the third quarter. FYI, they won the 1st, 2nd and 4th. Ridiculous
— Adam Taylor (@AdamTaylorNBA) September 18, 2020
Their first half performance gives them something to build on. Kemba Walker, crucially, broke out of his recent shooting slump, going for 23 on Thursday. Enes Kanter gave some useful inside scoring off the bench.
The first half showed how good this Boston team can be defensively. They were pressuring the ball and giving the Heat no space, with minimal opportunity to drive. Robinson was their main offensive threat – the Celtics can live with that.
There were loud clanks — like someone throwing items — coming from the Celtics’ locker room. https://t.co/0D9SokSr5u
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) September 18, 2020
Overturning a 2-0 series deficit is far from impossible. Against a Heat team that has lost one of their 11 playoff games this season, though, it’s hard to see any value in backing the Celtics to win the series at this point. They had their chances in the opening two games to grab a win, but they let it slip on both occasions.
Given how hard fought the opening two games have been, a sweep is very unlikely. Miami at -360 is obviously the safe bet, but the series correct score market could provide value. The Heat to win it in five games at +300 looks a good wager.
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