The Celtics are back in the hunt to win the Eastern Conference Finals after getting on the board with a 117-106 victory over the Heat, cutting Miami’s series lead to 2-1. Throughout this series, the Celtics have been notorious for taking big leads over the Heat, but Game 3 was the first time they finished the job.
Besides blowing big leads, Boston has shown that they are capable of dominating this series. Miami won the first two games by a combined eight points, rallying back from double-digit deficits in both contests. Heat forward Jimmy Butler mentioned that the Heat like falling behind so they can be the comeback kids. If Boston continues to figure it out, comeback kids will no longer be in the Heat’s vocabulary.
Game 4 from the NBA bubble will be played Wednesday night. The Celtics are coming in as two-and-a-half point favorites, with Boston’s moneyline at -138 and Miami’s at +118. The over/under has been set at 210.5.
Focus and Finish
The Celtics should have been embarrassed following the first two games of this series. Championship teams don’t blow double-digit leads in back-to-back games. It looks like they’ve figured out how to finish a game last Saturday night, but you need four wins to punch your ticket to the NBA Finals.
The Celtics still have a lot of work to do, and Game 4 will be the Eastern Conference Finals’ defining moment for Boston. They can’t afford to go down 3-1. Look for the Celtics to come out firing on all cylinders.
Jayson Tatum needs to continue establishing himself as one of the best young stars in the game. Seasoned veterans Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown must have big nights, as they did in Game 3, to successfully even the series.
Dominate Instead of Playing From Behind
Butler’s quote about the Heat embracing the “comeback kid” mentality is fantastic. However, there’s one caveat to that mindset. When you’re playing in the NBA and competing with the best basketball players in the world, you’re not going to be able to come from behind every single night.
The Heat started to make a run in Game 3, but the Celtics stayed calm and ended the Miami threat before it had a chance to do damage. For the Heat to be successful, they can’t wait until late in Game 4 to overcome a deficit. The Celtics are a good basketball team, and it seems like they may have figured out the secret to not blowing late double-digit leads on Saturday night.
Miami was pitiful from the three-point line in Game 3, and they got dominated in the paint. The return of Gordon Hayward gave Miami trouble and added depth to the Boston bench. Look for Hayward to continue playing a pivotal role in Game 4.
Even though the Celtics are down 2-1 in the series, the momentum has shifted. Boston has breathed a sigh of relief, and a composed Celtics squad can be lethal.
Look for the Celtics to calm down and play Boston basketball, but don’t expect Miami to fold in the process. I think both teams come out swinging Wednesday and put points on the board, but I expect Boston will prevail in game 4.
I’m taking Celtics -2.5 and over 210.5.