The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat got a brief respite on Monday, but they’re back in action on Wednesday. Game 4 will take place at 8:30 p.m. ET, and the Heat currently own a 2-1 series lead.
Can the Celtics tie up this series or will the Heat be looking at a commanding 3-1 lead? Let’s break down Game 4 and try to identify and potential betting value.
Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics (-3) — 210.5 total
Moneylines: Heat +135/Celtics -155
The Celtics were able to secure a much needed win in Game 3 after dropping the first two games in the series. Things reportedly got heated in their locker room after the Game 2 loss, so they needed something to change to avoid the dreaded 3-0 series deficit.
Luckily, they got a major boost by getting Gordon Hayward back in the lineup.
Hayward was “limited” to 30.5 minutes in that contest, but his impact for the Celtics’ can’t be overstated. He was their second-most important player during the regular season in terms of Net Rating differential, with the Celtics increasing their Net Rating by +4.9 points per 100 possessions with Hayward on the court. Overall, the Celtics have outscored their opponents by +9.1 points per 100 possessions with Hayward on the floor, and that number jumps to +13.2 with both Hayward and Jayson Tatum.
Hayward being back in the lineup also gives them the opportunity to unleash their “secret weapon” lineup. The five-man combination of Hayward, Tatum, Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, and Jaylen barely played together during the regular season, but that combination was vital to their success in Game 3. They outscored the Heat by 12 points over just six minutes with that combination on the court, and the Celtics’ final margin of victory in Game 3 was 11. Those six minutes with that lineup to end both halves were quite literally the difference between a win and a loss.
That isn’t a lineup that you can play against everyone, but it matches up pretty perfectly vs. the Heat. They only play one traditional big man in Bam Adebayo, and he isn’t someone you really have to worry about as a traditional low-post scorer.
Even if Brad Stevens only turns to that combination sparingly, having Hayward back at least gives him the potential to utilize it at certain points. That additional lineup flexibility is obviously huge in a best-of-seven series. Your opponent is going to make adjustments as the series progresses, so having the ability to counterpunch is paramount to success.
Walker regaining his touch as a shooter is also a good sign for the Celtics moving forward. He was absolutely dreadful through his first 12 playoff games this season, shooting just 26.5% from downtown. That said, he improved to 4-13 in Game 2 and then 4-8 in Game 3. No player had a bigger impact on the Celtics’ offense than Walker during the regular season, so they’re going to need him to continue to perform at that level moving forward.
Add it all up, and I’m expecting another solid performance from the Celtics in Game 4.
That said, the Heat are far from dead in the water. They appear poised for a bit of shooting progression moving forward.
Specifically, they’ve shot just 34.7% from 3-point range after being one of the best teams in the league in that department all season. They shot 38.6% from 3 during the regular season, 39.5% vs. the Pacers, and 37.9% vs. the Bucks.
As a result the Heat have underperformed their expected effective FG% (eFG) by approximately -2.3%. That may not sound like a huge difference, but it’s worth a solid handful of points over a full game. The spread in each of the first four games has been really small, so a few percentage points can be the difference between a win and a loss in this series.
The Heat obviously should be expected to struggle a bit vs. the Celtics — who are elite defensively — but they still could get a slight bump in that area moving forward.
It would help if Jimmy Butler could regain his form from earlier in the playoffs. His shooting numbers have been an absolute rollercoaster this season. He posted a dreadful 47.4 eFG% during the regular season but upped that mark to 57.3% vs. the Bucks. That was a big part of the reason why the Heat were able to dispatch the Bucks relatively easily.
His mark has dropped back to just 47.4% vs. the Celtics, which ranks merely sixth on the team. Butler wants to be considered one of the best players in the league, so that kind of inefficiency is inexcusable.
Ultimately, I still like the Celtics’ chances of prevailing in this series. Getting Hayward back was a huge boost to their rotation, and I don’t think that’s being priced into the books heavily enough. The Celtics were comparable favorites in Game 1 and 2, but I think Hayward is worth at least a couple of points of spread value.
That means they need a win today, but I actually like betting on them to win the series more than laying the points in Game 4 in particular. You can grab that at +115 on DraftKings Sportsbook, and I like getting the small odds boost there. The early betting action appears to indicate that the sharps like the Celtics to win Game 4 — they’re receiving 99% of the early betting dollars — and they can definitely win the series if they win on Wednesday.
The Pick: Celtics to win the series (+115)