Eastern Conference Finals Game 3 Gambling Preview: Can Boston pull out a must-win game in Miami?
After a pair of shocking wins in Boston, the Miami Heat are just two wins away from a trip to the NBA Finals.
Can the Heat take a commanding 3-0 series lead on Sunday night? Or can Boston steal a must-win to get back into the series?
Here's our full Game 3 preview, with odds provided by our presenting sponsor - Betfred Sportsbook.
Boston Celtics at Miami Heat (Sunday, 8:30 pm ET, TNT)
Spread: Boston (-3)
On paper, the Celtics have the best team and the best player in the Eastern Conference.
In reality, the Heat have the best team and the best team in the Eastern Conference.
Miami has a 2-0 series lead over Boston partly because Jimmy Butler has outperformed Jayson Tatum. Sure, Tatum has edged Butler in points per game (32.0, 31.0), shooting percentage (51.4%, 48%) and rebounds (10.0, 6.5). Consider how the end of Game 2 played out, though. Butler made a pair of shots to help the Heat erase a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit. Tatum missed all three shots and committed two turnovers while the Celtics squandered a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter. In Game 1, Butler helped the Heat outscore Boston, 46-25, in a third-quarter comeback. During that stretch, Tatum logged a -21 plus/minus rating.
In fairness, Tatum hardly represents the Celtics’ main problems. Collectively, they have squandered double-digit leads. Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla also has faced criticism for not calling timeouts during those Heat runs and for favoring a small lineup. However, Butler surely represents the Heat’s main strength. Miami fell to an eighth seed mostly because Butler missed a combined 18 regular-season games due to various injuries.
The Celtics have a 4-2 post-season record following losses, but Boston had more margin for error against Atlanta and Philadelphia. Boston does not have that luxury against Miami, which has won all five of its home games in the playoffs so far.
Final score prediction: Heat 118, Celtics 111
Betting Pick: Miami (+3)
Mark Medina is a veteran NBA reporter who will be contributing to Aaron Torres Online and Aaron Torres Media throughout the NBA playoffs - follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.
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