The Conference Finals come to a close on Sunday night. The action gets underway at 8:30 p.m. ET. with the Miami Heat hosting the Boston Celtics for Game 7. Let’s survey the slate and pick the best bets for Sunday night.
Heat +125 (-110)
Boston fans were giddy on Friday. The Celtics were at home and facing the half healthy Heat. After two wins in a row, the Celtics were large favorites heading into Game 6. The game was in the bag. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out the way everyone expected for the Celtics. A momentary lapse of commitment, inspiration or heart — call it what you want — once again did the Celtics in. Sometimes it’s a whole quarter of uninspired play, and on Friday, the team did not have it down the stretch. They spent most of their time chirping at the refs. Sure, the officiating was bad and influential, but complaining and screaming at the refs for six games does not endure the officials to the Celtics’ cause. The damage has been done. Boston better make their shots. If they are relying on the refs for a deus ex machina advancement to the NBA Finals, then they better think again.
Jimmy Butler had a “fine, I’ll do it myself” moment in Boston. He’ll need another in Game 7, but that’s not asking for aberration. Butler’s big game was not the result of overcoming the Celtics’ relentless defense. Butler controls Butler. It is no coincidence that Butler’s best game (47 points) came in a game where he shot the ball 29 times. In contrast, the Heat lost Games 5 and 6 because Butler shot poorly (below 22%) and infrequently (14 FGA in Game 5 and 18 FGA in Game 6). Making shots helps, but so does taking shots. When Butler is healthy, and he appears to be much more healthy than in Games 5 and 6 considering he only sat for two minutes in the second quarter on Friday night, he’s at least a 40% shooter. With the lack of options around him and his back against the wall in a do-or-die matchup in Miami, it’s hard to believe that Butler does not come out firing at home.
Game 6 was a close game, but it wasn’t supposed to be and it really wasn’t. Boston was supposed to win big, but in the end, they were lucky the game was close. The average point differential was just under five points, but the Heat held that lead for more than 90% of the contest. Furthermore, if Derrick White does not get hot in the fourth quarter of Game 6, the Celtics lose by 20. The perception is that the Heat got the calls, but the Celtics actually took more free throws — six more. The Heat just wanted it more and the Celtics’ bad habit of playing uninspired basketball flared up. Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown combined for three baskets in the fourth quarter of Game 6. That doesn't sound like a team that wants it.
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