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NBA Eastern Conference Finals
Boston -8½ -110 over Miami
8:30 PM EST. On the surface, this is going to look like a giant pile of points for a Heat lineup that features Jimmy Butler, Max Strus, Kyle Lowry, P.J. Tucker, Gabe Vincent, and potentially Tyler Herro. These are your defending Eastern Conference champions and this number opened at near double digits. That has to sting. It’s classic locker room material.
In these playoffs, the Heat were a favorite in every game against the Hawks, a small pooch (+1 to +2½) when on the road in Philadelphia and just +5 and +6½ in Boston in Games 3 & 4. Miami won Game 3 outright. Are the Heat really deserving of such a slap in the face because of two lopsided results?
You won’t find many nights this season, if any, where a full Miami lineup (or close to it) was given such little chance to compete by the oddsmakers. A quick look back on the 2021-22 regular season shows that on just four nights (regardless of who dressed), the Heat were a pooch in this range (+9½ at Phoenix, +10 at Golden State, +8 at Philadelphia, +9 at Utah). Miami covered all four of those games and won three outright (Suns, 76ers, Jazz). All the talking points one needs to make their case for the Heat are there and they are clear as day. Some may see a juicy pile of points, which makes Miami an appealing proposition as a pooch. However, from our perch, this is either the sucker bet of the year or the worst number posted by the books in these playoffs. We're going with the former.
The problem with any fodder is that it can be twisted and turned to make any point. When one takes the eye test into consideration, the Heat do not pass. Not only do they not pass, but they fail with flying colors. Look, nobody is going to deny the toughness of Butler and company, but he and his banged-up mates are not right. Assuredly, if this was a regular season game, there is no way Butler, Lowry, et al, would be in their gear. They’d be in street clothes on the bench. There is a difference between games played in the middle of the year and the Eastern Conference Finals, no doubt, but at what point are Miami’s injured stars hurting them and not helping them?
When combined with the eye test, the poor shooting from Butler (4-for-18), Lowry (0-for-6), Strus (0-for-9), and Victor Oladipo (1-for-7) in Game 5 is far more concerning than it is in the box score and that box score is pretty alarming. Lowry looks like he’s on another planet right now, Butler is tougher than a $2 steak, but to borrow another quote from Jim Ross, “Baw Gawd, Jimmy Butler is a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest!”
Let’s leave a little room for the Celtics, who also have their injury concerns. The difference from Miami is the eye test. Boston’s bruises are not causing more harm than good. We must mention Celtics coach Ime Udoka before we go, as nobody has shown themselves to be on his level when it comes to making adjustments in these playoffs. His defensive genius scheming for Steph Curry is what NBA Finals dreams are made of. Udoka will have his team ready to lockdown a deflated and nearly defeated Heat team that just does not have the manpower to compete. The Heat role players are not the same with five and possible six being off their game or not playing. Boston will have some great runs and more than enough to get us to teh window, Miami, in its current state is not capable of big runs as long as teh Celtics come ready. Game 6 in Boston....yeah, they'll be ready. This is not an inflated number, it is a deflated one.
Boston -8½ -110 (Risking 2.20 units - To Win: 2.00)