The Boston Celtics managed to avoid slipping into a 3-game deficit against the Miami Heat with a solid 101-91 victory on Friday night to make the series a much more manageable 2-1 margin in favor of the Heat. For Sunday’s Game 4 showdown at the TD Garden, with tip-off set for 8:30 PM ET, the same game plan will be in effect for head coach Doc Rivers’ veteran crew; stick to the defense, utilize the double team, and focus on the battle around the basket. For Miami, finding a way to shake off and exploit the additional pressure faced via the double team will be crucial, as will be generating an equally strong defensive effort to match the Celtics, who have seemed to have honed in on a strategy for dealing with LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and the offensively superior Miami Heat. Get set for another physically-taxing showdown this evening, which will subsequently make for the top option for online sports betting today at one of the top reviewed sports betting sites reviewed here at CR.
One very important key to the Boston victory in Game 3 on Friday was the shutdown defense applied to Dwayne Wade, who during his career against Boston has been simply outstanding. Averaging north of 30 points/game versus the Celtics, and reaching the 20-point mark in 12 straight playoff games this year, Boston decided to focus their defensive attention on Wade specifically, putting enough pressure on him to hold the Heat star guard to just 18 points on 9-for-20 shooting. Although LeBron James managed to put up his usual superstar numbers, posting 34 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists, the focus on Wade, and on Mario Chalmers paid dividends for the desperate Celtics, who finally showed how their defense can control the pace and the scoring throughout a ballgame. Perhaps even more importantly for the Celtics however, was how they played in and around the bucket, winning both the points in the paint battle (58-46) and dominating on the glass (44 rebounds to the Heat’s 32). Pulling out to a 13 point lead by halftime, and extending that lead to 22 points by the end of the 3rd period, the Celtics showed confidence in their desperate play, led by superb play from Kevin Garnett, Boston’s physical and emotional leader. There’s no question the Celtics will try and come with the same intensity for tonight’s critical Game 4 match-up, as they must avoid falling down three games to one in this series before it heads back to the tough atmosphere in South Florida.
For Miami, Game 3 was the first time in this series we’ve seen the Heat truly dominated inside the paint, and become frustrated with the level of defensive pressure applied to them, especially around the perimeter. Also a key factor in the loss was the Heat’s smaller size, which became evident once Boston focused on disallowing penetration from the perimeter. As Miami wasn’t able to rely on it’s outside shooters to get into the lanes and take high-percentage shots, their lack of size and strength around the bucket was exposed and will be a main talking point for tonight’s Game 4 clash. Had Dwayne Wade been his usual self in Boston against the Celtics, and put up close to 30 points as he has historically been able to do, we might not have to turn attention to the lack of scoring presence from the Heat 4’s and 5’. However, with Wade held down under strong defensive pressure, the fact that all the Heat’s forwards and centers combined to produce just 14 points across 5 players has to be cause for concern for Heat backers heading into tonight’s match-up.
Miami’s Shane Battier went 0-for-6 for 0 points in 38 minutes. Ronny Turiaf again was a non-factor, playing just 9 minutes and scoring only 3 points with 3 rebounds. Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony took only 3 total shots between them, combining for 7 points and 6 rebounds. There is no question that regardless of whether or not Dwayne Wade and Mario Chalmers can step up their play after a sub-par Game 3, Miami has to get someone to improve their form around the bucket, as Boston has definitely stepped up their game with their backs against the wall. No doubt Shane Battier, a veteran with plenty of experience in the postseason, will step up his effort for this battle tonight, but both Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony need to involve themselves at least more in the rebounding game for Miami to contend with another desperate and focused effort from the veteran Celtics. With Boston set to apply more double-team pressure at Dwayne Wade and Mario Chalmers, it is extremely important for Miami to be able to have a couple of big guys available around the basket, who are able to receive some quick dump-off passes, and make some quick shots.
Keys to a second consecutive victory for the Boston Celtics lies with how well they’ll be able to keep up the high-intensity approach from Game 3. One thing that remains a concern is the fact that Boston does have a number of ageing stars, who at any time could be prone to suffer a bit of fatigue as the intensity of each Conference Final game ratchets up. That said, there appears to be no stopping Kevin Garnett, who again was a huge factor in Game 3 with 24 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Celtics in both categories. He’s found his rhythm inside the paint, and has been responsible for nearly half of all the Celtics’ points in the paint. However, Boston still needs to have more production from Brandon Bass in support of Garnett, who was a non-factor in Game 3. Boston’s guards and shooting forwards can’t be expected to make up the additional bulk of the scoring and rebounding inside the paint, so again we look to Bass to step up his efforts and provide some relief to a hard-working KG. A much-improved game from Mickael Pietrus would also help, as even though Pietrus is smaller around the basket than most Miami players, he’s still a physical specimen that when playing on top of his game can provide great minutes and great contributions to the scoring and rebounding lines.
Betting Lines for the Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat, Game 4 at Betonline Sportsbook.
For the best online sportsbook odds on tonight’s key Eastern Conference Finals showdown, we turn to Betonline Sportsbook, where the bookmakers give the nod to the visiting Miami Heat as favorites to win straight up. Miami will have -140 odds to win, while Boston will be underdogs at +120 odds.
Against the Spread, just 2 points separate the two teams, with Miami getting 2 points to cover at -110 odds, and Boston getting a single basket to play with as underdogs, at the same -110 odds. Take special note here tonight that in 3 games played in Boston between these two teams during the regular season and the playoffs, the Celtics have not yet allowed the Heat to come within 10 points of them at the final buzzer.
For the over/under, 179.5 points is the mark to chase, with -110 odds going to pickers siding with either the over or the under. Despite Boston’s solid shutdown defense applied in Game 3, it’s interesting to note that the total points line experienced a breakout by 12 points. It’s worth considering that both teams shot right at 50 percent for the game however, so be mindful of a slower-paced, lower scoring game this evening as it’s highly likely that both sides won’t experience the same success in a critical Game 4 where forcing bad shots and double-team pressure will be a focus.