As the surge towards the NBA playoffs progresses, two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference get set for a rematch tonight at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida, with the Miami Heat (40-15, 24-3 home) set to host the Boston Celtics (32-24, 12-15 away) for Game 3 of the season’s 4-game series between these two powerhouse teams.
After Boston displayed its defensive prowess at home against the Miami Heat just over a week ago, winning in an impressive defensive effort 91-72, the Celtics will try to parlay that success on the road tonight against the team with the best home record in the NBA. The Heat will certainly be anxious to repay the Celtics for that embarrassing loss on April 1st, where LeBron James and company truly were April Fools at the TD Garden, shooting just 34.8 percent from the floor, 18.8 percent from 3-point range, and a pitiful 41.2 percent from the charity stripe. Though Miami’s King James was near his usual elite level in the loss, going 11-for-20 for 23 points, Chris Bosh had one of his worst shooting nights on the season (2-for-11, 4 points), as did Dwayne Wade (6-for-17, 15 points), and the Heat succumbed to an energized Boston side that had all 5 starters in double figures, and stepped up huge in the rebounding game. No doubt that for tonight, the biggest key for the Heat will be getting back to their typical shooting form, something that hasn’t been hard to come by when returning home to South Florida.
While Miami has dominated just about all competition that enters the American Airlines arena this year, Boston poses a unique challenge tonight despite their lackluster 12-15 away record on the season. The Celtics have won 8 out of their last 10 games overall, and come into tonight’s showdown winning 5 of their last 7 games on the road. Now in control of the Atlantic division with eyes on nabbing the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race from the Indiana Pacers (who sit just 2 1/2 games up on Boston), there is little question as to whether or not the veteran Celtics will step up in tonight’s road game. In order for Boston to achieve a win at the toughest road destination in the league however, it’s critical that they avoid getting into a shoot-out situation such as what happened in the first meeting on the season with Miami, where the Heat ran away with a 115-107 win via their impressive 56 percent shooting from the floor and 60 percent from 3-point range. While Boston has traditionally owned this series, winning 15 of the last 18 meetings between the two sides, they’ve dropped two straight playing at Miami, with both defeats coming via hot shooting from the Heat. Boston will look to once again play their usual stifling defense, and be aggressive in the paint to avoid giving Miami any second-chance looks at the basket.
Those second chance efforts will be key to Miami’s game, as while they were outrebounded overall in last week’s match-up with the Celtics, the Heat completely dominated the offensive glass, pulling down 15 offensive rebounds to Boston’s 5. The Celtics aren’t a great rebounding team despite having good physical talent down low with Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass (ranked 30th in the league with 38.8 rebounds/game), and on the road they can be susceptible inside the paint to bigger, and/or quicker 4′s and 5′s. Miami therefore simply has to see better play tonight first and foremost from Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony around the basket on both the defensive and offensive side of the ball, as the Heat will have a big advantage at home if they can beat Boston on both sides of the rebounding game. Another crucial factor as Miami faces of one of the league’s top-rated defensive units is to get their shooting game back up to par. Coming off the worst shooting night of the season against Boston in the last meeting, Miami has to be back up near its season average of 47.4 percent from the floor in order to control this game from the onset to the finish. Miami averages an impressive 101.5 points per game at home on 48 percent shooting for the season, and getting anywhere near those numbers will almost certainly guarantee them a win on home court.
Boston on the other hand will look to keep up their well-balanced offense this evening, while once again trying to shut down key Heat players on defense. On the offensive side of the ball, Paul Pierce continues to be the floor leading for the Celtics, winning the Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors for March. Pierce’s step-up play on offense has to continue tonight, though he’ll likely continue to get some relief as fellow guard Ray Allen continues to improve after coming back from an ankle injury. Allen however has yet to break out with a huge game from 3-point range, or hit the 20 points mark since his injury, and tonight would be an excellent opportunity for him to dish out some big points. Another critical component for Boston is Rajon Rondo, who had a triple-double in the last meeting with Miami, and plays some of the best defense around the perimeter of anyone in the league. While Boston can be assured that a player like LeBron James will get his points one way or another, they know full well that they can limit the Heat’s overall effectiveness if they can restrain Dwayne Wade and Mario Chalmers on the outside, as well as Chris Bosh on the inside, and force the Heat to put up highly contested shots from the perimeter and around the bucket. While it’s very crucial for Boston to have a balanced scoring night, especially as the Celtics don’t put up a ton of points each game, it’s perhaps even more important that Boston hone in on their defensive efforts, and single out a few Heat players to force LeBron James to do everything tonight.
Betting lines for the Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics at TopBet Sportsbook
The Miami Heat, boasting a 24-3 record at home this season, are clearly the favorites to win this match-up with the Boston Celtics tonight, getting -310 odds to win straight up on the money line. Boston comes in as a +255 underdog, despite the fact that they’ve played well on the road as of late, going 5-2 straight up in their last 7 road games. Miami will continue to try and build after suffering their first home loss since January 22nd against Memphis last Friday (which snapped an 18-game home winning streak), so expectations should be high that the Heat will come out swinging hard from the early goings, and look to dictate the pace of the game from the get-go.
Against the spread, Miami gets a -7 point favorite for the betting lines at TopBet, while Boston has 7 points to play with for underdog spread pickers. Though Miami has been dominant at home this year, surprisingly they are just 14-13 ATS in those games. Boston on the other hand is 12-15 ATS away from TD Garden, but playing much better form as of late on the road may find a heightened sense of confidence for those sportsbook pickers that choose the underdog to cover the spread tonight.
The total points margin for the match-up finds 183.5 points on the over/under, which could be susceptible to a break out if the game plays out like it did in the first meeting between these two teams in South Florida earlier this year (222 total points in that match-up). That said, with Boston focused much more on defense and playing better on the road in general, the pace should be slower for tonight’s match-up, leading to a much lower points total than in the first meeting between Boston and Miami this year. While it’s inevitable that Miami has a much better shooting night tonight at home versus what they did in Boston a little over a week ago, expect the Celtics to focus primarily on defense and rebounding, and working to slow the pace of the game to prevent the Heat from literally running away with the game. This is a tough betting line to take a stab at, but with Miami games going over just 9 out of 27 times at home this season, Boston’s stingy defense and a slower paced game could once again see the under pickers coming up big tonight.