Jimmy Butler really is that dude. The owner of Bigface Coffee flirted with a 5x5, posting 41-9-5-4-3, a line no one else has posted in a playoff game since the advent of tracking blocks and steals. As the hoops community continues to sleep on Miami, Butler and company just keep on trucking.
I’m cautious when it comes to taking much away from Game 1 to apply moving forward beyond Butler’s That Dude Status. It was as close to a schedule loss for Boston as you’ll ever see in the playoffs, coming off a bruising series against the Milwaukee Bucks with just a single rest day. Plus they were missing Al Horford (health and safety protocols) and Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart (sprained foot).
Despite the missing pieces, Boston played well outside of a dreadful third quarter that started with the Celtics up eight and ended with them down 17. What can Miami take from that third frame and apply to a full game? What successes can Boston replicate from the other three quarters, and what can they clean up?
This is where it gets fun, where the true chess matches begin. But I’m just out here playing checkers with my picks.
Overall record against the spread: 25-24-1
The biggest adjustment Boston can make is getting Smart back into the lineup. Like Draymond Green unlocks everything for Golden State, Smart is the engine that powers Boston’s suffocating defence. His physicality allows them to switch actions no one has any right to be switching with a point guard.
I mean, the guy was extremely effective guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo. I think he can make an impact on Butler and Tyler Herro. Smart’s absence was much more glaring than Horford’s. There’s no replacing the energy and tenacity he brings, while Robert Williams can slide into Horford’s defensive role pretty seamlessly.
Horford is likely out again for Game 2, but good news for Celtics fans: Smart is listed as probable.
The Celtics built their first-half lead on Miami’s relative lack of size. Though Bam Adebayo is an elite interior defender, Jayson Tatum was playing like a man unleashed without having to worry about Brook Lopez and Antetokounmpo on every drive to the rim. That is replicable since I doubt Miami’s defenders are going to grow overnight.
The Heat snatched this game from the Celtics on the strength of their defence. Specifically, their ball pressure. They were in passing lanes, blocking shots, flat out taking the ball from ball handlers. That is replicable, and it was also the basis of Boston’s worst moments against the Bucks in Round 2. This team just doesn’t have a great ball handler.
If Tatum cleans up his turnovers, Smart’s return will mean fewer minutes for Payton Pritchard (and zero minutes for Aaron Nesmith), putting the Celtics in a great spot. They were great for 36 minutes on Tuesday. They just need to find that other 12.
I like Boston (+3.5) and the points, and since I think they’re taking this game outright, I’ll parlay their Money Line as well. I’m also betting Tatum plays better, so I like his OVER 28.5 points, and I believe in Smart OVER 1.5 combined steals and blocks. I doubt anyone is angrier Smart missed Game 1 than Smart himself. I expect full sicko mode from the DPOY Thursday night.
The Sicko Same Game Parlay of The Night pays off at +1100
• Boston Celtics Money Line
• Marcus Smart OVER 1.5 steals and blocks combined
• Tyler Herro OVER 1.5 threes made
• Jayson Tatum OVER 28.5 points
As always, play safe and don’t chase.