Boston evened the Eastern Conference Finals with a dominant Game 2 showing, stealing home-court advantage as it did so. That puts Miami behind the proverbial eight-ball in just about every way, but that also may be where Jimmy Butler & Co. flourish.
Can the Heat quickly regain control of this series on the road, despite being heavy underdogs in Game 3?
Here are our free NBA picks and predictions for the Heat at the Celtics on May 21.
Heat vs Celtics Game 3 odds
This odds widget represents the best odds available for each betting market from regulated sportsbooks.
After winning Game 2, the Celtics opened as 5.5-point favorites late Thursday night. Within minutes, that moved to -6, and by Friday morning, every book had bumped it further to -6.5. The initial movement on the total went in the other direction, opening at 208 or 208.5, spending on the book, before ticking down to 207.5 by Friday lunchtime.
Heat vs Celtics Game 3 predictions
Predictions made on 5/20/2022 at 2:00 p.m. ET.
Click on each prediction to jump to the full analysis.
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Heat vs Celtics Game 3 info
• Location: TD Garden, Boston, MA
• Date: Saturday, May 21, 2022
• Tip-off: 8:30 p.m. ET
• TV: ABC
Heat vs Celtics series odds
Heat vs Celtics Game 3 betting preview
Heat: P.J. Tucker SF (Questionable), Kyle Lowry PG (Questionable).
Celtics: Derrick White PG (Questionable), Nik Stauskas SG (Questionable).
Find our latest NBA injury reports.
Betting trend to know
The Under is 5-1 in Miami’s last six games after allowing at least 100 points in its previous game, the exception being in Game 2 after allowing 107 points to Boston in Game 1. Find more NBA betting trends for Heat vs. Celtics.
Heat vs Celtics Game 3 picks and predictions
Our side and total predictions are based upon our analysis of the line and total in this game. Our best bet is our favorite pick across all markets.
Boston would never admit it. That would go against all principles of competition, but the Celtics must have expected to lose Game 1. On some level, losing two starters for a Conference Finals game has to be recognized as the detriment it is.
Without Marcus Smart and Al Horford, Boston turned to an eight-man rotation, and that included Aaron Nesmith playing all of 11 minutes and Daniel Theis adding 20 more. Jayson Tatum logged 44 minutes in Game 1, while Jaylen Brown played 43. It shouldn't have come as a surprise that they ultimately wore down in the second half.
Compare that to Game 2, when Boston still kept a tight rotation, but Nesmith and Theis played 13 minutes combined. The Celtics played seven men meaningful minutes but still managed to keep Tatum to 32 minutes and Brown to 33. That would have been an eight-man rotation if Derrick White had been available. Of those seven, no one played fewer than 20 minutes, despite it being a blowout.
In other words, in Game 1, Boston did not change how it played, but its quality of players was clearly diminished. In Game 2, the Celtics returned to normal.
That normal crushed the Heat. The 25-point victory was buoyed by hot shooting, but even if removing that variance, Boston would have won. In these playoffs, the Celtics have shot 38.8% from deep, compared to 50% percent on Thursday. That was a boost of five makes from beyond the arc. Remove them and… Boston still wins by 10.
That would have also dropped the Celtics to their postseason norm of 45.9% from the field, rather than 51.2% in Game 2.
It was not only hot shooting that allowed Boston to even this series. It is simply the better team.
It was not even that Miami shot particularly poorly. Going 44.2% from the field and 29.4% from deep is not notably far off from postseason averages of 46.4% and 32%, respectively.
And there is little reason to ever expect the Heat to drastically exceed those averages. Miami has hit more than 40% of its threes just twice this postseason, one of which was in its playoffs opener against the Hawks. In only three of 13 games have the Heat shot better than 50% from the field, and again, that playoff opener was one of them.
Against the best defense in the NBA, those rarities will not become newfound realities. Expect the Celtics to continue to cruise at full strength.
Prediction: Celtics -6.5 (-105 at BetMGM)
Both of these defenses are better than their respective offenses, Boston’s hot shooting in Game 2 aside. While both Games 1 and 2 exceeded this total, as well as their expected totals, much of that was due to the lopsided nature of their second halves. In a close game, these defenses should dictate the pace.
As the total in this series ticks upward, from 203.5 before Game 1 to 206 before Game 2 to this 207.5, at some point it will tick too high. Moderated shooting will reward that day’s Under. That day should be Saturday.
Consider the Celtics’ torrid pace in Game 2 and the hypothetical described above of removing five made threes. That would not have been aggressive. It would have fit Boston’s postseason averages, and it would have lowered that game’s final total to 214, rather than 229. Would this weekend’s total be this high if that had been the case?
Playing the long game here means leaning into the Under.
Prediction: Under 207.5 (-108 at WynnBET)
Jimmy Butler and P.J. Tucker will not go quietly into the night. Erik Spoelstra has been around too long — one of only two active NBA coaches to spend 2,000 games on the bench of a single team if counting his days as a Miami assistant — to acquiesce. Betting on them to fold would be bold.
However, that feels most likely. When realizing the Heat have not had a single night of genuine shooting excellence this postseason, this handicapper went and added to his Celtics futures, adding a healthy investment of -290 to win the series to his February ticket of +1,400 to win the Eastern Conference. Miami is simply out-gunned in this series.
But it may still muck things up. To protect against that, let’s steer away from the clutch minutes.
Boston has won both first halves in this series with ease, by eight in Game 1 and by 25 in Game 2, despite being on the road. Another first-half win should be in order, and that can be had for as low as a bucket.
Pick: Celtics first half -3 (-110 at DraftKings)
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