Teams who vied for the services of free agent forward Gordon Hayward this summer face off Saturday, as the 3-2 Boston Celtics visit the 2-2 Miami Heat (8pm ET on NBA TV).
While the Celtics ended up signing Hayward, he unfortunately suffered a fractured tibia in the team’s first game and will be out for the season.
These teams are coming off much different results in their most recent games. Boston got a nice road win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday, while Miami was beat soundly at home by the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.
Both of these squads project as playoff teams in 2017-18, so this should be a high-quality game. Who will take the win? This NBA preview will examine some key factors in the contest before offering some betting picks and predictions.
Can the Heat Find an Interior Defender Who Can Respectably Take Hassan Whiteside’s Place?
The absence of Whiteside is a huge blow to the Heat. He’s a very good rebounder and a dangerous scorer around the rim, but he makes his biggest impact protecting the paint on defense.
LaMarcus Aldridge of the Spurs had his way with the Heat bigs on Wednesday, tossing in 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting. When he made his strong moves toward the rim, there was often little resistance.
The Heat’s James Johnson is a solid defender, but he’s more of a versatile defender than an outright dominant one. Are the inexperienced Bam Adebayo or Jordan Mickey ready to limit Al Horford and Aron Baynes? Or is Johnson himself ready to step up?
Will Marcus Smart Rediscover His Shooting Stroke?
Smart is probably the Celtics’ best defender. He also rebounds and passes well, so he usually stays impactful even when his shot isn’t falling. However, the Celtics sixth man has been mired in a terrible shooting slump right now. He has made just 11-of-39 shots from the field this season (28.2 percent).
In the preseason, he was much more efficient, shooting 16-of-28 from the field and 7-of-12 from three-point range.
The interesting thing about Smart is that he always stays confident in his own offense, even when he can’t buy a bucket. He is taking his shots regardless, but the Celtics would much rather prefer a shooting performance in the neighborhood of 8-of-12 than a 1-of-12 showing.
Will Goran Dragic Test Kyrie Irving’s Defense All Game Long?
The Heat’s Dragic is a very solid point guard. He’s usually good for around 20 points and six assists per game on respectable efficiency. However, he could stand to be more relentless when his offensive game is working.
Case in point, he scored a quick 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting in the first eight minutes of the game against the Spurs. Instead of continuing to test San Antonio’s defense, he faded into the background, taking just 11 shots the rest of the contest, making four of them.
Irving is well established as one of the weaker defenders at the point guard position in the NBA. If he has to work hard on defense, his offense might be negatively affected. Dragic must remain in attack mode all game long instead of being aggressive only in spurts.
Our Preview’s Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat Picks & Betting Predictions
I think the Celtics have found their defensive groove, allowing just 92, 89 and 89 points in their last three games. Their versatility on that end is some of the best in the league, aside from point guard Kyrie Irving.
The Heat, meanwhile, have a Hassan Whiteside-sized hole on the interior that will get exploited by good teams. Here are this preview’s betting predictions and Picks:
- Boston is giving 1.5 points from most sportsbooks in this matchup. Place your bets on the Celtics -1.5pts @ -110 with Bookmaker or BetOnline.
- The over/under from most sites is 206.5pts, but there is some variation on the amount of money needed to bet on that number. The average total score in Boston’s games so far this season is 197.4, and Miami’s is 214.75. 206.5 is close to the midpoint between those numbers, but the Celtics’ defense has gotten progressively better in the last few games. Bet on the best odds of under 206.5pts @ -105 with BetOnline.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.