September 18, 2020, 7:08 am
With the Conference Finals in full swing we recap a wild Game 2 in the East and give a preview of what’s to come in the West from a betting standpoint.
MIA 106 – BOS 101
It was a tale of two halves in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Boston Celtics came out of the gate firing on all cylinders offensively, shooting a blistering 67% from the field in the first quarter and 58% for the entire half. Easy buckets keyed the Celtics offense as they finished the half with a 60-47 lead over Miami, propelled by 32 points in the paint, six more than they scored for the entirety of Game 1. It was a balanced Boston attack, led by Kemba Walker who had 14 points in the first half, including two 3-pointers, marking the first time he has hit multiple shots from behind the arc since Game 3 against Toronto. Enes Kanter provided a spark off the bench scoring 10 points, on a perfect 4-4 shooting, and grabbing 6 rebounds in his 8 first half minutes, before being outed as a defensive liability later in the game. Miami struggled offensively in the first two quarters, going into the break shooting only 38% from the field while getting out rebounded 27-16. The domination by Boston got the team up to a 17-point lead at one point, marking the first time Miami had trailed by at least 15 points in this year’s playoffs. Duncan Robinson led the way for the Heat, making four 3s in the first quarter, and Tyler Herro added 11 points in the first 24 minutes. Jimmy Butler was a non-factor offensively and did not get his first field goal until three minutes left in the second quarter.
I do not know what coach Erik Spoelstra said to his squad during halftime, but whatever it was he should probably say that more often. The Heat came out in the third quarter a completely different team and were able to work their way all the way back to take the lead at 72-71, thanks to a 20-4 run keyed by 15 Bam Adebayo points. Spoelstra switched the defense into a zone and the Celtics had no answer for it. They were disheveled on offense and could not get a shot to fall while playing lackadaisical on defense and allowing Bam to run wild in the paint. In the 25 second half possessions the Heat were in a zone, Boston made only five shots and turned it over five times. The run continued throughout the quarter giving Miami an 84-77 lead heading into the fourth. The 20-point turnaround in the third was the largest point differential in a quarter for Boston so far this season. The Heat hit a cold stretch in the fourth, allowing Boston to retake the lead momentarily as the teams traded buckets down the stretch. Miami was led by their vets, Butler and Goran Dragic, in crunch time as Butler provided the hustle plays with two key steals, and Dragic was cold-blooded answering every Boston make with one of his own. Jaylen Brown, who had hit two huge 3s in the minutes prior, got a good look in the corner to tie the game with under a minute to play, but could not get the shot to fall as Boston’s comeback attempt fell short and Miami moved to a commanding 2-0 in the series and 10-1 in the playoffs. Brown and Jayson Tatum both had 21 points in the loss, while Kemba had a team high 23. Miami’s defensive intensity and hustle plays were the difference in the game. They had 16 second chance points and forced 20 turnovers resulting in 26 points. Butler was everywhere on defense, swiping four steals, but struggled on offense scoring only 14 points on 4-11 shooting. Dragic finished with a game high 25 points making 10 of his 19 shots from the field, three of which were huge buckets down the stretch that kept Miami in control of the game. Adebayo had 21 points and 10 rebounds as Boston is still searching for answers on how to stop him.
Reports of unrest in the Boston locker room surfaced after the game and although Enes Kanter downplayed the situation, you cannot blame the Celtics for being upset with their performance so far. Although they are down 0-2 and it was an ugly second half of Game 2, they had opportunities to win both games. While they could be imploding and heading home soon, they have the talent to turn things around and make the necessary adjustments to get them back in this series. Their fate could be sealed in the pivotal Game 3 on Saturday evening.
DEN v. LAL
Lakers win series 4-2 +330 (MyBookie)
The Nuggets have been on a historic postseason run, but the magic is about to run out. The Lakers are a much tougher match up than the Clippers and should not have much of an issue moving onto the Finals. After bottling up Damian Lillard and then knocking out James Harden, they will be able to tame Jamal Murray with relative ease. The Lakers also have the size and depth to continue to throw bodies and Nikola Jokic so expect to see Dwight Howard and Javale McGee back in the rotation, with both getting extended minutes. The return of the center for the Lakers will slide Anthony Davis back down to the power forward spot, which he loves, and will give him an opportunity to thrive on both sides of the floor as Denver does not have anyone that can hang with him on either end. I expect a LeBron James led team to have the poise and mental fortitude to hold onto a 3-1 series lead and will get to the Finals in six games.