The Miami Heat have reached the brink of an NBA Finals appearance thanks in large part to the scintillating play by Jimmy Butler and the consistent play of Bam Adebayo.
However, they have not been alone in helping drive the eighth-seeded Heat to a 3-0 lead on the Boston Celtics entering Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday. A quartet of undrafted players has provided a significant boost, and Miami is now on the doorstep of its second Finals appearance in the past four years.
PUBLIC BACKING MIAMI
No team in league history has overcome a 3-0 series deficit, and the Heat are 1.5-point favorites to close out the second-seeded Celtics at home on Tuesday night.
The line opened at 2.5 points at BetMGM, but has shifted to 1.5 despite the Heat drawing 67 percent of the spread-line bets and 74 percent of the money. The action has been similar on the same spread at BetRivers, where Miami has been backed by 64 and 87 percent, respectively.
The Over/Under at BetMGM opened at 215.5 points but has moved to 216.5 with the Over backed by 83 percent of the bets and 82 percent of the handle. The same point total at BetRivers has seen the Over draw 77 percent of the bets, while the Under has been backed by 52 percent of the money.
UNSUNG HEAT HEROES
Gabe Vincent led all scorers Sunday with a career-high 29 points on 11-for-14 shooting from the floor and 6-of-9 from 3-point range. He and fellow undrafted players Duncan Robinson (22), Caleb Martin (18) and Max Strus (10) combined to score 79 points to allow Butler and Adebayo to essentially kick up their heels.
“We were able to put the game on our terms,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after his team shot a blistering 56.8 percent from the field (46 of 81) and 54.3 percent from 3-point range (19 of 35). “(With Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo out injured) we need Gabe’s assertiveness. It can’t just be Jimmy and Bam. You need a lot of guys contributing.”
BetMGM reported that Martin going over 13.5 combined points and assists has been the sportsbook’s most popular prop bet ahead of Game 4 at -130 odds. Second is Adebayo at -105 to go over 31.5 combined points, rebounds and steals.
CELTICS’ ARC NEMESIS
On the flip side, Boston’s celebrated duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined to make just 12 of 35 shots from the floor and 1 of 14 from 3-point range on Sunday. Brown, in fact, is just 2-for-20 from beyond the arc in the series.
As a team, the Celtics are shooting themselves in the foot from 3-point range (31-for-106, 29.2 percent), while the Heat are shooting the lights out (44-for-92, 47.8 percent) from beyond the arc.
Still, the most ardent of Boston fans will harken back to the time that the 2004 Red Sox overcame a 3-0 series deficit to stun the rival New York Yankees on their way toward winning the World Series. So, anything is possible.
“We’re not out yet,” Al Horford said. “It is 3-0. I know what it looks like.
“(But) we’re not out yet. We’re still kicking. One of four teams that are still kicking.”
Miami’s Kevin Love collected five quick points and two rebounds before exiting Sunday’s game with an apparent ankle injury. Spoelstra told reporters that the 34-year-old Love “says he’s fine” despite failing to return to the game.
“He said he probably could’ve gone in in the second half, but we just wanted to re-evaluate it,” Spoelstra said. “We were up 15, and I was like, ‘All right, let’s just make sure we know what’s going on.”
THEY SAID IT
Miami: “It’s the first to four games. We’re not satisfied with three.” — Vincent
Boston: “To their credit, they’re playing well above their means. They’re ballin’ right now, and I’ve got to give them respect. Gabe Vincent, Martin, Strus, Duncan Robinson, guys that we should be able to keep under control are playing their (expletive) off.” — Brown