Gordon Hayward’s return revitalises the Celtics’ squad for this NBA Eastern Conference finals clash

NBA Preview: Reunited Celtics Look to Even Up East Finals

Boston Celtics vs Miami Heat

The NBA Eastern Conference finals is heating up now. After failing to hold on to big leads in the first two games to go down a 2-0 hole, the Boston Celtics finally held off the Miami Heat to win Game 3.

The return of All-Star forward Gordon Hayward after a month out made a significant difference for the Celtics, who are now aiming to tie up the series at 2-2 in Game 4.

Hayward’s return has shifted the NBA 2020 odds for this series toward the Celtics’ favour, but can the Heat reclaim control by winning Game 4?

 

Talking Points

Hayward’s return revitalises Celtics

The Boston Celtics were in big trouble in the Eastern Conference finals. They went down 2-0 to the Miami Heat after blowing another big second-half lead, which led to a heated altercation in their locker room after Game 2.

But the big NBA 2020 news ahead of Game 3 was that Gordon Hayward would make his long-awaited return to the line-up. The Celtics forward had been out for a month after suffering an ankle injury during the first round against Philadelphia.

While Hayward’s stats didn’t look all that impressive (six points, five rebounds, four assists in 31 minutes), his mere presence was a major upgrade as he helped Boston win Game 3. He provided better passing and was a bigger offensive threat compared to the Celtics’ other bench players.

Semi Ojeleye and Robert Williams, who both got significant minutes in the first two games, did not play at all in Game 3.

With Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kemba Walker capable of carrying the scoring load for the Celtics, Hayward doesn’t necessarily need to be a big-time scorer for Boston. They were already scoring at an impressive rate and building big leads in the first two games even without Hayward.

But if Hayward can rediscover his shooting touch by Game 4, that would make the Celtics that much more difficult for the Heat to defend moving forward.

 

Heat getting tired of big deficits

Miami Heat look to get the 3-1 series lead in the NBA Eastern Conference finals

Miami Heat players go to the bench for a timeout during their game against the Boston Celtics

The Celtics should be a bit disappointed to be down 2-1 in the series even though they have built up big leads in the second halves of the first two games.

But while the Heat eventually got going to come back and win the first two games, they couldn’t repeat the feat in Game 3 as they went ice-cold from 3-point range (12-of-44, 27 per cent).

Heat All-Star Jimmy Butler has come out and said playing from behind against Boston “gets old” and Miami need to do a better job of avoiding those big deficits.

Goran Dragic had by far his worst game of the bubble in Game 3 as he finished with just 11 points on 2-of-10 shooting with five turnovers. Jae Crowder has also cooled off in the last couple of games after some sizzling shooting against the Milwaukee Bucks.

More improved shooting from those two should help the Heat in Game 4, but they will need more improvement to avoid going down big once again.

For one, they will need better play from their bench, which has been nonexistent in this series apart from rookie Tyler Herro.

With Hayward now back and coming off the bench for Boston, the Heat’s second unit will need to step up even more moving forward.

 

History

After sweeping their respective first-round series, neither the Celtics nor the Heat won Game 4 of the conference semifinals. The Heat lost in overtime to the Bucks, while the Celtics fell to the Raptors.

Miami big man Bam Adebayo had arguably his best game in the bubble in Game 4 as he had 26 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists in a losing effort.

He’s coming off a terrific Game 3 against the Celtics with 27 points and 16 rebounds, and he will be looking to keep up that impressive scoring run.

 

What are the odds?

SBOTOP odds have the Celtics pegged as significant 1.63 favourites on the money line to win Game 4, with the Heat priced only at 2.36.

Although, the Asian Handicap only has the Celtics’ line between -2.50 and -3.50, so expect another close game between these two evenly matched teams.

However, the Heat still have a slight edge in terms of the odds for the series winner. Miami are priced at 1.72 with the Celtics 2.16 to come back and make the Finals.

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

 

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