Boston Celtics at Miami Heat
Time: 6:30 PM CT – NBA TV
Spread: BOS -3.5
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The Miami Heat are struggling at 5-11 this season are are just 2-6 at home where it will host the visiting 9-7 Boston Celtics. Miami currently trails No. 8 New York by three games, and the Heat have a negative point differential -1.8. The Celtics are 3.5 point favorites as winners of six of its past 10 SU.
Boston most recently had its three game win streak snapped by the San Antonio Spurs 109-103. The Celtics felt encouraged in the loss which kept the Spurs undefeated on the road this season. Gregg Popovich praised the play of Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas, who had 24 points and eight assists while giving the Celtics backcourt consistent problems with his aggressive playmaking. The Celtics appear to be starting to round into form after a tough start which saw the club drop four of its first games of the season.
But that really should not be any surprise. What many are wondering is if if Thomas can be the legitimate superstar to carry Boston towards true contention, or if there still is yet a “missing piece” in Boston’s equation. Al Horford was thought to be such a fit, but he has only seemingly improved Boston incrementally—a major wing scorer may be what the Celtics need, and maybe rookie Jaylen Brown eventually becomes that after being selected No. 3 overall in 2016 out of Cal. The Celtics have no shortage of talent, no glaring holes, but few are considering them legitimate threats to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Not without a further upgrade in the talent on the roster, and that is unfortunate.
Thomas, to be clear, has been brilliant, but is this level sustainable? He is posting 26.1 point, 6.3 assist averages while averaging a PER of 25.2. Is Thomas a 25-plus point per game scorer? This is a small sample size.
Avery Bradley is a legitimate No. 2 option, but it would be ideal if he averaged closer to 20 per game. Boston still scores 104 points per game, but that only ranks them middle-of-the-pack, while the club does rank No. 3 in assist with 24.3 assisted field goals per game. Boston’s vaunted defense has been average at best, allowing 103.4 points per game and ranking No. 19 in defensive rating, allowing 107.5 points per-100 possessions. The offense is rated No. 11 in scorign 108.1 per-100. Boston is merely playing .500 type basketball, but more was expected, and the three-game win streak featured wins over the Detroit Pistons, Minnesota Timberwolves and Brooklyn Nets.
The Miami Heat are 5-11 and have dropped three of its last four with losses to Philadelphia, Detroit and Memphis and a 90-81 victory over Memphis. The Heat will get a boon with Horford missing monday’s game due to personal reasons, so expect Hassan Whiteside to have a big night with Kelly Olynyk seeing a lot of time on him likely.
Whiteside has taken the next step in becoming very consistent and reliable this season, but the Heat have languished with not a lot of talent around him. Justise Winslow appears to be several seasons away from being a huge offensive weapon, and the Heat really are bereft of top-tier talents, notwithstanding that Goran Dragic is a good, capable scoring-1.
But the story has been Whiteside. He is averaging 16.8 points, 14.9 rebounds and 2.50 blocks per game whiel posting a PER of 24.1. He seems a lock to make his first All-Star appearance in 2017.
Dion Waiters has been a pleasant surprise after coming from Oklahoma City. He ranks No. 3 on the team in scoring at 14.2 points per game while knocking down 34.4 percent of his 3.8 threes per game.
Winslow has shot just 33.1 percent from the floor and 24 percent behind the arc, but could eventually become an effective three-and-D guy, in the mold of a Shane Battier. The bar has to be lowered on his offensive expectations at this time, though he is seeing 14.1 field goal attempts per game in a very inefficient manner.
Injury Note: Waiters is likely to play but is dealing with a groin injury; Dragic is unlikely to go after missing the last two, and Winslow is unable to go due to a wrist injury. Miami is in major trouble. Boston is fully healthy.