The NBA is approaching the All-Star break, and teams have begun to show us what they are doing with about 32 games in the books. This week, I’m looking at two teams specifically, the Heat and Celtic.
I believe that these franchises are moving in opposite directions. Miami’s season was derailed due to injury and the absence of COVID-19. Yet the Heat have maintained their quickness on defense, showing signs of improvement as they are gaining some consistency with their personnel.
Meanwhile, the flaws inherent in Boston’s roster have begun to rear its ugly head. Many believed that the way to reach the Eastern Conference Finals is now struggling to keep itself out of the game.
Miami is heating up
About two weeks ago, I thought the Heat were on the verge of a run. They won three straight, but covered only one of those games. The betting market had soured on the Heat, making them the Rockets’ 1.5-point underdog in a game the Heat won. Miami lost its next three games, however, each time it failed to cover, and I got away with my hypothesis. Well, the Heat were 3–0 SU and ATS in their final three entering on Wednesday and slowly started to look like the team that prevailed in the Eastern season.
The Heat ranked second in defensive efficiency after Jimmy Butler returned from a foot injury, scoring 107.2 points out of every 100. Opponents shot just 44.1 percent from the floor and 35.6 percent from 3-point range. Because the Heat’s defense has been so efficient, they have managed a +2.0 net rating despite ranking 22nd on that stretch. What happens when Miami starts to find its way on offense?
The Heat finished seventh last season and finished second in offensive 3-point shooting. This season is derailed by injuries and illness, so their inconsistencies are understandable. Miami is a great candidate to get the ship right as it creates continuity. Right now, the Heat are 30/1 on BetamZM to win the NBA title, and 33/1 can be found. Those prices could look very good if the dust settled in the Eastern Conference.
Boston is the average rogue
The Celtics lost on Tuesday night in Dallas, entering their slide at 3-7 SU and ATS on Wednesday. Boston’s offense has actually taken a step backward during this recession, averaging just 109 points per 100 possessions over this stretch. The problem is a crime that has no flow.
On Sunday in New Orleans, the Celtics’ offense switched to isolation sets for Jaylen Brown, Jason Tatum or Kemba Walker, and as a result they managed to get only 0.9 points in possession in the second half. This has been a problem throughout the season, and that’s why the Celtics rank 28th at an assist rate of 54.5 percent. Yes, Marcus Smart is sidelined with a calf injury, but Smart is not going to fix what is wrong with Boston’s offense. Where does reform come from then?
In short, nowhere. The Celtics are going to be there this season. They are still a quality defensive team, and she will still land a postseason berth. But this is a slim team that lacks mastery on offense, and that would prevent Boston from competing for the Eastern Conference title.