Game 7: The two sweetest words in sports. One of the most interesting series of the NBA Playoffs comes down to one final game on Memorial Day.
Since losing the first three games, we’ve seen the version of the Celtics that ranked second in Defensive Rating over the regular season. The pace has dropped considerably in Games 4 through 6. It was 94.3 in Game 4, 84.4 in Game 5, and 89.4 in Game 6. The Celtics have gone under in 10 straight elimination games, per the SDQL at Killer Sports.
The Celtics have shown resiliency throughout the playoffs. They trailed against the Philadelphia 76ers and came back to win the series. They did the same against the Heat and Milwaukee Bucks in last season’s postseason run. Now, they have a chance to come from behind once again.
Malcolm Brogdon has been a non-factor in this series with a forearm strain. He is also listed as questionable for Game 7 — if he is out, it would likely push the Celtics to a seven-man rotation. I think fatigue will wear in for all the key players in this battle of a series.
The Heat are tough, gritty and physical. They’re the type of team you’d expect to thrive in a Game 7 defensive battle. After a brilliant start to the series, the Heat will try to deliver one more strong performance to make it to the NBA Finals for the second time in four seasons.
Miami’s outside shooting was its lone bright spot in Game 6, going 14-for-30 (46.7%) from behind the arc. However, the Heat shot just 13-of-34 (38.2%) at the rim and 16-of-52 (30.8%) in the paint. In addition, they got inefficient production from their stars as Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo shot a combined 9-for-37 from the field in Game 6. I can see the Heat going back to a trigger-happy game plan from deep due to their lack of success in the paint.
Also, Miami was without starting point guard Gabe Vincent in Game 5, which was a big loss. He returned in Game 6, but he was not nearly as efficient (6-for-18 from the field).
The ending of Game 6 was incredible, and it was fueled by a thrilling comeback from the Heat. They were trailing by nine points with three minutes left before Butler willed the Heat back into it. He calmly sank three clutch free throws to put the Heat up by one before White’s game-winner. Their stifling defense shut the Celtics down, specifically a zone defensive scheme that led to 11 straight missed field-goal attempts.
Tips of the Game
I expect this to be a rock fight. At the time of this publishing, the total is at 203.5 Wellbet, a reasonable adjustment for a Game 7, but I think there’s still some room to move.
Game 7s have gone 41-24 (63.1%) to the under in the history of the Killer Sports SDQL database, dating back to the 2002-2003 season. The nerves are high, these teams are so familiar with one another, and they are fatigued. Referees tend to call Game 7s with a tighter whistle and they won’t have a combined 63 free throws like they did in Game 6. Since the 2018-2019 season, only three of the 12 Game 7s have gone over this 203.5 mark.
Both teams shot greater than 50% in Game 5, yet the total went under and still only reached 207 points. Game 6 saw a foul-happy 63 free throws, but the total once again went under with 207 total points. For this win-or-go-home Game 7, I don’t expect that level of shooting or amount of free throws. I make the total for this game 201 and would play the total down to 202.