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NBA Picks: May 19

By Lior Lampert

Well, as I stated in my post for Game 1, Boston did throw the first punch. But, Miami absorbed the blow and was able to overcome the punch enroute to a series-opening victory. How will Boston respond and what adjustments will they make? What do the Heat need to do to ensure they defend their home court again?

Miami hadn’t played since May 12th before Tuesday’s match while Boston was riding the momentum of a thrilling Game 7 victory from a couple of nights before and it showed early on. Boston was amped up from the opening tip and took control of the game early on. Jayson Tatum looked like he was on his way to an epic performance, posting 21 points to go along with 5 assists and 4 rebounds in the first half alone. The Celtics defense was wreaking havoc and forcing turnovers throughout the first quarter. Robert Williams returned from injury to the starting lineup and looked great. Unfortunately for Boston, they just looked like they had run out of steam in the second half. Not to mention the losses of Marcus Smart and Al Horford began to take a toll on the team’s ability to stretch the floor and create space for their dynamic duo of Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

On the other hand, Jimmy Butler was simply a man on a mission. He posted a massive stat line consisting of 41 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks. According to StatMuse, he is the first player in NBA postseason history to record those numbers since steals and blocks first began to be tracked in 1974. His ability to dominate both ends of the floor can truly not be taken for granted. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown shot a combined 2-11 from the field when guarded by Butler. The Heat won by double digits following a sluggish start even with their second-best player (Bam Adebayo) attempting just four shots in 37 minutes of play.

All things considered, Miami is a tough team to beat when Butler is playing the way he is offensively considering how great they are defensively. Although, you can make the case that it took an otherworldly performance from Jimmy Butler, paired with the Celtics not playing up to the standard we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from them this season, while also missing 2 of their most valuable players, and Boston still found a way to hang around in that game. The Celtics probably won’t get Al Horford back for this game, but I expect Marcus Smart to play through the pain knowing the magnitude of this game and what is at stake. Getting their team leader and Defensive Player of the Year back should be enough for the Celtics to at the very least cover the spread while having a chance at winning this game outright and bringing this series back to Boston tied 1-1.

My Pick: Boston Celtics +4 -109 (Odds Via BetRivers)

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