The Miami Heat appeared to have won the Eastern Conference Finals as recently as Sunday. When they won Game 3 against the Boston Celtics, they extended their series lead to 3-0. no NBA team They previously held a 3-0 series lead, but the Celtics are making a solid run into history with big wins in Games 4 and 5. They host Boston in Game 6.
It’s a game the Heat expects to win. At least Jimmy Butler thinks so, because he secured victory after Miami lost Game 5. “We will always stay positive knowing that we can and will win this series,” Butler said to reporters. “We just have to lock her up at home.”
The host teams are usually huge favorites in any playoff game, especially one that comes later in a series. The Celtics might make a rare exception. Boston was actually better on the road this postseason (5-3) than it was at home (5-5). Over the long regular season sample, Miami’s record at home (27-14) wasn’t much better than Boston’s road record (25-16), and the Celtics had a better rating on the road (plus 3.3) than Miami at home (plus 1.1). The Heat will have the home-court advantage in Game 6, but the numbers suggest that won’t be of much use.
That was true last season, when those two teams met in the playoffs and the home team won only two of the seven matches. This included Boston winning Game 7 on the road to clinch their trip to the NBA finals. Of course, Butler almost prevented this by winning two of the best matches of his career to end that streak. He scored 47 points in Game 6 to effectively establish the Eastern Conference championship from a single game prior to the preseason, then nearly stole Game 7 with a 35-point masterpiece. He came up with one short pointer.
Butler has been better for most of the postseason, leading the No. 8 seed to the brink of the NBA Finals for the first time since the 1999 Knicks got there. But Game 6 will present his toughest challenge yet. The Heat lost two straight games. They’ve lost two key players in Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo, and Gabe Vincent may also be out after sitting out Game 5 with a sprained ankle. The onus will be on Butler to win this game for Miami, and if his comments after the game on Thursday are any indication, he plans to do just that.
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