Heat vs. Celtics Game 6 odds, expert picks: Can Miami finally close it out or will Boston force Game 7?

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Don’t look now, but we have a series. With a 110-97 win in Game 5, the Boston Celtics now trail only 3-2 in the Eastern Conference finals, with the victory becoming just the 12th team in NBA history to force a Game 6 after trailing 3-0 in a best-of-seven series.

They are attempting to become the first team ever — out of 151 tries — to completely overcome such a deficit. But with Game 6 back in Miami, the Heat still are still in the driver’s seat, at least on paper. Here’s the rundown.

During the NBA Playoffs, The Athletic’s writers will make their straight-up picks. You’ll find picks, coverage and the latest odds here. Our in-depth NBA coverage is linked below the picks.

For live NBA odds from BetMGM, click here. Looking for tickets for tonight’s game? Find ticket deals on StubHub.

No. 8 Heat vs. No. 2 Celtics

8:30 p.m. ET on TNT

What are the odds for the Heat vs. Celtics?

Series: Heat lead 3-2

Series odds: Heat -135, Celtics +115

The Heat have only lost one of seven home games thus far this postseason, so, in theory, they should feel solid about jetting back to Miami after a dispiriting Game 5 loss in which they trailed by double-digits throughout.

However, that one defeat was to these Celtics in a closeout opportunity in Game 4. And dating back to the last Eastern Conference Finals — when Boston won Games 2, 5 and 7 in Miami — the Heat are just 2-4 in their last six home playoff games against this opponent.

So is the nature of this matchup. Home court advantage is nowhere near a given. Games are decided by which side’s complementary players decide to scorch the nets from 3-point range (on Thursday, Derrick White and Marcus Smart filled that role for Boston, combining to make 10 of 14 attempts from 3-point range as four Celtics scored 20-plus points).

But the enduring key for Boston, as Joe Mazzulla said in a downright Popovich-ian in-game interview with TNT, is the team’s defensive identity. With active hands on drives, they turned 16 Miami turnovers into 27 points for the second consecutive game — and held Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo in check during the competitive portion of the contest. At the same time, Jayson Tatum, with 21 points and 11 assists, showed remarkably improved poise attacking the Heat’s varied defensive schemes than earlier in the series.

The absence of Gabe Vincent, of course, left Miami without a reliable safety valve to punish the back end of Boston’s aggressive rotations. His status is unclear as of yet for Game 6, but will be essential to monitor, particularly because Kyle Lowry was completely ineffective starting in his place and Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo are already stashed on the shelf.

Boston is awaiting word on Malcolm Brogdon, who left Game 5 early with an elbow issue he has been battling through for some time, as well. But the odds — and momentum of play — have officially swung in the Celtics’ favor. BetMGM has Boston as slight favorites on the road for Game 6.

Expert picks for Heat vs. Celtics

More from the NBA Playoffs

Celtics, after a bad week and a good talk, are alive again heading into Game 6

How Boston’s peak basketball forced Game 6

Bam Adebayo is buckling under Celtics pressure. Heat need to fix this, and other problems, by Game 6

Derrick White’s career night to extend Celtics season rooted in message from Dad

(Photo of Marcus Smart: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)

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