MIAMI — To put into perspective how upside down the NBA Eastern Conference finals stand at the moment is to appreciate the convoluted betting lines posted Friday.
That’s when BetOnLine posted odds that had the Miami Heat the favorites to win the best-of-seven series they lead 3-2 over the Boston Celtics ... but also posted odds that give the Celtics the better shot to win the NBA title.
Make sense? Not really, but then again, what has in this series the Heat led 3-0 but now appear in a tenuous spot heading into Saturday’s 8:30 p.m. Game 6 at Kaseya Center? They know in NBA history, teams have gone 150-0 in series after taking 3-0 leads in best-of-seven playoff series.
So even as the Celtics stand for the third consecutive game with their backs against the wall, it is the Heat who are being questioned about being on life support after consecutive losses by an average of 15 points.
All of which Heat center Bam Adebayo finds as perplexing as the series itself.
“Why would we lose confidence?” he said of a No. 8 seed that already has pushed past the No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks and No. 5 New York Knicks this postseason, now looking to finish off a No. 2 seed. “When we started this journey, nobody believed in us. Everybody thought we were going to be out in the first round. Everybody thought we were going to be out in the second round. And now we are here one game away.
“For us, we’ve always had confidence, and that’s not going to go away.”
Indeed, as the Celtics exhibit swagger while still in win-or-go-home mode, Heat hubris remains in place, albeit perhaps not fully intact.
“We are always going to stay positive, knowing that we can and we will win this series. We’ll just have to close it out at home,” forward Jimmy Butler said.
What has gone sour the past two games Butler termed “easily correctable.”
“We are going to keep it very, very, very consistent, knowing that we are going to win next game,” he vowed.
Desperation, veteran forward Kevin Love said, has yet to enter the Heat locker room, smiling when asked if Saturday would feel like a Game 7.
“No, it feels like a Game 6,” he said. “But they’re a hungry team. And being down 3-0 and getting a win at our place and then getting a win [in Boston], you can tell they’re fighting for everything, clawing for everything, and now both teams are going to be feeling that, so we need to come out and have a great showing and set the tone at home.”
A Game 7, if needed, would be Monday at 8:30 p.m. at TD Garden. The Celtics won their previous round by overcoming a 3-2 deficit against the Philadelphia 76ers, including a Game 7 home blowout victory. Only three teams of the previous 150 down 0-3 have come back to force a Game 7.
The Heat exited TD Garden late Thursday night following their 110-97 loss more stoic than somber.
“Who cares about mood?” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We have a gnarly group. I think so much of that is overrated. It’s a competitive series. You always expect things to be challenging in the conference finals. One game doesn’t lead to the next game. Based on all the experience that we’ve had, it doesn’t matter in the playoffs. It doesn’t matter if you lose by whatever.
“We beat them by whatever in Game 3 [128-102]. It just doesn’t matter. It’s about collectively preparing and putting together a great game. We’ll play much better on Saturday. That’s all we just have to focus on right now.”