Gordon Hayward's return to the Boston Celtics obviously makes them a better team. Usually, it helps to get a max player back from an injury. Yet Hayward's real contribution is who he isn't. Semi Ojeleye didn't play in Game 3. Brad Wanamaker finished with just under 10 minutes of playing time, and the backup centers only had to play around 14 minutes with a small-ball unit filling in for Daniel Theis' absence for around 10.
The Celtics are not a deep team. Having their best players isn't as simple as just having their best players. The benefit to them is greater than it would be to most teams because their worst players are so underwhelming. Now, the Celtics can largely stick to the six players on their roster who truly matter while only giving spot minutes to the lesser backups. That should color every bet you make on this series from now on. Here are Wednesday's best bets.
Lines via William Hill Sportsbook
Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat: Celtics -3
If Hayward were playing two days after a 30-minute return performance, Boston might have to worry about limiting his workload. But the four-day break between Games 3 and 4 should only help in his recovery. If he's even the player he was on Saturday, the Celtics have gained enough to enter this game as reasonable favorites. Miami is still the safer series bet because of its 2-1 advantage, but the Celtics should be considered the better team by a hair right now.
Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat: Under 210.5
Hayward's return will be essential to Boston's title hopes on a macro level, but the micro schematic adjustment Brad Stevens made on defense in Game 3 might be just as important in this series. Marcus Smart guarded Goran Dragic for most of the game and held him to 2-of-11 shooting. If Smart can continue to erase Dragic, Miami basically needs to shoot 40 percent from behind the arc to generate offense against a stellar Celtic defense.
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Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat: Jimmy Butler over 19.5 points
Remember, if Smart is guarding Dragic, that means he isn't guarding Butler. That won't make life too much easier for Miami's star. After all, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are almost as good defensively as Boston's ace. But Butler is a star, and the relief of not having a First-Team All-Defense guard on him makes a big difference. He hasn't scored more than 20 points once in this series. Expect a breakout sooner rather than later.