By Adam Thompson | | 4 mins
NBA Eastern Conference Finals: Celtics vs Heat Odds & Picks
The Eastern Conference Finals series tips off on Tuesday, and it doesn’t feature Giannis Antetokounmpo or the defending NBA champions. It features neither of the top two seeds, either.
The top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks and No. 2 Toronto Raptors were upended in the second round. Instead, we get the No. 3-seed Boston Celtics hosting the No. 5 Miami Heat in Game 1. The Heat are the first No. 5 seed to get to a conference finals since the Memphis Grizzlies did so in the West in 2013.
The series marks the third time in four seasons the Celtics have advanced to the conference finals, and they are the favorites to advance in the latest NBA odds. They are seeking their first trip to the NBA Finals since Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce led Beantown there in 2010.
It’s the first Eastern Conference finals berth for Miami since 2014, which marked the end of a four-year run of East titles led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Allen.
NBA Eastern Conference Finals Betting Guide
Series Odds: Celtics -134, Heat +110
Against the top teams if the East, the Heat dominated nearly all of them. Prior to the bubble, Miami was a combined 6-0 vs. the Bucks, Raptors and Pacers. But the Celtics were the Heat's Kryptonite, going 0-2 pre-bubble, falling by 19 and by eight points. Miami did win a bubble matchup with Boston 112-106 (and without Jimmy Butler).
Each team is led by one of the premier coaches in the game. Each has drawn on its strength: Miami with its depth and outside shooting, Boston with its star power and tenacious style.
But there were just two NBA teams to rank in the top 10 in both total offense and total defense. One was the Bucks, the other was these Celtics (9th offensively, 2nd defensively). They’re riding their standouts as far as they’ll take them.
The Pick: Celtics in 7
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3 Celtics-Heat Betting Tips
Be Wary Of Scoring Props
In the three games between these teams, nobody led their own team in scoring more than once. It’s hard to pinpoint one player we can expect to rise to the challenge.
The Celtics have relied on their stars to the finish line. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart each average more than 37.5 minutes per game in the NBA Playoffs. By contrast, nobody on the Heat averages more than 35.3.
The Celtics have shown more consistency in the postseason. In seven games vs. the Raptors, Tatum scored at least 24 points four times and only once fewer than 18. Brown scored between 14 and 21 in all but two games (when he broke out for 27 and 31).
Against the Bucks, meanwhile, Butler blew up for 40 and 30 points, but was held to 17 or less the other three occasions. Goran Dragic showed more consistency, scoring 27 and 23 points in games, and no fewer than 15 in any of the five.
Strength vs. Strength
Few teams shoot 3-pointers as well as the Heat. But few teams stop opponents behind the arc like the Celtics. Miami hit 37.9% of 3-pointers in the regular season, third-best in the NBA. That’s risen to 38% in the postseason, second-best. But Boston ranked third in 3-point defense (34.0%), and it’s improved to 30.5% in the playoffs, the lowest mark in the league.
Which side wins this battle will be critical to which side advances. Fans of NBA betting should wait and see before backing any Celtics 3-point Over/Under allowed props.
Following The Trends
When it comes to picking a side against the spread, the Heat have historically gotten the edge in this matchup, covering in six of the last seven vs. the Celtics. Overall, Miami is 8-1 ATS in its last nine and Boston is 8-3 in its last 11. The Celtics are a stellar 19-6-1 ATS in its last 26 games with three or more days of rests.
The Under is a recurring winner, too. It’s 7-3 in Miami’s last 10 games and 7-3 in the last 10 meetings between these teams.
Adam Thompson’s Previous NBA Eastern Conference Picks
First-round picks: Bucks over Magic, Raptors over Nets, Celtics over 76ers and Heat over Pacers. Record: 4-0
Second-round picks: Bucks over Heat and Celtics over Raptors. Record: 1-1