2023 NBA Playoffs: Boston Celtics, Miami Heat series preview

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Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat Eastern Conference Finals Betting Preview

Much like the Western Conference, we get a rematch in the Eastern Conference Finals this season. Boston meets Miami for the second consecutive year with the right to go to the NBA Finals on the line, and despite a run to this round as an eight-seed, the market is not giving the Heat much of a chance. 

 

The first series price that opened on the market here was the Celtics as -600 favorites to move on. That price carries an implied probability of 85.7% and while there was some correction to that number the Heat are still only +400 (20.0%) at DraftKings to win this series. Some might think that a team that made a run to the conference finals as an eight-seed would garner more respect, but there is a case to be made that it is Boston being disrespected by the market.

First, it should be pointed out that Miami was upgraded by the betting market in a big way because of this run it is on. Milwaukee was -1000 in the first round prior to Game 1 of the series tipping-off. At that point we know that the Celtics were not far behind the Bucks as far as power rating was concerned, and had these two teams met in the first round instead of the third this series price would be much closer to the one Milwaukee was laying.

Second, it does seem that Boston has the advantage in multiple matchups in this series.

The hot shooting that carried Miami through the first round against Milwaukee has seemingly disappeared. Instead, the team which ranked 27th in 3-point shooting in the regular season (34.7%) shot 30.5% on 229 attempts against New York. That is despite shooting 37.6% on wide-open 3-point attempts throughout the series. Boston is the best shooting team in this postseason as we enter the conference finals at 40.1% and will have an advantage here almost every night.

The Celtics are now starting their primary lineup which got them to the NBA Finals last season: Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Robert Williams. Those five have a +23.6 net rating in small sample size this postseason, and outscored opponents by 24.3 points per 100 possessions last season. It’s a lineup that can switch multiple matchups, and that has multiple adequate defenders for both Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.

Miami is also rolling out a lineup that has multiple weak links Boston can take advantage of. Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and Kevin Love are all below average defenders that Tatum and Brown can target throughout the series. The Heat are also still missing Tyler Herro, whose shooting would be desperately needed in this series. It also should not be ignored that since Butler injured his ankle against the Knicks he is averaging 24.5 points on 42.3% shooting from the floor. 

Erik Spoelstra provides some sort of edge for the Heat when it comes to coaching, but the Celtics own the advantage in almost every category when evaluating these rosters and these on-court matchups. Now that their primary starting five has been put back together it is time to start viewing Boston in a different light, but there are some who might be hesitant to do so, especially when the price is so steep.

So, bettors can attack this in different ways. If we are operating under the assumption that the series price is short then that means the derivative markets available offer value as well. For those who do not want to lay such a big price then laying 2.5 games at a plus price works as well.

Bet Recommendation: Celtics -2.5 games (+128)

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