The NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals tips off Tuesday as the Miami Heat host the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series. This will be a rematch of the 2020 Conference Finals, where the Heat ousted Boston in six games in the bubble in Orlando.
NBA odds have the Celtics as -185 to win the series.
With both teams employing a “defense first” mentality, it could be a real throwback, low-scoring, physical type of series — one that appears destined to go seven games, which would be great for NBA betting.
Celtics vs. Heat Series Odds
Celtics: -185 | Heat: +150
How They Got Here
Boston made quick work of Brooklyn’s star pairing of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in its first-round matchup, sweeping the Nets in four games. The C’s then rallied from a 3-2 series deficit to dethrone the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks in a hard-fought seven-game affair.
Meanwhile, the Heat disposed of the Atlanta Hawks in five games in the opening round before taking down the Philadelphia 76ers in six – all the more impressive considering they have been without starting point guard Kyle Lowry for much of the postseason.
Players to Watch
Prior to the start of the postseason, NBA pundits routinely questioned the ability of Miami’s Jimmy Butler to be a go-to scorer. Well, Butler has more than proved doubters wrong through the opening two rounds, averaging 28.7 points per game, including a pair of 40-plus point performances.
The 32-year-old will have his hands full against Boston’s suffocating defense, but should still be able to make an impact thanks to his otherworldly heart and competitiveness.
Across from Butler will be Celtics superstar Jayson Tatum.
Tatum enjoyed a true breakout campaign, averaging career-highs in points, rebounds, and assists during the regular season. He’s carried that production into the postseason, leading Boston in scoring (28.3 points per game) while sitting just behind Marcus Smart (6.2 assists per game) for the team lead in assists.
Tatum has also blossomed into one of the league’s better defenders, and it’ll be interesting to see how often head coach Ime Udoka tasks him with the responsibility of slowing down the aforementioned Butler.
What You Need to Know
The Heat (97.5 points per game) and Celtics (101.8 points per game) rank first and third, respectively, in postseason defense. Miami has yet to lose on its home floor this postseason (6-0). This isn’t surprising, as the Heat’s 29-12 home mark during the regular season was tops in the Eastern Conference.
Erik Spoelstra’s group has thoroughly struggled with Butler off the floor throughout these playoffs, as their net rating plummets from plus-16.2 with him on the floor to minus-3.7 off the floor.
Boston ranks second in bench scoring in the playoffs, while Miami sits 10th.
The Celtics made an NBA-record 53 more three-pointers than the Bucks in their second-round matchup, potentially troublesome for a Heat team that allowed opponents to take 45.3% of their shots from downtown during the regular season. Miami sits 13th in playoff 3-point percentage (32.1%).
Celtics vs. Heat Game 1 Injury Report
Boston: Robert Williams is expected to be full-go after missing most of the Milwaukee series with a left knee injury. Meanwhile, Marcus Smart is currently questionable due to a foot sprain.
Miami: Lowry has been ruled out as he continues to nurse a left hamstring strain.
NBA Finals Odds at BetMGM
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