- Eastern Conference finals odds have Boston as a -550 favorite before Game 1.
- Celtics vs. Heat is a rematch of last year’s ECF, which Boston won in seven games.
- Series spreads offer a valuable way to attack the Eastern Conference finals.
There are only four teams remaining in the NBA championship odds market: the Lakers, Nuggets, Celtics, and Heat.
The latter two are preparing to face off in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference finals. And unlike last year, the NBA betting odds market feels that this year’s contest will be pretty one-sided.
Eastern Conference Finals: Celtics vs. Heat
On paper, it’s No. 2 Boston vs. No. 8 Miami.
This is a team that spent most of the year as the top favorite in the NBA Finals odds market, facing off against a team that needed a win-or-go-home play-in game to even make the playoffs in the first place.
Tyler Herro, a key shooter for the Heat, has a broken hand and is supposedly out until at least the Finals.
So yes, on paper, this is not a particularly competitive series. The series odds reflect that.
Eastern Conference Finals Series Odds For Celtics vs. Heat
BetMGM has a variety of series prices for the Eastern Conference finals series odds for Celtics vs. Heat.
The Celtics are -550 to win the series and advance to a second straight NBA Finals; Miami is +400 to return to the Finals for the first time since the bubble championship in 2020.
In the “Correct Series Result” market, the shortest price is Boston to win, 4-1 (+210); the ECF series is +190 to end in exactly five games. Six games (+240) and seven games (+275) have longer odds.
A quick peek at the series spreads — a market I particularly enjoy betting into — reveals a similar pattern. Miami +2.5 games is priced at -135, meaning Miami would have to win at least two games to cover the series spread.
A repeat of last year’s results — Boston in seven — is priced at +425.
Eastern Conference Finals Odds Fundamentally Undervalue Miami
I was surprised to see such one-sided odds for this year’s Eastern Conference finals. Last year, when the Celtics looked like a much more convincing Finals contender and featured top-level coaching, the series was a much more evenly priced contest.
The biggest difference, of course, is that this year’s Miami team is a No. 8 seed, not a No. 1 seed. Which, to be fair, is a pretty big difference.
But handicappers have to honor the team that Miami has been over the last 11 games, as that sample size has become much more relevant to the Eastern Conference Finals odds than the 84 games that preceded it.
During these playoffs, the Heat shooters have effectively spaced the floor and connected from behind the arc. There’s also Jimmy Butler, who effectively defies all forms of science or analysis.
Most important, to my eye, is the gulf of coaching experience between Erik Spoelstra and Joe Mazzula. Spoelstra, more than any other coach still in the playoffs, will make dozens of small tweaks and adjustments to put his guys in a better position than Boston.
In a sport where single possessions can matter a great deal, this is a sizable advantage for the Heat.
If the Heat win the ECF, is Spoelsta the greatest coach in NBA history?@RyanHorvat is telling @Trysta_Krick & @NickAshooh that Spoelstra will stand above all other coaches in NBA history if he can get passed the Celtics @BetMGMTonight is live: https://t.co/lZ2F4PLmfg pic.twitter.com/r5FqTbRZxS
— BetQL (@betqlapp) May 16, 2023
I’m not making the case that Miami will win the series; I’m making a case that Miami will play a much more competitive series than the NBA odds market currently believes. That means there’s inherent value in some of these Heat futures.
To that end, I’m taking the following positions:
- Heat +400
- Heat +2.5 Games (-135)
- Heat +1.5 Games (+165)
There’s one other thing to consider. Miami has now won Game 1 in five straight playoff series, dating back to the beginning of the 2022 playoffs. The combination of Butler on the court and Spoelstra on the sidelines is difficult to overcome right out of the gate.
For that reason, I also love a Game/Series Double available at the BetMGM online sportsbook: Miami Heat to Win Game 1 and Boston Celtics Win the Series at +425. It’s a soft hedge against some of my previous action.
And, naturally, I’ll supplement that with Heat +8.5 and Heat +300 for Game 1.
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