Heat vs. Celtics Odds, Expert Pick, Prediction | NBA Playoffs Game 1 Betting Preview (May 17)

Heat vs. Celtics Odds, Expert Pick, Prediction | NBA Playoffs Game 1 Betting Preview (May 17) article feature image

Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics, Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat.

  • The Celtics are heavy home favorites in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat.
  • Miami has a rest and preparation advantage, but is there value in backing the Heat in this spot?
  • Chris Baker breaks down the matchup and shares his betting prediction for Heat vs Celtics.

Heat vs. Celtics Odds

Heat Odds+8
Celtics Odds-8
Time8:30 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Boston Celtics host the Miami Heat in TD Garden after defeating the Philadelphia 76ers in an emotional Game 7 victory on Sunday. Can the Celtics match their Game 7 urgency here in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, or will we see an emotionally unfocused Celtics team tonight?

Here’s a look at the odds, as well as our pick and prediction in the Heat vs. Celtics Game 1 preview.

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Miami must travel to Boston for this game, but the Heat have had a two-day head start on preparation as they finished their series against the Knicks last Friday night. Needless to say that fatigue should not be a factor for the Heat tonight. The Heat are extremely familiar with this Celtics team as they took them to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals last year, and they defeated them in the Eastern Conference Finals during the Bubble.

These teams split their regular season series 2-2, but it is hard to draw meaningful conclusions from those games as both teams dealt with injuries throughout the season, and as we know, the playoffs are arguably an entirely different sport than the regular season.

Focusing on the Heat’s recent playoff success, we see that their offense is heavily predicated on the 3-pointer. Miami is sixth in 3-point Attempt Rate (38.1%) and eighth in Accuracy (36.4%). The Heat have gotten meaningful minutes from spacers like Max Strus and Duncan Robinson while also thriving with Kyle Lowry on the court. Caleb Martin has emerged as one of their top wing defenders while also providing 38% shooting from 3 in the playoffs.

The Heat have been excellent with Martin on the court, posting an Offensive Rating of 121.7 and a Defensive Rating of 110.0, for a Net Rating of 11.7. When Martin is off the floor, the Heat have a -7.5 Net Rating, meaning that he has a Net Rating swing of +19.2 thus far in the playoffs. He has been a tremendously impactful player for them, and I’m highlighting him here as he is someone who should see even more minutes as the Heat try to defend Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo will need to be a bit more consistent offensively against this heavy-switching Celtics defense. The Heat posted a pedestrian Offensive Rating of 111.4 against the Knicks defense last round. Butler played solid but certainly dropped off from the level he was at in the Bucks series. He averaged 24.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.6 assists but shot just 43% from the field and 11% from 3. The Heat survived without Butler carrying them as the Knicks allowed them to attempt wide-open catch and shoot 3s for most of the series.

This is unlikely to happen against a Celtics defense that prioritizes switching and defending the 3-point line. Boston’s defense ranked third in Opponent 3-point Accuracy (34.8%) during the regular season. Consequently, I expect the Heat to be forced into isolation and the midrange way more often in this series, so they will need Butler to be a superhero like he was in the first round against the Bucks. Ultimately, there are paths for the Heat to win this series and Game 1, but they will need to look more like the offense from the first round (119.0 Offensive Rating) if they want to pull the upset.

Boston Celtics

Boston finally woke up in the second half of Game 7 against the 76ers and blew them out by 24 points in a statement win. Boston looked extremely unfocused throughout the series but still managed to pull off the mini-comeback after going down 3-2 in the series.

The Celtics will need to be focused here tonight as they take on a rested Erik Spoelstra team that has had four days to prepare for them. That is certainly something that should not be taken lightly as Spoelstra has proven that he is arguably the best coach in the NBA right now. Spoelstra has a knack for finding little adjustments and edges to throw the opposing team off, and I expect the Heat to go all-in on Game 1 as this feels like as good a spot as any to steal one on the road.

For the Celtics, we should expect their offense to continue to generate a ton of 3s as the Heat struggle defending the 3-point line. The Heat rank 17th in the playoffs (and Play-In Tournament) in Opponent 3-point Attempt Rate Allowed (40%), and they ranked 29th (39.7%) during the regular season. Their defense prioritizes taking away the rim, but that can sometimes be a disaster when playing an opponent with this many spacers.

The Knicks shot a woeful 29.9% from 3 against the Heat last series despite generating plenty of open catch and shoot looks. The Celtics are a significantly better 3-point shooting team as they’ve shot 40.1% from 3 in the playoffs. Unlike the Knicks, the Celtics can punish the Heat for over-helping and putting an over-emphasis on limiting paint shots, and I expect them to do so throughout this series.

The Heat's point of attack defenders are mostly poor outside of Martin and Butler. If Strus, Robinson and Lowry are playing heavy minutes, expect the Heat to be put into defensive rotations consistently throughout this series.

Heat-Celtics Pick

This feels like the spot to back the Heat to steal one as we get to bet on Spoelstra having a good game plan with a two-day rest/preparation advantage. The Celtics are coming off a highly emotional Game-7 win in a series where they had to come back from down 3-2 in order to win.

This is 100% an emotional letdown spot for the Celtics, and I expect their urgency to be lacking going from a Game 7 to a Game 1 in a series in which they are heavily favored.

We’ve seen the Celtics look asleep defensively in certain games this playoffs, so they have a track record of not playing with enough urgency already. I expect that to occur tonight, and I’m willing to count on the Heat offense looking better given their four days of rest and preparation for this one.

Take the Heat +8.5 and sprinkle the moneyline at +300 as teams that cover tend to win at a high rate in the playoffs across the past few seasons.

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