NBA Odds, Best Bets: Our 5 Top Picks for Game 1 of Celtics vs. Heat (Tuesday, May 17)

NBA Odds, Best Bets: Our 5 Top Picks for Game 1 of Celtics vs. Heat (Tuesday, May 17) article feature image

Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat.

  • The Eastern Conference finals are set with the Miami Heat hosting the Boston Celtics in Game 1.
  • Our NBA experts are taking various approaches on how to bet Tuesday's game, including props, totals and a moneyline bet.
  • Find their analysis and picks below.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Marcus Smart and Al Horford of the Boston Celtics have entered health and safety protocols and are out for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. For real-time injury updates, check out our FantasyLabs NBA news page.

Two rounds down, two more to go. Tuesday marks the start of the Eastern Conference finals and if it's anything close to what we saw in the Conference semis, we're in for a treat.

The Boston Celtics, fresh off a thrilling Game 7 win against the Milwaukee Bucks, head to Miami a matchup with Heat, a rematch of their 2020 ECF series in Orlando. While the Celtics have momentum, the Heat are well-rested and hungry for a return to the championship round.

It all starts with Game 1 and our NBA analysts have a number of bets they like in the opening matchup. They are eying a pair of player props on both sides, the Heat of win and cover, plus a case for over and the under.

Find their analysis and best bets for Tuesday night below.

NBA Odds & Picks

Click on a pick to skip ahead
Jayson Tatum Player Prop
Heat Spread
Game Total & Heat Moneyline
Game Total
Max Strus Player Prop

Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat

Jayson Tatum Under 27.5 Points (+100)
8:30 p.m. ET

Munaf Manji: This series is going to be a grind it out and defensive-minded series. Both defenses are top three in the postseason in defensive efficiency and I'm looking to fade Jayson Tatum in Game 1. Tatum struggled against the Heat during season averaging only 17.7 points per game on 42.2% shooting from the floor and only 29.4% from the 3-point line.

The Celtics are coming off a Game 7 victory against the Bucks in Round 2 and have a quick turnaround playing a road game in Game 1. Tatum has played 21 games against the Heat and he has scored 28 or more points just five times. In fact, Tatum has been below 20 points in eight of those games.

Lastly, Jayson Tatum averaged close to 41 minutes per game in the conference semifinals against the Bucks and there should be tired legs for this Celtics team after a seven-game series. I expect the defense to smother Tatum and force someone else to beat them on the offensive end.

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Heat -1.5

Brandon Anderson: I like the Celtics in this series, but I'm riding with the Heat in Game 1. This is a schedule play for me.

In the regular season, educated bettors know to pay attention to the schedule and bet accordingly. There are times with a team on a back-to-back or a third game in four days against a rested opponent that just end up counting as schedule losses.

I think this Game 1 in Miami shapes up as a schedule loss for Boston. The Celtics just gutted out a win in an absolutely brutal physical series over Milwaukee. Both teams took a beating all series. Robert Williams left injured and hasn't returned. Marcus Smart got hurt early, missed a game, played through, but is a question mark for Game 1. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are nursing injuries too.

The Celtics finished winning Sunday around dinnertime, flew late to Miami, got one day to recover and prepare for a new and entirely different team, and now have to face a rested Heat squad. Miami matches up well enough with Boston to be at least a coin flip at home, where its role players are likely to play better.

Honestly, this is a game the Heat have to get. Give this one away and they forfeit home court advantage and a huge rest differential and become pretty sizable underdogs in the series. We know from Raheem Palmer's article that teams coming off a Game 7 loss are vulnerable in Game 1.

This is just too short a turnaround. I would've bet Miami -1.5 at home blind regardless of the opponent in this spot.

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Under 204 | Heat ML (-120)

Raheem Palmer: It’ll be a quick turnaround for the Celtics in the first game of the Eastern Conference finals. They had to fight back from a 3-2 deficit and needed their stars to play heavy minutes in a physical series.

Historically teams haven’t performed well in the following round after a Game 7, going 32-49 (39%) straight up in the ensuing Game 1. That trend doesn’t bode well for the Celtics who also have some injury entering the next round.

Marcus Smart is questionable for Game 1 with a mid-foot sprain that he suffered in Game 7 and Robert Williams still dealing with knee soreness. That means The Celtics could be shorthanded against the Heat who ranked fourth in Defensive Rating (109.2) in the regular season and is No. 2 in the postseason (104.8).

The Celtics shot 40% from behind the arc (22-of-55 on 3s), however, they likely won’t put up a similar output against the Heat who rank first in opponent 3-point percentage (34.1%).

The Heat and the Celtics have the two best defenses out of the remaining postseason teams. The Celtics were first in Defensive Rating in the regular season (106.9) and are third among postseason teams (107.4). Although the Heat have been dominant offensively thus far, this Celtics defense could be a shock to the system and I’m expecting them to take a step back, particularly without Kyle Lowry who is likely out for Game 1.

With the Heat ranking 14th in Pace (91.70) among all NBA playoff teams, we’re unlikely to see a ton of possessions, so there’s value on the under here. With the Celtics in a bad spot coming off a seven-game series, I’ll back the Heat to home win and bet the game to go under the total.

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Over 203.5

Austin Wang: The Eastern Conference Finals feature two of the league's best defenses and slowest-paced teams. The Celtics ranked first in Defensive Rating (106.2) and 24th in Pace (97.3), while the Heat were fourth in Defensive Rating (108.4) and 28th in Pace (96.5) in the regular season, per NBA Advanced Stats.

It is no surprise the market is anticipating this will be low-scoring game. Both of these teams are a combined 15-7 to the under in this postseason and the total currently is as low as 203.5 points depending on the book.

I think that number is off and I'm looking to buy low.

We saw the Celtics offense wake up in Games 6 and 7 of the previous series. They hit 39 3-pointers in those two games alone. Even though the Heat defense is tougher than the Bucks, the Celtics have been on fire. DPOY Marcus Smart is questionable for Game 1 and even if he plays, I doubt he will be 100% and as a result, the Celtics defense will suffer.

Teams off a seven-game series have gone 35-21 (62.5%) to the over dating back to the 2002-03 season, per the Sports Data Query Language at Gimme The Dog. This is active on the Celtics. The logic here is that these teams are fatigued from their long series and defense may be less of a priority in Game 1.

The Heat offense can take advantage here. Kyle Lowry is out, which quickens the tempo and improves the offense. More minutes for Max Strus and Tyler Herro will provide some more scoring, especially with Lowry dealing with a nagging hamstring injury.

I am taking the over here at 203.5 and would play it to 206.

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Max Strus Over 12.5 Points (-106)

Roberto Arguello: Lowry (hamstring) is out for Game 1, and his absence will be significant in this matchup. For the Heat to win this series, they need Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo at their best. These two can punish the Celtics when they switch smaller players onto them, but they also have the ability to set up teammates like Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and PJ Tucker for open 3s when the defense collapses.

I expect Strus to have a huge opportunity to shine in this matchup. In his two games against the Celtics — who cut him in the fall of 2019 — Max Strus averaged 21 points this season. Strus will have plenty of opportunities to score with Lowry out and Robinson likely out of the rotation, especially if the Celtics continue to prioritize stopping Butler.

I like the value on Max Strus to score Over 12.5 Points (-106) at FanDuel, and you can put that in a Same Game Parlay at FanDuel with Heat Moneyline (-120) at +214. Or you could play the Heat live, a bet I made the case for in the guide for Game 1.

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