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Saturday NBA Betting Picks & Predictions: Our Best Playoff Bets for Celtics vs. Heat Game 3 (Sept.19)

Saturday NBA Betting Picks & Predictions: Our Best Playoff Bets for Celtics vs. Heat Game 3 (Sept.19) article feature image

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Jae Crowder #99 of the Miami Heat and Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat.

  • Tonight's Eastern Conference finals matchup between the Celtics and Heat is a must-watch and a must-win for Boston.
  • Our experts have been hard at work breaking the game down and arrived at their favorite picks for tonight's game.
  • See the bets they are making on the first quarter and full game spread, plus the best player prop for tonight's matchup.

It’s gut-check time for the Boston Celtics. Since winning six-straight games to start the NBA Playoffs, the Celtics have now lost five of their past seven games and are staring down an 0-2 hole to the Miami Heat. (You can check out our Game 3 betting guide here).

So, where’s the value today? Our staff breaks down their favorite NBA bets for today’s slate and where to find the most value in tonight’s matchup.

  • 8:30 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat 

Saturday NBA Betting Picks

Odds via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.

Raheem Palmer: Celtics vs. Heat

Celtics odds -3 [BET NOW]
Heat odds +3 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -159/+133 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 207.5 [BET NOW]
Time 8:30 p.m. ET

This line doesn’t make any sense.

The Celtics might be the only team I’ve ever seen lose two playoff games and have their power rating increase after each game without any major injuries news or suspensions.

Game 1: Celtics -1.5
Game 2: Celtics -2.5
Game 3: Celtics -3

Yes, there’s a desperation effect of being down 2-0, but how do you quantify that? It’s irrational to believe that teams want it more because they’re down in the series.

Without home court factors, oddsmakers should be pricing these matchups the same way outside of three scenarios:

a.) overwhelming evidence to the contrary
b.) a close out game where you’re charging a premium to back the (obvious) winner
c.) a key injury or suspension

We haven’t had any of these scenarios play out in this matchup and yet the market seems to constantly overvalue the Celtics.

Every team’s home court advantage is different but the average home court advantage for all NBA teams in the 2019-2020 season is 2.3 points. If the Celtics are three points better than the Heat on a neutral court, according to the market, that would make the Celtics -5.5 point favorites for a home game at TD Garden Arena. That would also make the Miami Heat +0.5/PK on their own home court at American Airlines Arena. Sounds silly right?

Based on what we’ve seen throughout these playoffs and eliminating home court, these teams are not power rated correctly.

The Celtics have yet to find an answer for that Heat zone defense. Between their series against the Toronto Raptors and Heat, we have a nine-game sample size of this Celtics team against the zone and the results haven’t been pretty. Unlike the Raptors, the Heat can actually put the ball in the basket and that’s been the difference in this series.


— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) September 18, 2020

As good as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are, they aren’t great playmakers and this is where the absence of Gordon Hayward is felt most (he’s questionable to suit up tonight by the way). The Celtics have scored 41 points on 48 possessions against the Heat’s zone defense through two games. The Celtics are averaging 0.98 points per possession in the half court this postseason while averaging 0.85 ppp vs Miami’s zone defense, according to Synergy data.

The Celtics are definitely capable of cracking the zone, cleaning up their turnovers and pulling off a desperation win to make this a series, but win or lose, the Heat are still mispriced at +3 and are a positive expected value proposition.

This line should be closer to a pick’em and depending on how heavily we’re weighing playoff data, the Heat should probably be a short favorite. Give me the points with the better team and the better coach.

The Pick: Heat +3

[Bet the Heat at DraftKings and get a $1,000 bonus, including a $500 risk-free bet]

Check out our free NBA odds page, which automatically surfaces the best line for every game. Subscribe to our new NBA Insiders tool at FantasyLabs to beat the market with our cutting edge player projections, injury news and betting thresholds.

Brandon Anderson: Celtics vs. Heat

I still believe in the Celtics … a little.

I came into this series thinking the Celtics were the better team. I thought the Heat would have a hard time scoring consistently, especially against the Celtics’ elite 3-point defense. And that has largely been the case, outside of about a six-minute stretch in each game when the suddenly get the Super Mario invincibility star and can’t miss anything.

Add that to the Celtics’ struggles on offense leading to turnovers and easy live Heat points and the presumed half-court struggles for the Heat offense haven’t mattered enough.

We know by now not to count out a team down 0-2. The Raptors were down but not out against the Celtics in this scenario and pushed it to seven. The past two Eastern Conference finals matchups also featured 0-2 comebacks. Can The C’s come back and do this? Absolutely.

I still believe in is their heart and their ability to at least start out well. The Celtics locker room blow up after Game 2 is a good thing. These players know each other well, and that fight is what was missing for the entire second half on the court. Better late than even later. The Celtics will come out with energy and some answers on both ends.

I’m not sure I trust them to hold up late in the game as the Heat make adjustments, so I’m staying away from a game result. Instead I’ll just bet on the Celtics to lead after one quarter. They are 2-0 in the first quarter this series. I like them to get the early lead here and would play up to -2. What happens from there is anyone’s guess.

The Pick: Celtics -1.5 (1Q)

[Bet the over at DraftKings and get a $1,000 bonus, including a $500 risk-free bet]

 Reed Wallach’s Top Player Prop

Jaylen Brown Over 18.5 Points (-122)

The spotlight has come off Brown this series, as he has put up a steady-but-quiet 21 and 17 points in the first two games while Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart have seemingly carried the offense.

With its backs against the wall, I think we see the Celtics try to get Brown going. Towards the end of Game 2, some late Brown 3-pointers kept the Celtics in it and he just missed a potential game-tying 3 in the corner with 15 seconds left in the fourth.

Brown is averaging nearly 21 points per game this postseason, so I see this number a bit down due to a subdued start to the Eastern Conference finals. Our Player Prop tool projects Brown to score over 20 in this game, and this seems like the right time to buy low on Brown to have a breakout game with the season seemingly on the line.

I would play the over up to 19.5 at -110. (You can find more prop bets for Game 3 from Reed Wallach here).

[Bet Brown’s points at DraftKings and get a $1,000 bonus, including a $500 risk-free bet]

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