NBA Odds, Picks, Predictions: Anderson’s Bets for Celtics vs. Heat Game 1 (May 17)

NBA Odds, Picks, Predictions: Anderson’s Bets for Celtics vs. Heat Game 1 (May 17) article feature image

via Getty Images/Matt Roembke of Action Network. Pictured: Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat, Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics.

  • The Heat and Celtics play Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals Wednesday night.
  • Brandon Anderson has several angles for tonight's matchup, including the spread, player props and a bet on the moneyline.
  • Check out his picks and predictions for Heat vs Celtics Game 1.

Celtics vs. Heat Odds

8:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Celtics -8 | Total: 211.5

The 2023 Eastern Conference finals are here, and it sure does feel familiar.

The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat will play their third ECF in four years. The teams split the first two meetings, with last year's series going all the way to the final seconds of Game 7, with Jimmy Butler and the Heat falling just short.

I'll be covering the Eastern Conference Finals every game here at Action Network, and I wrote a full series preview you'll want to read to get context for my Game 1 picks here.

Here's the the short version. The Celtics are clearly better on paper and might be a better version of the Heat, but Boston lets teams hang around and the Heat are the hang-around-iest team in the league.

I like the Celtics better, but the pricing on the series is outrageous and that means all the value is on Miami.

That's important context for Game 1, because it will directly play into my main Game 1 angle too.

Let's dive in.

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Boston Is Badly Overpriced in the Series — and Game 1

Boston is -550 to win the series, an implied 85%, an outrageous number honestly. This Game 1 line is almost as aggressive, with Boston -8.5 and -350 on the moneyline, an implied 78% to win.

If you've watched any of the East playoffs so far, you know these games have been grinders. An 8.5-point line in the East is more like 12 or 15 points for some of these West series. That is a seriously steep line.

The Heat have played 42 games this season within five points, over 45% of their games. That's the second most in NBA history, just two off the record. Miami has a knack for keeping things close and grinding it out. The Heat have covered +8.5 in 77 of their 93 games this year, covering this line 82.8% of the time.

Now, not all of those games were against Boston. Most of them were not, of course.

But not all Boston games are created equal either.

This is historically a great spot to back Miami as the opponent of a team coming off a Game 7 win.

Raheem Palmer wrote for Action Network on the attrition impact of Game 7 on teams in the following series. Since 1988, teams coming off a Game 7 win are 33-52 SU in the following Game 1, an ugly 36.5% win rate including 0-1 this year. Those teams are also 36-49 in the series, a 42.4% success rate.

Those are very ugly numbers, and they show just how hard it can be to immediately get up for a new opponent on short rest and low preparation after a grueling seven-game series. There's nuance to any trend, of course. Most teams coming off a Game 7 win aren't great — hence why they were playing in a Game 7 — and a lot of them are on the road. Boston also got to take its foot off the gas pedal in the final minutes of Game 7. Still, that trend is awfully strong and should be ignored at your own peril.

I like Miami, and I'll take them to cover and play the moneyline too.

This is about betting the spot and it's about betting the number. The Heat have value against a tired Celtics team coming off a Game 7, and the Heat have value because 8.5 is too many points and +300 is far too long on the moneyline.

Bet: Heat +8.5 (BetRivers) | Heat ML (+300, DraftKings)

Game 7 Fatigue Could Lead to Celtics Turnovers

The turnover battle will be key in this series.

Boston doesn't turn the ball over much typically. The Celtics rank in the top quarter of the league in fewest turnovers. But the Heat rank second in turnover rate at 14.5%, turning opponents over about once every seven possessions. Miami's offense needs those turnovers to generate scoring looks it can't create in the half court.

Last postseason against the Heat, the Celtics turned it over 14.0% of their possessions, with 14.6 turnovers a game. That's a bad mark and it was a win for the Heat.

Jayson Tatum was especially bad. He averaged 4.7 turnovers per game, and he had games this year with five and seven turnovers against the Heat.

Jaylen Brown had four or more turnovers in four of those seven Heat games last summer. He's been a turnover machine two postseasons in a row, and the ol' Vase Hand injury he picked up just before the playoffs this year sure hasn't helped. He's averaging 3.2 turnovers a game with at least two in all but two Celtics games and at least three in nine of 13 (69%).

I like both Tatum and Brown turnovers overs in this series, and I'll play both right away in Game 1. Part of the wear and tear after a Game 1 is mental. We saw those effects on the Warriors late in Game 1 last round, and we've seen it time and time again. Mental mistakes lead to turnovers.

Play the Game 7 fatigue angle by betting on Tatum and Brown turnovers.

Bet: Tatum o2.5 turnovers (-130, DraftKings) | Brown o2.5 turnovers (-150, DraftKings)

Robert Williams Returning to a Smaller Role

Boston made the big adjustment last series in Game 6, moving Robert Williams into the starting role. It was a brilliant move that totally stymied the dangerous James Harden / Joel Embiid pick-and-roll and flipped the series for Boston, saving the season.

But Williams averaged just over 20 MPG the rest of the postseason, and I'm not sure he's needed here. There's no Embiid for Williams to defend, and there's no P.J. Tucker for him to help off of either.

Boston doesn't need Williams' defense as much as they need more offense out there to spread the floor and get their 3s off. It wouldn't be a surprise to see them go back to more Derrick White minutes, perhaps in the starting lineup again.

That makes this a big series for Al Horford. He's excellent switching on the perimeter, needed against Miami, and he was excellent on the boards in last year's series.

Horford missed Game 1 last year and had only three boards in his return in Game 2 — and still led the series in rebounding. He averaged 11.4 RPG the final five games of the series with at least seven in each. He's at 8.2 RPG the last 10 playoff games this year with at least six boards in all but one.

I like Horford to go over 6.5 rebounds, and you can bet this more aggressively. Avoid the double double odds since he doesn't always score, but +475 for double digit rebounds (Bet365) looks too long if you want to play an escalator.

I also love Horford's odds at +3000 to lead the series in rebounding at FanDuel. He did that last year despite missing a game, and there's no stud rebounder to soak up 15 or 20 boards a game in this series. That number is far too long, and a big Game 1 could see it shorten dramatically and provide multiple hedge opportunities down the road.

What is QuickSlip?

QuickSlip is an Action Network feature that allows users to automatically pre-load their bet slip at FanDuel Sportsbook.

Anderson's Game 1 Betting Card

  • Heat +8.5
  • Heat +300 ML
  • Jayson Tatum over 2.5 turnovers -130
  • Jaylen Brown over 2.5 turnovers -150
  • Al Horford over 6.5 rebounds -118

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