NBA Playoffs Betting Trends: History Not Kind to No. 1 Seed Heat as Underdogs vs. Celtics

NBA Playoffs Betting Trends: History Not Kind to No. 1 Seed Heat as Underdogs vs. Celtics article feature image
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Michael Reaves/Getty Images. Pictured: Erik Spoelstra

The Miami Heat are the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, but being listed as an underdog in the series has not fared well for similar teams in the past.

The Celtics are the No. 2 seed, but a -185 favorite to win the series over the Heat at BetMGM. Miami is +150 to advance to the NBA Finals.

Historically, No. 1 seeds needing an "upset" to advance has not worked out.

Since 1990, No. 1 seeds listed as betting underdogs in the series are just 4-15 overall. Top seeds in this situation have lost nine consecutive series going back to 2003.

It gets even harder once teams reach the Conference Finals or Finals. Just once in 15 tries has an underdog No. 1 seed won a series when the Jazz beat the Lakers in the 1998 Western Conference Finals.

The last time this happened was in the 2018 Western Conference Finals. The top-seed Houston Rockets lost a 3-2 series lead to the Golden State Warriors. Of course, Chris Paul was injured and missed the final two games of the series, which was a major factor.

In the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics were the higher seed, but lost to LeBron James and the Cavaliers in five games.

This is the first time the Heat have been in this spot as the top seed, but Miami beat the Chicago Bulls in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals as the betting favorite. The Big Three of LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh beat Derrick Rose's No. 1 Bulls in five games.

How No. 1 Seeds Have Performed as Underdogs in the Playoffs

Data via BetLabs

Year & RoundHigher SeedLower SeedHigher Seed Result
2022 ECFHeatCeltics?
2018 WCFRocketsWarriorsL
2017 ECFCelticsCavaliersL
2015 ECFHawksCavaliersL
2014 ECFPacersHeatL
2013 WC SemisThunderGrizzliesL
2011 ECFBullsHeatL
2005 WCFSunsSpursL
2004 WCFTimberwolvesLakersL
2003 ECFPistonsNetsL
2003 EC SemisPistonsSixersW
2003 WC SemisSpursLakersW
2002 FinalsNetsLakersL
2002 WCFKingsLakersL
2001 FinalsSixersLakersL
2001 WCFSpursLakersL
1998 WCFJazzLakersW
1995 EC SemisMagicBullsW
1993 FinalsSunsBullsL
1993 ECFKnicksBullsL

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Doug Ziefel
Jun 23, 2024 UTC