Finding Value In Celtics-Heat Eastern Conference Finals

Written By Eli Hershkovich on May 17, 2022 - Last Updated on May 18, 2022
NBA Betting

The 2022 Eastern Conference Finals begin on Tuesday night. Below, Mo Nuwwarah and Eli Hershkovich break down their NBA betting plan for the Celtics vs. Heat series — from a series price and single-game perspective. Click the odds below to place a bet.

  • Editor’s Note: This piece was written before the Marcus Smart (foot) and Al Horford (COVID-19) news.
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NBA Betting: Heat vs. Celtics Series Odds

ECF Series Odds

Mo Nuwwarah

The market came in heavy on the Heat on Tuesday morning, as some steam dropped the Heat series price from around +145 to closer to +130. I’m leaning the other way, as I do think Boston has some clear advantages that make them rightful favorites in this series despite not possessing home court advantage.

Boston has built its team for modern playoff basketball. Its best player is a big wing who can handle the ball and create for himself and others. Its two most used big men (and even to a lesser extent Daniel Theis) can move their feet and play different defensive schemes. Therefore, there aren’t any clear weak points for the other team’s offense to attack one-on-one.

Miami can’t say the same. Tyler Herro, while important to the team’s offense, represents a clear weak point on defense. Boston will target him in the pick-and-roll and force the Heat to either adjust or cut his minutes.

Furthermore, Miami has had issues being careless with the basketball. They had the third-worst turnover rate in the league. Boston thrives running off opponent misses, while they scored terribly this year off live rebounds, per Cleaning The Glass.

An Opportunity For Miami?

However, Game 1 looks like the best spot for Miami. They come in well-rested and Boston may play without Marcus Smart. While most will focus on what that means for Boston’s defense, I’m more interested in his effect on their offense. He has heated up a little from deep in the playoffs (up to 35.4% from 33%) while Derrick White, his most likely replacement, has been a poor shooter for several years running now.

The Celtics should get a ton of looks from deep all series as Miami guards the paint at all costs, happy to give up opponent 3s. Having one more viable 3-point shooter on the floor could be massive for Boston, and costly in the reverse scenario.

NBA Betting Pick: I took Miami Heat -2 for Game 1 because I just think it’s a good spot for them coming in well-rested at home against a Boston team that just got through a slobberknocker of a series against Milwaukee. However, I’m interested in getting a better price on Boston to win the series if they drop Game 1 and/or Game 2. Keep an eye on how the market responds to the Miami home games.

Eli Hershkovich

To Mo’s point, teams coming off a Game 7 win are 32-49 straight-up (39.5%) in the first matchup of the following series. Although that may seem like a meaningless trend at first glance, it highlights the notion that groups tend to struggle from the get-go after undergoing physical attrition in a lengthy series.

In Eastern Conference semifinals against the 76ers, the Heat went from a completely switchable defense to more of a drop coverage. It was highly effective, as Philadelphia failed to space the floor consistently. Keep in mind, Miami presents the league’s third-ranked defensive efficiency (DE), and it’s a bit more dominant without point guard Kyle Lowry (hamstring), who will miss Game 1.

While Boston boasts the top-rated DE, its offense could struggle against Erik Spoelstra’s scheme before adjusting throughout the rest of the series. In each of their three regular season meetings, the Celtics were downgraded for some semblance of iffy shot selection and efficiency, respectively, from behind the arc (via ShotQuality).

What Bet(s) Are There To Be Made?

That isn’t to say Ime Udoka’s bunch won’t advance to the NBA finals. In fact, I expect it to do so, as long as Smart’s foot injury doesn’t develop into a prolonged absence. But I’d rather wait on some potential value for Jayson Tatum & Co. on a game-by-game basis if they drop the opener.

Boston sat as high as +7500 to win the East in January. Whoever is holding one of those tickets is sitting pretty, but I’d also consider a series bet were the Celtics to fall behind. The current price (-175) doesn’t interest me.

NBA Betting Pick: Target Celtics spread or moneyline in Game 2, and also examine a possible series bet.

Continue the discussion in our Discord betting chat, where bettors discuss all of their favorite NBA futures bets and daily wagers. You can also follow TheLines on Twitter.

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Written by
Eli Hershkovich

Eli Hershkovich is a lead sports betting writer with TheLines and Catena Media, formerly with Audacy and The Action Network. His goal is to provide you with data and information to lead you to winning bets. Eli is an avid college basketball gambler — among many other sports — and still hasn't forgiven Virginia for ruining his 2018-2019 Texas Tech futures.

View all posts by Eli Hershkovich