Boston Celtics vs Miami Heat: Eastern Conference Finals, Free Picks, Odds & Predictions

Celtics vs Heat
Boston Celtics vs Miami Heat, Eastern Conference Finals

The Boston Celtics could not slow down Bam Adebayo or Tyler Herro in crunch time, and the Miami Heat are advancing to the NBA Finals. Boston seemed to be surging at the right time and took a six-point lead in the fourth quarter, but Miami responded with a huge run of its own to seal the deal. Adebayo finished with 32 points and 14 rebounds, and Herro scored 11 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter to help Miami pull away in the end. Andre Iguodala also made all four of his 3-pointers and finished with 15 points to add a boost for the Heat.

Miami wins 4-2

The Miami Heat are 12-3 in this postseason and have made this ride to the NBA Finals look easy against some really good opponents. Miami might have been the favorite in the first round, but it was definitely heavy underdogs in the second and third rounds, and outplayed two more talented teams. People will rightly credit it to the culture the Heat have built in the franchise, but more than that, it’s about a group of young players who rallied to play their best basketball in the clutch moments. Of course, Miami is deservedly the underdogs again in the NBA Finals as it squares off with the mighty Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James, but I’m not sure anyone is willing to write off Miami now.

Game 1

September 15th, 6:30 p.m., The Field House

The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat were two of the most dangerous teams in the bubble, and now they face off in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics were able to breeze past Philadelphia and survive an elongated battle with Toronto to return to the conference finals for the third time in four years. Meanwhile, Miami blitzed Indiana in the opening round then shut down Milwaukee in the second round to earn their way back to the third round. It’s a battle of two team-oriented squads that have shown off their depth throughout the postseason, which should make this an enticing series to watch.

Boston was pushed by Toronto in the previous round, and surviving that battle should help the Celtics against Miami. However, Boston will need to be wary against a team that can make the extra pass and is selfless like the Heat have been this postseason. Miami has not beat itself this postseason, so the Celtics need to make sure they don’t do the same, which they did at least twice against the Raptors. Where Boston does have an advantage is experience, and it will need to use that edge on the floor in order to prevent Miami from building confidence. The more the Heat feel confident, the more danger they will present Boston because how free Miami can play, especially as the underdog in this series.

It has never been the prettiest game, but Miami has continued to win in these NBA playoffs with eight victories in nine postseason games so far. The Heat have just played excellent team basketball with different players stepping up every game to help push them over the top. The Celtics, though, present a unique issue with their depth at guard and how that could challenge some of the younger guards on Miami’s roster when it comes to defense. Offensively, this will be a big series for Bam Adebayo against Daniel Theis, and Miami will need their young center to win that battle at both ends of the floor. The Heat will also need to find ways to slow down Jayson Tatum on the glass and make sure he isn’t controlling the game with the dozens of little things he can do besides scoring.

This series has all the markings of going the full seven games because these teams are evenly-matched and well-balanced at both ends of the court. However, I really like the Heat to advance back to the NBA Finals because of their depth and consistency this postseason while slowing down some of the best players in the game. Miami is a slight underdog, so you could bet the Heat just to advance at +110 odds, but I’m going to combine it with a few other wagers. The odds are the same for this series to go six or seven games — +200 – so I’d put both of them on my betting slip, then add Miami winning the series in six games at +500 odds and the Heat winning in seven at +490 odds.

What stands out about Game 1 is the extended layoff for the Heat, who will have gone a week between playing games. It will be a nice four-day rest for the Celtics, but Miami could have some early rust with so much time off the court. However, they also had a far easier series mentally and physically than the Celtics, so that could certainly play a part as well. The New Jersey online sports betting sites have listed Boston as the favorite in the opener, but the Celtics did lose to the Heat in the regular season in the bubble without Jimmy Butler, so I’m going to say Miami pulls off the mild Game-1 upset at +102 odds.

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Game 2 (Miami Heat lead 1-0)

September 17th, 7:00 p.m., AdventHealth Arena

Jimmy Butler gave the Miami Heat the lead late in overtime and Bam Adebayo sealed the deal with a block on Jayson Tatum to lift the Heat to a Game 1 win over the Boston Celtics. Butler hit a 3-pointer late in regulation that gave Miami a late lead, but it was quickly erased by a questionable off-ball foul that allowed the Celtics to tie the game without time running off the clock. Tatum led Boston with 30 points and 14 rebounds and Marcus Smart made six 3-pointers while scoring 26.

It was Miami’s best players that made the key plays to win the game, but it was its role players that helped put the Heat in that position. Tyler Herro finished one assist shy of a triple-double with 12 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in 40 minutes of action while Jae Crowder scored 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 5 of 9 from deep. Goran Dragic led the way for Miami with 29 points on 11-of-19 shooting, but even he was overlooked by the stellar late-game plays made by Butler at the offensive end and Adebayo at the defensive end. It’s those winning plays that have allowed Miami to win nine of its 10 NBA playoffs games so far, and made the Heat such a dangerous team.

There is a lot for Boston to build off of for Game 2, but the Heat’s comeback in the fourth quarter is going to sting. Kemba Walker’s shooting struggles aside, the Celtics played pretty well offensively and probably did enough to win the game. Boston made 42.4 percent of its 3-pointers if you exclude Walker’s 1 of 9 performance, and even with Walker’s shooting made 44.3 percent of its shots. Where Boston struggled was in containing Miami’s role players like Crowder and Herro, both of whom made dramatic impacts on the game. Boston will need to force more of the issue onto Butler and Dragic in future games if it wants to prevent comebacks.

The disrespect the Heat are getting at the New Jersey online sports betting sites is ridiculous, they should be the favorites in Game 2. However, Boston remains the favorite for Friday’s second game and that affects our betting options for this game. I do think the Celtics will win Game 2, but the -141 odds being offered seems to provide little value in betting on the Celtics. The 2.5-point spread offers better odds at -112, but the sportsbooks are offering +105 odds for the Celtics laying 3.5 points, and that is where I’m headed. This series is going to produce tight games however long it lasts, but there’s enough value in adding the extra point to the spread on Boston winning.

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Game 3 (Miami Heat lead 2-0)

September 19th, 8:30 p.m., AdventHealth Arena

Bam Adebayo nearly outscored the Boston Celtics in the third quarter as the Miami Heat surged into the lead and held on for a 2-0 series lead. Adebayo scored 15 of his 21 points in the third quarter to help Miami erase a 13-point halftime deficit with a 37-17 beatdown in the first 12 minutes of the second half. Boston made just four of its 12 shots in the third quarter, but responded with a 15-2 run in the fourth quarter during which it held Miami scoreless for more than seven minutes. That only gave the Heat one final platform for a comeback to finish off the victory.

Miami had six players finish in double figures, notably Duncan Robinson, whose four first-quarter 3-pointers helped the Heat get started in the game. It was an overall poor shooting night for the Heat with everyone besides Robinson shooting just 25.8 percent from 3-point range, yet the resilience of the team was on full display. Jimmy Butler only had 14 points, three assists and four rebounds, but his four steals were part of an excellent defensive effort to shut down the Celtics in that third quarter. Tyley Herro missed seven of his eight 3-point attempts, but he added nine rebounds and five assists to again add a boost off the bench. It’s the little things Miami is doing that is helping it win in these NBA playoffs, and they don’t show up in the scoresheet, just the scoreboard.

The major positive for Boston in Game 2 was that Kemba Walker played well offensively after struggling the last week or so with his shooting. Walker led the Celtics with 23 points, followed by Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum with 21 each. However, the Celtics had 20 turnovers, including five apiece for Tatum and Walker, and there was not much secondary scoring behind the leading trio. This despite the fact the Celtics shot 50 percent from the floor and led in rebounds despite no one securing more than eight boards. When Boston is at its best, either someone is dominating or the Celtics are getting more secondary scoring than what they received in Game 2. One of those things need to change against Miami, which is deep and good enough defensively to make the game harder for the Celtics’ best players.

How much disrespect is the New Jersey online sports betting sites going to show the Heat? Miami is actually bigger underdogs in Game 3 than it was in Game 2 despite now holding a 2-0 series lead. I understand the notion that Boston should win a game in this series eventually, but the Heat are 10-1 in this postseason for a reason and Boston has come apart at some point in these last two games. If the sportsbooks are going to continue overlooking Miami, we might as well take advantage and bet on the Heat at +117 odds. I’ll even throw in the parlay of the Heat winning and the game featuring more than 206.5 total points for +325 odds.

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Game 4 (Miami Heat lead 2-1)

September 23rd, 8:30 p.m., AdventHealth Arena

The Miami Heat put a scare in the Boston Celtics for a brief moment in the fourth quarter, but ultimately it was not enough as Boston pulled to within 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals. Boston controlled the game from the start as Miami didn’t lead in a game for the first time since November. The Celtics led by as many as 20, but the Heat chipped that down to five in the final two minutes, yet never finished the rally. Boston dominated in areas it had struggle to control in the first two games of the series – mainly the paint – and helped keep the Heat at bay with some stellar defense as well on the wings.

It’s hard to lose a game when you have four players scoring at least 20 points like Boston had in Game 3. The talented quartet shot 52.3 percent from the field combined, but Jayson Tatum was the clear lead again for Boston. He scored 25 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and dished out eight assists in the victory, nearly leading the team in all three categories – Jaylen Brown scored 26 points. The Celtics also got a big emotional boost from Hayward’s return from an ankle injury, though he was rusty with six points on 2-of-7 shooting in 30 minutes. If he rounds into form again, that will give the Celtics a valuable option off the bench that will dramatically improve their team and chances in this series.

So many of the details that allowed Miami to win 10 of its first 11 postseason games were not there for the Heat in Game 3. They lost the rebounding battle 50-42 and they were dominated in the paint by the Celtics to the tune of 60-36. The discrepancy in points in the paint was a sign that the Heat weren’t all there defensively as their usual toughness was missing. On the other end of the floor, Jae Crowder and Goran Dragic both shot 2 of 10 from the floor and Miami made just 38.8 percent of its shots, including 12 of 44 from 3-point range. Tyler Herro provided an offensive boost with 22 points to complement the 27 points and 16 rebounds from Bam Adebayo, but even six players finishing in double figures was not enough.

It’s understandable that Boston is again the favorite at the New Jersey online sports betting sites for Game 4, but it doesn’t mean I have to agree with it. I think the long layoff between Games 3 and 4 actually helps Miami more than it does Boston because the Heat can retool some things, especially defensively, to counteract some of what Boston has been doing. The Celtics are still reliant on their starters for most of the offense while the Heat have a more diverse set of options for scoring and offense. Despite again being the underdog, I’m putting my money on Miami’s toughness and team mentality to prevail and betting on the Heat at +128 odds on the moneyline in Game 4.

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Game 5 (Miami Heat lead 3-1)

September 25th, 8:30 p.m., AdventHealth Arena

Tyler Herro took over the game for the Miami Heat and lifted them to within a win of the NBA Finals with 37 points in a win over the Boston Celtics. While his teammates were struggling, Herro carried the load for the Heat, especially in the fourth quarter. Herro scored 17 points over the final 12 minutes after Boston had rallied from a double-digit deficit to take a fourth-quarter lead. Jayson Tatum led the way for Boston with 28 points, but he did not score in the first half as the Celtics trailed by six at the break.

Herro was clearly the star of game for Miami because his effort erased an otherwise poor shooting night for the Heat. Miami made just 10 of 37 shots from behind the arc, but Herro contributed five of those 3-pointers on 10 attempts, so his teammates made just 18.5 percent of their 3-pointers. That translated to the rest of the court, too, as Herro made 14 of his 21 shots to lift Miami’s shooting percentage from 35.7 without him to 42.9 with him. Miami had four players do the bulk of its scoring, but Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic had to work hard to reach 20 points in the victory. Yet the fact the Heat still grinded out a victory is a reason why they are 11-2 in this postseason because they find ways to win in a manner most teams cannot.

Boston’s lack of attention to details is a big reason why it sits in a 3-1 deficit in this series. The Celtics had 19 turnovers in Game 4, which overshadowed the 47.2 percent shooting and three 20-point scorers it had. Boston had no answer to slow down Herro, who took over the game after Boston rallied to take a one-point lead in the fourth quarter. It certainly didn’t help that Tatum scored all 28 of his points in the second half, but more than that, the Celtics need to play smarter basketball if they want to climb back into the series. The talent is there for Boston to reverse this deficit and win the series, but it will require more consistent efforts from Jaylen Brown, Tatum and Kemba Walker.

I don’t agree that Boston should be favored in Game 5, but the New Jersey online sports betting sites do, so that is creates a quandary. The Celtics did a lot of good things defensively in Game 4, mainly holding Miami to 27 percent shooting from behind the arc, and Boston still shot 47.6 percent from the field as well. However, it wasn’t enough to win the game and it makes me wonder what other little slip-ups Boston will have in Game 5 to potentially lose that one. Miami continues to find ways to win, and that should be rewarded with being a favorite. However, I’m going to pick Boston to win Game 5 at -159 odds.

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Game 6 (Miami Heat lead 3-2)

September 27th, 7:30 p.m., AdventHealth Arena

Jayson Tatum scored 31 points to help the Boston Celtics extend their season with a Game 5 win over the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Tatum also added 10 rebounds as part of a 50-38 advantage for the Celtics on the glass that put away the Heat in the second half. Boston trailed by seven points at halftime, but they outplayed Miami in a dominant third quarter and then cruised in the fourth quarter to prolong its season. Goran Dragic led the Heat with 23 points, but he made just one of his seven 3-point attempts as part of a 19.4-percent shooting performance from behind the arc for the Heat.

Call it pride, but Boston came out in the second half Friday determined to keep its season alive for a few more days. The Celtics trailed by as many as 12 in the first half, but they hunkered down in a dominant third quarter to race past Miami for the victory. Boston outscored the Heat 41-25 in that stanza, outrebounded them 16-5 and went on a 13-0 run early in the quarter to take the lead for good. It wasn’t the best night for perimeter shooting for Boston as it made just 31.6 percent of its 3-pointers, but the Celtics made 54.5 percent of their shots inside the arc to assert themselves on the interior. Tatum didn’t have the most efficient night – he made just 8 of 22 shots – but Jaylen Brown added 28 points on better than 50 percent shooting and the Celtics put six players in double figures.

Miami led for the entire first half, but its poor shooting and rebounding caught up with it in the second half. The Heat made just seven 3-pointers on 36 attempts, including a combined 4 of 18 from Dragic and Duncan Robinson. Miami’s offense clearly suffered from its poor perimeter shooting despite six players finishing in double figures, but the bigger issue was the 13 offensive rebounds the Heat allowed. Bam Adebayo was outworked on the glass by Tatum and Daniel Theis (13 rebounds), but even Brown and Marcus Smart grabbed the same number of rebounds (8) as Adebayo did. It’s always been about the little things for Miami in this postseason, and those details did not go right for the Heat in Game 5.

As expected, the New Jersey online sports betting sites overlook the Heat in Game 6 as the Celtics are 3.5-point favorites on Sunday. The Heat lead the series 3-2 for a reason, and one loss does not change how I view them or their chances in this series. It’s hard to imagine Miami not shooting better from 3-point range in Game 6 because the Heat had made 36 percent of their 3-pointers in the playoffs heading into Game 5, and that should open the floor a bit more for Adebayo. A re-energized and re-focused Miami team will find the defensive intensity necessary to slow down the Celtics and maintain the first-half lead it built in Game 5. So I’m going to bet on Miami as the underdog at +130 odds.

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Josh Walfish is an award-winning journalist who has been covering college and professional sports in the United States. He holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University and his work has appeared in the Miami Herald, Chicago Sun-Times and Providence Journal. He most recently chronicled the UMass hockey teams rise to prominence over the last two years for the local newspaper

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