Miami Heat vs Boston Celtics Game 1: Boston Celtics will challenge the Miami Heat with a repeat of the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals.
In the first round, the Celtics swept Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets before rallying from a 3-2 deficit to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks in seven games in the second round. In the first round, the Heat defeated the Atlanta Hawks in five games before defeating Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers over the course of six games.
This series includes two of the league’s finest defenses, both of which are scheme-versatile, with each team’s starting point guard’s condition questionable for Game 1. Furthermore, the Heat have the benefit of rest, having completed their second round series three days before the Celtics and playing at home.
With that in mind, let’s go through how to bet Game 1 of what could be an exciting series.
Miami Heat vs Boston Celtics Game 1
The Celtics need Tatum to have another successful series.
This season, the Celtics finished first in Defensive Rating (106.9, excluding garbage time, according to Cleaning the Glass), and they are a much better squad than the one that reached the conference finals two years ago.
Instead of starting Daniel Theis and the diminutive Kemba Walker, they will most likely start Al Horford and Robert Williams III (or Grant Williams in place of Time Lord) with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart.
Gordon Hayward returned from injury in the midst of the Celtics’ 2020 series against the Heat, with Brad Wanamaker serving as backup point guard and Enes Freedom serving as backup center. Derrick White will be their first sub, replacing one of the Williamses., the Celtics suddenly have a far more potent and flexible defensive bunch in their starting lineup.
This means it will be much more difficult for the Heat to exploit weak connections and find easy spaces in the defense to exploit, as Tyler Herro memorably did in his 37-point Game 4 Heat victory. Both Williamses were on the squad two years ago, but they were both quite young and played minor roles.
Smart (sprained foot) is uncertain
Smart (sprained foot) is uncertain, but Robert Williams III (knee discomfort) will be available and will not be limited in minutes. Williams was available but did not participate in Game 7 against the Bucks. If Smart is unable to go, Payton Pritchard will see a significant increase in playing time.
The Celtics must make Tatum feel at ease so that he can defeat the Heat as a scorer, facilitator, or both. The Heat did an excellent job of containing Trae Young and James Harden in the first two rounds, but Tatum, at six-foot-eight, will be able to make passes that Young could not with his size while also offering a higher scoring threat than Harden. The odds are provided by OKBET Sportsbook for a complete list.
Understanding how to attack the Heat’s zone defense will be critical for the Celtics offense. The Celtics were subjected to the most zone defense of any NBA team., scoring just 1.01 points per possession (third-worst in the league, per Couper Moorhead of NBA.com).
Will the Heat be able to win without Kyle Lowry?
While the Celtics are a better club than they were two years ago, the Heat are as well. Rather than introducing Goran Dragic, Duncan Robinson, and Jae Crowder (who struggled shooting against the Celtics) with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, they start better two-way players Kyle Lowry (or Gabe Vincent when Lowry is unavailable), Max Strus, and P.J. Tucker.
Instead of Kelly Olynyk, Andre Iguodala, and Solomon Hill on the bench beside Herro, the Heat have a much deeper squad with Vincent, Victor Oladipo, Caleb Martin, Dewayne Dedmon, and maybe Robinson’s backing for the Sixth Man of the Year.
Lowry (hamstring) is out for Game 1
Lowry (hamstring) is out for Game 1, and his absence would be important in this game, much more so than against the 76ers, since his ability to pass to set up guys like Adebayo and Butler against beneficial switches is unmatched on the team. In addition to his outstanding defensive IQ and leadership, he will be remembered for his hit-ahead passes that gave the Heat better looks before the Celtics could establish their defense.
Butler and Adebayo must be at their best for the Heat to win this series. When the Celtics move smaller players onto them, these two can punish them, but they can also set up teammates like Strus, Vincent, and Tucker for open 3s when the defense collapses.
Max Strus averaged 21 points in two games this season against the Celtics, who released him in the autumn of 2019. With Lowry out, expect the Heat to routinely employ Butler and Adebayo on handoffs to start their offense.
Miami Heat vs Boston Celtics Game 1: Odds and predictions
We’re hesitant to favor Boston because of the tight turnaround and a tenderized lineup after a really tough series with Milwaukee, but we like the Celtics’ two-way play and Jayson Tatum’s ability to put this team on his shoulders.
Sitting still — even for a few days — might be a disadvantage if your opponent is already in that do-or-die mode, which Boston clearly is.
This margin has already shrunk by a point or two at certain stores, indicating that Boston is planning a big push. I don’t anticipate it to be a blowout like past postseason games, so we’ll take it easy and back the Heat on the moneyline at home.
Pick: Heat moneyline (-125)
Against the Spread
The Celtics will play a Miami Heat squad that has been waiting to find out who their conference final opponent would be since Thursday. The Heat are averaging 34.7 points per game off the bench, which might continue in Wednesday’s opening against the Celtics.
Prediction: Heat -1.5 (-110)
Miami has the best 3-point shooting offense in the NBA, with a 37.3 percent success rate from deep this season. Giannis Antetokounmpo shot 45.5 percent for the series, while the rest of the club shot a dismal 39 percent. If Game 1’s Over/Under falls to 204 points, it will be the smallest total in the history of the NBA playoffs.
Prediction: Over 204 (-110)
Celtics: Sam Hauser F (Questionable).
Heat: Kyle Lowry G (Questionable).