Posted on: May 16, 2023, 07:15h.
Last updated on: May 16, 2023, 12:41h.
For a third time in the last four seasons, the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat will meet in the NBA Eastern Conference finals.
The Heat won the conference crown in 2020 and advanced to the NBA Finals before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Last season, the Celtics defeated the Heat to win the conference title, but lost to the Golden State Warriors in the 2022 NBA Finals.
In this year’s Eastern Conference finals, the #2 Celtics are a huge betting favorite at -525 odds, according to DraftKings. The #8 Heat are an underdog at +400 odds to win the series and return to the NBA Finals for a second time since 2020.
Erik Spoelstra from the Heat is the only head coach among the final four playoff teams who has a championship pedigree. Spoelstra won back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013 when LeBron James was a member of the Heat.
Although the Celtics won the Eastern Conference last postseason, Joe Mazzulla was an assistant coach on the team. He took over as rookie head coach shortly before the start of the season because of a scandal involving former head coach Ime Udoka.
The Celtics are only eight wins away from winning their franchise’s 18th championship and regaining the overall lead, which they currently share with the Lakers.
#2 Boston Celtics (57-25)
- Preseason championship odds: +600
- Current championship odds: +320
- Conference series odds: -525
- Leading scorer: Jayson Tatum 28.2 ppg
- Playoffs betting record: 8-5 ATS
For the second consecutive postseason, the Celtics and Heat meet in the Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics edged out the Heat in seven games last year to reach the 2022 NBA Finals.
The Celtics entered this season as one of the cofavorites to win the championship. They embarked on a deep run last season, which resulted in a runner-up finish after losing to the Warriors in the NBA Finals. The Celtics spent the majority of this season as the betting favorite to win the championship, or the second-favorite on the NBA futures board behind the Bucks.
The Celtics won nine consecutive games in November, which propelled them on a 17-2 run early in the season. Their highly efficient, 3-point-heavy offense looked unstoppable in December, after they amassed a 21-5 record. The Bucks snapped off a 16-game winning streak and moved ahead of the Celtics late in the second half of the season to secure the #1 seed. The Celtics finished the season with 57 wins — six more than they did the previous season — and locked up the #2 seed.
The Celtics struggled at times this postseason, yet found ways to stay alive. They eliminated the #7 Atlanta Hawks in six games in the first round. The #3 Philadelphia 76ers pushed the Celtics to a full seven-game series before the Celtics knocked them out in a 24-point blowout in Game 7 on Sunday.
FiveThirtyEight predicts the Celtics have a 78% chance to win this series and return to the NBA Finals. According to their projection, the Celtics have a 54% chance to win the championship.
#8 Miami Heat (44-38)
- Preseason championship odds: +2000
- Current championship odds: +1500
- Conference series odds: +400
- Leading scorer: Jimmy Butler 31.1 ppg
- Playoffs betting record: 8-3 ATS
The Heat struggled in the first quarter of the season and didn’t head above .500 until January. A late-season skid almost jeopardized a spot in the playoffs, and they were forced into the Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament. The Heat actually dropped the first play-in game against the Atlanta Hawks and missed a chance to secure the #7 seed. They didn’t squander a shot at the #8 seed, however, defeating the Chicago Bulls in the second play-in game.
The Heat continue their deep run in the playoffs without shooting guard Tyler Herro (fractured hand) and backup guard Victor Oladipo (knee). Heat fans know that even though they’re an underdog, they have a fighting chance with Jimmy Butler on the team.
Butler was phenomenal in the opening-round upset over the #1 Milwaukee Bucks by averaging 37.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.8 blocks, and 1.6 steals per game. He also shot 44.4% from 3-point range. An ankle injury slowed him down against the #5 New York Knicks in the second round. bBut he still led the Heat back to the conference finals.
The Heat have a well-balanced scoring attack, with eight players averaging double digits in the postseason. Center Bam Adebayo stepped up against the Knicks by averaging 18.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. The Heat will need a big series from Adebayo if they expect to compete against the Celtics.
According to a projection by FiveThirtyEight, the Heat have a 22% chance to win the series, yet only have a 9% chance to win the championship.