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All game lines via VSiN NBA Odds page.
Market Report for Tuesday, May 17th
*Lines are opening numbers
Boston Celtics at Miami Heat (-2.5, 206.5)
Game 1: Series tied 0-0
For the second time in three seasons these two franchises will meet in the Eastern Conference Finals, but this time it will not be in an empty gym in Orlando. Miami has been off for four days, waiting for its opponent to come from a tough and physical conference semifinal series. That rest has not done much for the team’s overall health, as Kyle Lowry is out with a hamstring injury and four players – P.J. Tucker, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, Caleb Martin – are listed as questionable to play. There is no indication that any of those role players will miss this contest, and should they play it is a more beneficial situation for the Heat, as the team went a perfect 5-0 SU and ATS when it had three or more days of rest this season. Despite that, the initial move on this line, and series price for that matter, has been in the direction of the Boston Celtics and for good reason.
Lowry’s absence in this game is a massive factor for Miami. In this postseason with him on the floor the Heat average 100.0 points per 100 plays in half court settings, but when he is off the floor that offensive rating plummets to 90.7 points per 100 plays. Their transition offense off live rebounds becomes less effective as well, going from 112.0 points per 100 plays to 105.5 when he is off the floor, both of which are somewhat poor marks regardless. Without Lowry this Miami offense has looked stagnant and the numbers reflect that, but that is not to say that this team is helpless without him. They have still averaged 115.5 points per 100 possessions overall on offense and have outscored their opponents by 9.3 points over those possessions without him on the floor. However, most of that damage has come from scoring in transition off turnovers, and not through traditional means of offense. Without Lowry 65.4% of their steals have led to a transition play, and they add 3.3 points per 100 possessions through transition off steals. If Butler isn’t commanding the offense in the halfcourt, then this team relies on forcing turnovers for easy buckets which is easier said than done against a team like Boston which has turned the ball over on only 13.8% of its offensive possessions in this postseason. If Miami cannot force turnovers for those easy buckets, then how does this offense look when the game gets into those halfcourt sets against a Celtics defense which has the best halfcourt defensive rating in the postseason (87.6) and just limited a much better halfcourt offense in Milwaukee to 81.9 points per 100 plays over the course of their seven-game series?
There is also the intriguing aspect of Boston’s offense and the shift we have seen in this postseason. In the regular season the Celtics did shoot with regularity, taking 39.0% of their attempts from beyond the arc. In these playoffs that has been turned up, and 43.0% of Boston’s attempts have come from the perimeter. Their opponents have dared them to shoot, and the Celtics have responded by taking more 3-point attempts while maintaining a 37.0% mark from that area of the floor. Miami will challenge this team to do so as well. Heat opponents in the postseason have taken 40.2% of their attempts from deep, and in the regular season they allowed the fourth-most 3-point attempts in the league. Can the Celtics make them pay by hitting their shots from the perimeter? The series against Milwaukee certainly tells us they could and should the Heat’s luck run out – opponents have shot only 33.8% on wide-open 3-point attempts this postseason – then we could certainly see the Celtics using the perimeter to their advantage yet again. But, Boston needs to perform better in their own halfcourt offense. The Heat come into this series second in halfcourt defense, allowing only 88.5 points per 100 plays, and the Celtics have been average at best in those settings with an average of 95.5 points per 100 plays. Milwaukee used full-court pressure numerous times throughout their series to bother Boston as well, a tactic Miami could use given how sound they are defensively. The Celtics have the edge when it comes to players who can play-make and create, but it will be no easy task in this series.
Which brings us to the first game in this series. The initial opening line of -2.5 quickly moved when it opened on Sunday to -2 and then to -1.5 yesterday, but the market seems to be responding the potential absence of Marcus Smart who is dealing with a foot injury. It has been reported that Smart’s MRI came back negative, and it seems there is a good chance of him playing tonight. We know that Robert Williams is available with no limitations as well, so Boston could very likely be at full strength tonight in the series opener. If not, Derrick White is a fine replacement for Smart if he cannot go, as he is a solid defender in his own right who is brilliant in transition. There are going to be a bunch of people who will tell you that this is a letdown spot for Boston after an “emotional” win in Game 7 over Milwaukee on Sunday. I am not one of those people. Championships are on the line here for these guys. There is no letdown when a berth in the NBA Finals hangs in the balance. Boston is the highest power rated team for me in this postseason, and I believe they match up well with Miami and because of that I have backed them here tonight. As far as the total goes, this seems to be too low for me. If the Celtics have the offensive success I believe them to be capable of then this could be a game that is higher scoring than the market believes. However, there is no edge there that is strong enough to warrant a play.
Play: Celtics (+ 2)
Best Bet Summary
Celtics (+ 2)
Season Record: 97-76-2