NBA Playoffs: Best bets, odds and predictions for Eastern Conference Finals, Game 7

By Jonathan Von Tobel  (Senior NBA Analyst) 

May 29, 2023 10:36 AM


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Miami Heat at Boston Celtics (-8.5, 206)

Game 7: Series tied 3-3

As we know, history is on the line tonight in Boston. The Celtics had a 5.9% chance of winning this series according to the betting market when it lost Game 3, and no other team in NBA history had overcome a 3-0 series deficit. As of this morning that record still stands, but Boston has a 75% chance of winning this game, etching its name in the history books and punching its ticket to the NBA Finals. 

Miami has won two games at TD Garden in this series already so it is no stranger to winning here, but road teams are 36-111 SU on the road in Game 7 situations. No matter who wins tonight the result will be an improbable outcome, and that makes for some fantastic drama.

The Point Spread

The betting market opened right where the Game 1 and Game 5 lines closed for Boston, but the initial line move has come in against the Celtics for the first time this series. That might come as a shock for those who have tracked the market throughout this series, as the bettors who shape these numbers have supported Boston every step of the way, but there is some logical sense to the move.

In a game with a total of 206 taking 8.5 points is a valuable play. That is 4.1% of the initial amount of projected points, and with the move on the total down to 203.5 those points mean even more. It is also fair to say that the Celtics have just been inconsistent, and worth playing against.

Boston is 11-8 SU/10-9 ATS in this postseason overall and just 5-5 SU and ATS at home. Clearly they have been slightly overvalued by the betting market, and it would make sense to play a number which shows little adjustment from where this series was rated at the beginning. Given the low total it is highly likely that we get clutch minutes in this game (Game within five points with five or fewer minutes left to play), and if that is the case I would rather be on the team with a +73.3 net rating in clutch minutes this series.

Lean: Heat (+7.5)

The Total

When the number opened for this game on Saturday those who track the market knew this total was only heading one direction: Under. Sure enough, we saw a dip of three points and 203.5 is the consensus number as of this morning. In a game where the total is as low as it is, this is now unplayable to the under given the value lost on the total. At this point, bettors should sit back and wait for a playable point on the over.

It might seem foolhardy to go against a trend as strong as Game 7 unders, but just look at the last Game 7 Boston participated in. The total for their contest with Philadelphia in the conference semifinals bottomed out at 199.5 at a few shops. That number disappeared quickly, but those who got over that number were rewarded with 200 total points in the game. There is a point where it would behoove bettors to go the other direction and I believe that point to be 201.5 should it appear.

The Celtics are still a high-volume, high-efficiency shooting team. They have shot 38.5% from beyond the arc at home this postseason and 43.9% in wins at home in the playoffs. If Boston wins this game, the market believes there to be about a 75% chance that is the case, then it will more than likely involve a good shooting night from the Celtics. That alone will help push this total over on top of it being an elimination game. Whoever is down in the waning seconds will be willing to play the foul game until there is nothing left, putting those who bet under on a lower total at risk.

Lean: OVER 203 (Buy price: 201.5)

Conference Finals MVP

This being the deciding game means we will have a winner for the Eastern Conference Finals MVP market. Should the Celtics end up winning tonight Jayson Tatum will be hard to overcome. He’s averaged 27.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 5.7 assists in this series on 47.8% shooting from the floor for the series. In the three wins coming into tonight he has put up 28.3/10.3/7.7 on 50.0% shooting, so an average night tonight will likely give him the award in a victory. 

On the other side, there is an immensely valuable play to be made. 

Jimmy Butler has seen his output disappear in this three-game losing streak for Miami. He’s averaged just 22.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.0 assists on 36.5% shooting from the floor, and he is coming off an abysmal 5-of-21 shooting performance on Saturday. He is certainly the Heat’s best player, but there is an argument to be made that he has not been their most valuable player, especially recently. That honor could instead go to Caleb Martin.

Martin has been brilliant in this series, averaging 17.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game on 58.6% shooting from the floor and 45.9% shooting from deep. He’s also doing it on 32.8 minutes per game despite coming off the bench for a majority of the series. Martin was one of the best players on the floor this past weekend, putting up 21 points and 15 rebounds on 7-of-13 shooting in a losing effort. Another great performance tonight, coupled with an average night from Butler and a win would put Martin in a great position to win this award. At the very least, he has a much greater chance of winning it than the 2.4% probability the 40-1 price says he does in the Eastern Conference Finals MVP market.

Bet: Caleb Martin to win Eastern Conference Finals MVP (40/1)

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