NBA Conference Finals Preview

by Will Rogers

Conference Finals Preview

We’re down to the NBA’s version of the “Final Four” as it’s Celtics vs Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals and Mavericks vs. Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.

Here’s a preview on both upcoming series. 

Celtics vs. Heat - The chalk walked in the East as these are the top two seeds. Boston was the only team to sweep a first round series (over Brooklyn) but was then taken to seven games by Milwaukee. Two of the Celtics’ three losses to the Bucks were by three points or less. Three of the four wins were by double digits. Boston should have won Game 5, so it’s fair to say they were the better team in that last series. Beating Brooklyn and Milwaukee is an impressive path to take here. Miami has beaten Atlanta and Philadelphia, needing five and six games to do so. The Heat have not lost at home in the playoffs and have the home court advantage for the ECF.

Boston won two of three regular season meetings. The lone game at Miami was played in November and the Celts won 95-78. They are 3-0 ATS in their last three visits to South Beach and all three of those games stayed Under.

The Celtics had the East’s top regular season scoring differential and top scoring defense. If they had home court advantage, they’d be the clear favorite in this series. But they do not. They are still -165 to win the series at Caesars. Miami is #2 in defensive efficiency in the playoffs (Milwaukee was #1) but Boston is #4. Offensively, both are middle of the pack in efficiency and pace.

Kyle Lowry is still questionable for Game 1 (hamstring). He has missed six of the last eight games for the Heat and didn’t look good in the two he played. Boston enters the ECF relatively healthy. 

Jimmy Butler has been the clear standout for Miami. He is averaging 28.7 points and his shooting (52.5% overall, 36.4% from three) has been very good. In particular, Butler’s three-point shooting is way up compared to the regular season.

The Celtics are 7-3-1 ATS in the postseason and 7-4 Under. Their games have averaged 210.3 points. The Heat are 7-4 ATS and the Under is 8-2-1. Their 11 playoff games have averaged 204.6 points. Expect low totals in this series. Game 1 opened at 206 and was quickly bet down. Miami is a 1.5-point favorite as of this writing.

These are the two franchises with the most ECF appearances, going back to 2005. Miami will be trying to make its sixth NBA Finals in the last 12 years. Boston has lost its last four ECF, two of them to Miami. 

Mavericks vs Warriors - After stampeding the Suns in Game 7, Dallas is your surprising Conference Finalist this year. They were the 4-seed and have beaten Utah and Phoenix, needing six and seven games. The Mavs are 8-5 SU in the playoffs, 9-4 ATS and 8-5 Under. Those 13 games have averaged 208.1 points.

Golden State is the three seed and now has home court advantage in the WCF. Their playoff games have averaged 224.8 points, a clear outlier from the other three teams discussed today. The Warriors are 8-3 in the playoffs. They needed five games to get rid of the Nuggets and six to get rid of the Grizzlies, who lost Ja Morant along the way. The Warriors are 5-6 ATS and the Under is 7-4. 

Like Miami, the Warriors have yet to lose at home in the playoffs. They are 6-0 straight up, but just 4-2 ATS. So they are 1-4 ATS on the road. 

When Dallas is at home, be aware that they allow a league-low 101 points. Golden State allows the second fewest points at home. 

The Mavs held the Suns to 90 points in Game 7. A trend to be aware of is that the Mavs are 9-0 straight up, 8-0-1 ATS this season if they allowed 90 points or less the last game. 

Dallas won three of the four regular season matchups. The Over/Under was a 2-2 split. The one road win in the four games came from Dallas, who erased a 12-point halftime deficit on February 27th. 

Gary Payton II would have likely drawn the defensive assignment against Luka Doncic. But he’s probably out for the series. Doncic averaged 31.5 vs. the Warriors this year. It was the fourth most points scored in a single year against them since Steve Kerr’s first season here (2014-15).

Golden State is -260 to win the series at Caesars. 


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