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The NBA playoffs have reached the penultimate round, pitting four worthy teams in the Conference Finals. The East has been more exciting and dramatic all season long and this portion of the playoffs should be no exception.

Miami and Boston makes for a fantastic series, built on a rivalry forged between the two cities during the Lebron James era in Miami and the recent re-fanning of the flames around Ray Allen’s role in the rivalry.

Game 1 will take place in Miami, but Boston has a real chance to shake-up the series right away with a road win. These four bets are my picks for this evening’s contest.

Celtics (+2.5)

Even on the road, I like Boston to steal a win in Game 1. A sleepy, late-arriving Miami crowd shouldn’t be much of a factor, leaving the Celtics as the better team poised to take control of the series.

The Heat were fortunate to find a second round series against a Sixers team hobbled and lost in the midst of a confounding season. Had Miami instead found Milwaukee in the second round, as Boston did, the Heat would likely have headed home prior to the Conference Finals.

Boston rides the momentum of a critical Game 7 blowout win into this series, finding a Miami team ill-equipped to handle the Celtics’ stars. Miami is playing either without Kyle Lowry or with him severely hobbled. It was no surprise that the Heat’s two losses in the previous round came in the games where Lowry tried to play and proved wildly ineffective.

I’ll take Boston and the points, looking for a Game 1 upset.

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown both to score 25+ points

When matching these teams player for player, Boston appears to have an advantage on the wing. Erik Spoelstra relies on a revolving door of offense-first shooters on the perimeter, leaving either Brown or Tatum with a favorable matchup.

Over the course of a game, the Celtics’ playmakers will find ways to score against Tyler Herro, Max Strus, and the now little used Duncan Robinson.

PJ Tucker is an excellent defender, against the right opponent. His girthy frame allows him to bully taller players on the interior. Both Brown and Tatum, however, should be elusive enough to drive past Tucker or feel comfortable shooting over him in the mid-range.

Spoelsta’s only real answer to stopping either of Boston’s elite scorers is Jimmy Butler, but he can’t be asked to carry the offensive load for Miami and play high level defense for 40-plus minutes throughout a seven-game series.

Tatum is the better bet here, scoring 25 or more in three of his last four games. Brown has topped 25 just three times in the postseason, yet his shot came alive late in the Celtics second round series win over the Bucks.

Grant Williams under 1.5 three-pointers made 

The former Tennessee star blossomed into a playoff hero for Boston in the last round, serving as the primary defender against Giannis Antetokounmpo for large stretches of the Celtics series against Milwaukee.

He also proved a timely shot-maker, sinking seven of his ridiculous 18 attempts from long range in the decisive Game 7.

That kind of shooting is unlikely to continue, given his typical shooting performance. Williams made just two total 3s in the Celtics’ prior four games combined. In three road games in the second round, he shot just two of 12 from beyond the arc.

I’d be shocked to see his hot streak carry over from one round to the next.

Dewayne Dedmon under 0.5 assists 

The deeper we get into the playoffs, the deeper the betting community needs to dig for props and picks that stand out as valuable.
This one feels weird, but it jumps off the board as one to grab.

Dedmon has little offensive responsibility as the Heat’s backup center. Any assist he does accrue will be more of a fluke than something Miami has planned. In the playoffs, he has just four total assists in ten games. Three of those four assists all came in Miami’s playoff opener against Atlanta.

That means Dedmon has just one assist in his last nine games. In the last three games against the Hawks, Dedmond played less than five minutes per night. There is a real chance he plays short minutes tonight as well, with Boston and Miami fully capable of opting for small ball instead of using backup centers.

This pick is from the bottom of the barrel, but that’s where the real prizes are hiding sometimes.