Shane McNichol makes his NBA predictions as the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat face off in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
We’ve reached the conference finals, with two of the NBA’s iconic franchises of the 21st century squaring off again.
These are not the same faces that have been around for prior duels between Boston and Miami, yet this cast of characters could produce an all-time classic.
Here’s three picks for a Game 1 parlay, plus a futures bet for the series with a big potential payout.
Miami Heat (+8.5)
After the dominating performance Boston showed in closing out rival Philadelphia in Game 7 on Sunday, I’m eying a possible let down game.
There’s a few ways to digest that Boston victory over the Sixers. The Celtics could have won that series much sooner, if not for a few end-of-game scenarios that went Philly’s way in Game 1 and Game 4. On the other hand, the Philadelphia team that showed up for several of the games in that series looked like one on the brink of disaster, aching to be dispatched earlier.
This Boston team didn’t have the juice to squash Philadelphia when it had its chances. A lot of that comes down to the coaching of rookie head man Joe Mazzulla, who faces an uphill battle in this series against one of the NBA’s best.
Even if Miami can’t steal this one, expect a close game and a cover.
Miami Heat to win the series 4-2
If the Heat can nab a road win to start the series, Miami has a real chance to win the series.
The advantage on the sidelines between these two coaches can’t be overstated. Erik Spoelstra is worth several points per game and likely wins his team at least a game in this series.
Between the lines, Jimmy Butler has proven himself time and again one of the elite late game and playoff performers in the NBA. While Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown each had their moments in the sun in the last round, let’s not forget how many people were calling for major changes in Boston when they trailed Philadelphia 3-2 after Game 5.
I’m not sure how many times in this series the Celtics will put their best foot forward, but I know that Miami is less liable to lay any duds.
I love the value on the Heat winning the series on their home floor in Game 6 with a payout of 11-1.
Al Horford under 7.5 points
That number feels a little jarring for a player with the career that Horford has had for nearly two decades. At this stage of his career, however, Horford’s value comes via other columns in the box score.
In 13 playoff games this year, Horford has topped this prop number only six times, and in two of those six he sneaked by it by just half a point.
In the postseason, he’s averaging only 6.6 points and has taken only two free throws in the playoffs. Essentially, on the offensive end, Horford has become a floor spacer for this Celtics roster, though not a very good one as a sub-average shooter.
I think we see more of that this series, especially with the length and speed in the Miami frontcourt.
Bam Adebayo over 0.5 blocks
Boston is going to try to lure Miami’s big man out of the paint by spreading the floor, yet it’s hard to imagine Adebayo won’t be a factor on a few plays at the rim against a Celtics team with creators that love to attack on penetration.
In 11 playoff games this spring, Adebayo has failed to record a block just four times, with one of those instances coming in a blowout loss where he played just 24 minutes.
In a competitive game, Miami is going to need Adebayo patrolling the paint. The more time he gets to spend guarding Robert Williams, the more you’d expect some action around the rim to involve Bam. Given how well the Celtics played when Williams entered the starting lineup late in the series against the Sixers, I expect more of him and, therefore, more chances for Adebayo to swat some shots.