NBA Playoff Pick ‘Em: Can the Heat break through a tough Celtics defence?

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) blocks a shot to the basket by Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) during the first half of an NBA basketball game. (Marta Lavandier/AP)

And then there were four. The conference semifinals wrapped up with one of the most stunning Game 7 results in recent memory. The Dallas Mavericks ripped out Phoenix’s collective heart with a 123-90 drubbing that helped me back my way into a win (I had Dallas +6.5 but I specifically said I thought the Suns would win the game). They play the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday.

Tonight, all eyes are on the Eastern Conference Finals. The Boston Celtics are coming off a hard fought win over Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in the kind of series that both tests and solidifies a team’s identity. The Miami Heat have had a much smoother path to this point, having walked through Atlanta in the first round before beating a Philadelphia team that was coming apart at the seams.

While I’ve been essentially as effective as flipping a coin on my single game picks against the spread, I’m up big on my series bets.

Overall record against the spread: 23-24-1

Series picks: 10-2

Boston Celtics (-175) vs Miami Heat (+145)

I’m already looking forward to betting on whoever comes out of the West in Game 1 of the finals, because Boston and Miami are about to beat the living hell out of each other for an entire series. Both teams boast elite, physical, and eminently switchable defences, along with an armada of heart and hustle types.

Boston took their season series 2-1, with only one of those games (Miami’s 106-98 win in Boston in March) being particularly close. And with the defences these teams have, I think it’s going to come down to which team has better individual shot-making, because open shots are going to be few and far between.

I trust Jayson Tatum to make shots. I trust Al Horford to make shots. In a weird, inexplicable way, I kind of trust Marcus Smart to at least make the right decision. Jaylen Brown has been hot and cold lately, but I trust him to produce 2-4 very good games.

For Miami, the only player I trust to create and make shots for himself in isolation is Jimmy Butler. Which means Tyler Herro could be the key to this series for Miami. The Sixth Man of the Year has hit just 27 per cent of his playoff threes, and just 42 per cent of his field goals. When Miami gets bogged down in half court offence, Herro needs to be a reliable secondary playmaker. Jimmy Butler can’t do it alone, and if Herro doesn’t step up, he may have to.

Simply put: I trust the Celtics offence to break through the Heat defence far more than I trust the Heat offence to the do the same. Boston in seven is the pick.

Game 1: Boston Celtics (+1.5, +110) at Miami Heat (-1.5, -130) – 8:45 p.m. ET/5:45 p.m. PT

I’m picking Boston to win the series, so picking them to win Game 1 is the obvious move. The team that wins Game 1 in an NBA playoff series goes on to win 75.6 per cent of the time. But this Game 1 feels like a special case to me.

I think it would be a mistake to underestimate just how physical Boston’s series with Milwaukee was. Every Celtic had their moment guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was dishing out some serious bumps over seven games. When Boston rose to meet Milwaukee’s physicality, the series started to feel a little like a football game at times.

Boston has one day of rest after such a physical series, while Miami has been recovering in whatever secret medical stasis pod that’s been recently developed by Heat CultureTM. I like the Heat (1.5) in Game 1.

Looking at player props, the Celtics front court is probably gassed. Horford was amazing against the Bucks, but he’s 35 years old and just had to guard the NBA’s premier Destroyer of Souls for seven games. Bam Adebayo should eat. I’ve got his OVER 15.5 points and OVER 8.5 rebounds.

The Sicko Same Game Parlay of The Night pays off at +800

· Miami Heat -1.5

· Bam Adebayo OVER 15.5 points

· Bam Adebayo OVER 8.5 rebounds

· Tyler Herro OVER 14.5 points.

As always, play safe and don’t chase.

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