Great players don’t stay down for long, and after a disappearing act from stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals, especially in the fourth quarter, the Boston Celtics need their leading scorers to step up. When the teams met in last year’s conference final the Celtics won three games on the home floor of the Miami Heat and they need a victory on Tuesday in Game 4 of the series. Stopping Jimmy Butler is a key to having success and something Boston didn’t do in the first two games. Buckets went for 35 in the opener and followed with 27 in Game 2. After struggling at home in the first two games of the series the Celtics are hopeful their prowess as a road team gets them back in the series. Facing elimination against the Sixers in the previous round, Boston claimed a 95-86 win in Game 6 and won the series at home in Game 7. They are 4-2 SU and ATS as the away team this postseason.
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2023 NBA Finals Game 1 Betting Lines
Miami Heat +8.5
Denver Nuggets -8.5
Money Line: Miami +306, Denver -385
NBA Picks for NBA Finals Game 1
The Heat weren’t even supposed to be here so to some degree they’re playing with house money. But as Jimmy Butler said their goal wasn’t to just win the Eastern Conference it was to win the whole damn thing. And the Heat are four wins away. Even though they beat the top-seeded Bucks in five games in the opening round, took out the No. 5 seed Knicks in the second and went the distance beating No. 2 Boston on the road in the East Final, the Heat aren’t getting much love from oddsmakers. Miami opened as a big +340 dog. Being an underdog throughout the playoffs hasn’t bothered the Heat much. They rolled over the top seed Bucks with Butler averaging more than 35 points and the team averaging more than 124 points against one of the better defensive teams.
That opening series was highly unusual since the squad was last in the NBA during the season in scoring at 109.5 points per game. Things returned to normal starting with the Knicks series and points were hard to come by in the last four games of the East final. The Heat failed to score more than 103 points in any of those games cashing the UNDER each time. They also lost three of those games, but got a stellar defensive effort in Game 7 holding Boston to its lowest point total of the season in the 103-84 win.
You might think that if you shut down Butler you can beat the Heat. That’s a good start but not always true. Jimmy Buckets is the closest thing to a superstar the team has and he’s proven that in the playoffs averaging 28.5 points. He’s gotten plenty of help, though, with former UCSB Gaucho Gabe Vincent, Caleb Martin and Bam Adebayo all scoring more than 13 points per game. And it seems like the Heat have different players step up every game. Martin had his best postseason game on Monday scoring 26 points with 10 rebounds for his second straight double-double.
If you want to talk about numbers we could spend plenty of time on Nikola Jokic. The two-time MVP could’ve had another trophy this season, but he’s made up for it in the playoffs averaging a triple double with 29.9 points, 13.3 rebounds and 10.3 assists. You can also buy Jokic at negative odds to average a triple double in the series.
A healthy Jamal Murray helped the Nuggets reach the NBA Finals for the first time. A few years ago when Denver lost the West Final to the Lakers the sharpshooting guard was sidelined with a knee injury. Murray twice scored 37 points and averaged 32.5 points in the sweep of the Lakers. One thing that could affect the Nuggets is the lengthy delay between series. The club waited over a week after dispatching the Lakers and some rust is a possibility early in Thursday’s contest. If you’re wagering on quarters of halves it’s a good idea to look at Miami. However, the Nuggets have yet to lose at home and once they get their legs look out.
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