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Heat vs. Celtics Conference Finals Game 7 Betting Preview: Boston Favored To Win For 3rd Time In Miami

Kathryn Riley. Getty Images.

Celtics at Heat (Game 7), 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Home-court advantage has mattered very little in the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals. In the West, Dallas and Golden State went a combined 5-0 at home, but in this Boston Celtics-Miami Heat matchup, both squads have shown their grit to get it done on the road.

Boston had a historically strong run away from TD Garden during the regular season, and have a +7.5 point differential in road games. The Heat have lost just twice in their last 12 at FTX Arena. Both those defeats came to the Celtics in this series, which is partially why Boston is a three-point favorite. Keep reading for more on this epic Game 7 showdown and how key elements should factor into your betting.

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Also featured below are my records for Plays of the Day during the Conference Finals. We're going pretty strong over here.

  • Conference Finals spread/ML record: 8-3  
  • Over/Under record: 10-1

Celtics need to be Smart-er

Terrible pun aside, you know it's true, Bostonians. How on earth did Marcus Smart attempt the most field goals for the C's in Game 6? Some of that is dictated by the Heat's defense, yet there's no real excuse for Smart outshooting Jayson Tatum (12), Jaylen Brown (13) and even an out-of-his-mind Derrick White (14). Smart bricked 11 of his 15 attempts and hit on just one of nine treys.

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year has a mid-foot sprain and a sprained ankle that he's continued to gut through. Even when healthy, Smart is not known for his offense. If I were Celtics coach Ime Udoka, I'd realize that my overall team defense honestly doesn't suffer much with smart this hobbled by multiple injuries. I'd consider maybe not playing him for 40 freaking minutes like his last start. Use Smart in spurts so he can hustle, defend and do what he does best.

Which secondary star will step up?

I don't need to overdo it monologuing about how critical it is for Tatum and Jimmy Butler to come up big. Those are clearly the two star players on each side. Tatum has been inconsistent and turnover-prone, but if he plays to his potential, it's hard to envision Boston losing this one. Butler was phenomenal in Game 6. Not sure how much he'll have left in the tank for Sunday night.

Game 7 should really boil down to the play of the Robins to Tatum's and Butler's Batmen. I believe I'm saying that right. If not cut me some slack. Jaylen Brown (OU 23.5 points) is Tatum's sidekick, and Bam Adebayo (OU 9.5 rebounds) is the ultimate versatile frontcourt chess piece whose performance has a lot to do with Miami's ceiling on both ends of the floor. Consistency might give Brown the edge here over Adebayo.

Brown has had a relatively steady series, shooting 48% overall and 41% from deep. The likes of Robert Williams, Al Horford and Grant Williams have hounded Adebayo, and while the Heat big man has played soundly on defense, his scoring has been sporadic and inconsistent, with four of his six starts resulting in 10 points or less.

Who plays better between Brown and Adebayo should go a long way in determining tonight's outcome. I'd side with Brown because of the intimidating matchup and depth Adebayo has to deal with down low.

Unlikely heroes to watch for on both teams

We saw in Boston's previous Game 7 how players you'd never see coming can rise to the occasion even under the most intense pressure. Hell, White's 22-point eruption on Friday was crazy in and of itself. It's a shame the Celtics didn't capitalize on that rare production to close out the series. But to circle back to the team's 109-81 romp over Milwaukee: Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard had 27 and 14 points respectively, combining for 11 makes from 3-point range.

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Pritchard has scored in double figures thrice during the Conference Finals. He's played a combined 10 minutes across the past two contests. Some of that is due to White's emergence. Some of it is Udoka's heavy reliance on a banged-up Smart. I wonder if Pritchard has another special outing in store. Meanwhile, Williams has gone just 3-for-15 from the field in his last three starts, so maybe he truly was a flash in the pan. Or he's saving everything for more Game 7 theatrics. More likely the former.

So while I'd be keen on White or Pritchard stepping up for the C's, the Heat are basically a band of outcasts who were quite literally dragged to Game 7 by Butler's masterful 47-9-8 line from Friday that also included four steals, a block, and only one turnover and one foul. Sharpshooter Max Strus (OU 10.5 points) can get really hot, so he's somebody to watch out for. Victor Oladipo is another Heat player who has struggled mightily on offense against Boston. However, a 23-point showing in Game 4 suggests Oladipo could be an X-factor.

Beyond the arc and on the foul line, Boston has advantages

The Celtics have attempted 34.3 3-pointers a night across the last six contests to Miami's 35.5, but are hitting at a much higher rate (35% to 31.5%). That's a discouraging trend for the Heat, as is Boston's average of 29.5 free throws compared to their 20.5. So many more chances at points with the clock stopped. A greater risk of key players getting into foul trouble for Miami, too, if these series-long stats hold.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra can make adjustments with the best of them. I'm more inclined to cite Butler's singular brilliance as the reason Miami is still alive and on the brink of a second NBA Finals appearance in three years. Still, Spoelstra recognized Butler needed to be the catalyst again, and the attention he attracted helped the Heat shoot 15-for-35 on threes the last time out. Butler's 11 freebies cut into the charity stripe deficit, too.

Pretty much, give Butler the ball and get out of the way if you're Miami. Let him facilitate, create and perhaps post a double-double (+175), which he's probably due for after missing that achievement in his last nine games.

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NBA Plays of the Day: Celtics -3 and 2nd quarter ML (-113), Over 196.5 points (-110), Jayson Tatum Over 28.5 points

In 11 of its last 12 games, Boston has won the second quarter. Given that the Heat have a real chance to come out on fire in front of their home crowd, riding the high of Game 6's stunning victory, I feel like the momentum will swing back in the Celtics' favor a little bit before halftime.

Feels strange to go against Spoelstra since he's never lost a Conference Finals series — not to mention the following piece of history:

For many of Spoelstra's prior triumphs, though, he had LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Those dudes ain't walking through the door. Since Tatum took so few shots in Game 6, I see no world in which he doesn't make up for that by at least doubling his attempts, and willing the Celtics to yet another win on the road.

I went with the Over in Game 6 when the total points line was at only 201. It's even lower here. I know Game 7s tend to be ugly and low-scoring. Still, the value here is on the Over. In the hour it took me to write this thing, the line already went up by a full point.

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