The Eastern Conference Finals are upon us. The No. 1 Miami Heat and No. 2 Boston Celtics will face each other in the ECF for the first time since… the 2019-20 season. You can read our expert picks for the full series here, but a few markets jump out for Tuesday’s Game 1.
Here are my three best bets for Tuesday’s NBA playoff betting card.
1. Max Strus Over 14.5 Points + Assists | -102 (.67u) at FD Sportsbook
2. PPD: Max Strus 12+ PTS/Miami to Win | +182 (.33u) at FD Sportsbook
Let’s split a unit on a pair of Max Strus props. The talented wing has played a pretty large role for the Heat this postseason—he is averaging 12.5 points and 2.2 assists per game, giving us a slight edge against both of these numbers. Further, those numbers tick up slightly to 13.3 and 2.3 in playoff games that Kyle Lowry has missed. With Lowry out for Game 1, Strus should continue to benefit from increased usage.
A pair of other trends point to value here. First, the Heat just gave Strus 40 minutes in Game 6. The wing had only twice spent that much time on the floor this season, and Jimmy Butler was out for both of those games. Strus scored 20 points with that extra run. Second, Strus owned the Celtics during the regular season. He played 40 minutes against them in January and racked up 27 points and two assists. He played them again in March and notched 14 points and two assists in 32 minutes. The Heat lost the first of those games due to their banged-up rotation, but they won the second by eight points.
Strus should benefit from being the third or fourth option in Miami’s offensive arsenal. Boston’s elite defenders will focus on shutting down the likes of Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro, which should allow Strus the benefit of a few open looks. I expect him to capitalize against Boston as he did in the regular season.
3. Jayson Tatum Over 3.5 Turnovers | -105 at DK Sportsbook
Sorry, Celtics fans. I expect Tatum to struggle with turnovers in Game 1 of this series because we’ve seen him fumble possessions all offseason. For all Tatum’s scoring prowess, he is still averaging exactly four turnovers per game in the playoffs—a half-turnover above this line! That’s a huge problem against a team like Miami. The Heat forced 15 turnovers per game in the regular season, and they forced 15.6 turnovers per game in the first playoff rounds.
We have seen Tatum go over this number in six of his 11 playoff games. He averaged five turnovers per game against the Nets, and then he averaged 3.4 per game against the Bucks. However, Brooklyn and Milwaukee both forced a below-average number of turnovers in the regular season. They ranked 18th and 25th, respectively. In contrast, Miami ranked fourth.
Tatum may have to handle the ball more than usual with Marcus Smart banged up, too. Boston’s starting point guard suffered a foot injury in Game 7 of the team’s series against Milwaukee and is questionable for Game 1. While it’s unlikely that Ime Udoka will sit Smart, Tatum may need to step up for his battered teammate, resulting in an extra turnover or two.
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