For the third time in four years, the Miami Heat will take on the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals.
In 2020, the fifth-seeded Heat defeated third-seeded Celtics in six games in the bubble. Last year, they were the top two seeds in the East, and Boston knocked off Miami with a Game-7 road win. This year, the Celtics are the 2-seed once again, but the Heat are the 8-seed. Miami is the first 8-seed to reach the conference finals since the New York Knicks in 1999.
The foundations of these teams have largely remained unchanged — with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown leading the way for the Celtics, and Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo anchoring the Heat. Brown typically plays well against Miami, and that may continue in Game 1.
Kevin Love joining the Heat is a significant new addition to this series. He has been a factor on the glass this postseason, but that may not be the case in this series.
NBA Player Props & Picks
Jaylen Brown Over 2.5 Made 3s (-102)
|Time | TV||8:30 p.m. ET | TNT|
This postseason, Jaylen Brown is averaging 24.6 points per game and has done significant damage from beyond the arc. He has made at least two 3s in 10 of 13 games this postseason, going over this line in eight of them. He has also enjoyed a lot of success against Miami. In last year’s Eastern Conference finals series, he averaged 24.1 points and 2.7 3s on 40.4% shooting from beyond the arc. He has also averaged 30.3 points in three meetings against the Heat this season. That includes 37 points with five made 3s on December 2nd.
Miami is a great matchup for Brown. In the regular season, it ranked 28th with 13.1 3s Allowed per game and 21st in 3-point Accuracy Allowed (36.7%). In the postseason, the Heat are 10th, allowing 12.8 3s per game. Their 3-point defense would look significantly worse if not for a series against a Knicks team that lacks perimeter shooting. However, they still allowed an average of 6.5 3s combined to Jalen Brunson, Quentin Grimes, and R.J. Barrett.
Brown has been very efficient this postseason, shooting 54.1% from the field and 47.1% from beyond the arc. Despite that, Boston inexplicably struggled keeping Brown involved at times in the Philadelphia series as he averaged 15.6 field goal attempts for the series.
However, Brown went over this line in five of seven games against Philadelphia. He has averaged 5.4 3-point attempts this postseason, so the volume is there for him, and it may increase against the Heat’s defense. If he scores 25-30 points tonight, it is likely that at least nine are from beyond the arc.
Kevin Love Under 5.5 Rebounds (-122)
|Time | TV||8:30 p.m. ET | TNT|
Kevin Love’s rebounding prop has been one of my favorite plays this postseason. Asking one of the greatest rebounders in NBA history to get six rebounds seems like an easy bet. This postseason, Love had at least six rebounds five times in a six-game stretch. However, in the conference semifinals series against the Knicks, he went under this line in four of the six games. That includes the final three games of the series with three coming in the decisive Game 6.
In three of the games Love went under last round, he had five rebounds, so he was not too far off.
The issue is his minutes.
When Love has played 20 minutes this postseason, he has pulled down six rebounds in six of seven games. When he plays 20 or fewer minutes, he went under in all four games (and all six if you include the play-in games). Love played exactly 16 minutes in three games against the Knicks, including the final two games of the series. He usually played the first eight minutes of each half.
Against the Celtics, I don’t see Love’s minutes increasing. Against Philadelphia, Boston had success going back to its vaunted two-big lineup with Al Horford and Robert Williams III when the Celtics rallied to win the final two games. Williams III is remaining in the starting lineup to begin this series.
However, Boston plays a lot of minutes with Jayson Tatum at power forward surrounded by three of Marcus Smart, Derrick White, Jaylen Brown and Malcolm Brogdon on the perimeter.
With Tatum at the four, Miami likely cross-matches with Jimmy Butler. Even if it is not Tatum, Love is still a defensive liability trying to defend one of Boston’s perimeter players. For that reason, I do not see Love playing 20 minutes in Game 1 or very often in this series. He could still grab six in limited minutes, but if he plays fewer than 20 minutes, I feel confident that he goes under this line.