NBA Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions and Picks - Is it time for the Heat to go all the way?

Jimmy Butler Miami Heat Boston Celtics

James Tillman

James Tillman

NBA handicapper and sports writer

James is a freelance sports writer who specialises in the NBA - his work has been published across multiple sites including OddsUSA and FanSided.  Full bio here.

The semifinal round in both conferences has concluded in the 2022 NBA playoffs. This means there are just four teams left vying for basketball’s ultimate prize. In the Eastern Conference the top-seeded Miami Heat take on the second-seeded Boston Celtics. Here is everything you need to need to know about the top two teams in the East looking to advance to the NBA Finals.

Although they finished with the second-best record in the conference, the Boston Celtics’ season was in peril back in January. They were the No. 10 seed and there was talk about possibly breaking up the tandem of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The Celtics closed out the regular season winning 28 of their last 35 games – an 80 percent winning rate — and they didn’t clinch the number two seed until the last game of the season. Entering the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the association, the Celtics dispatched the Brooklyn Nets in four games in the opening round. This was no small feat considering the Nets were once the prohibitive favorites to win it all.

Boston’s reward for getting past Brooklyn was a second-round matchup against the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. The home-court advantage that Boston fought for was instantly taken away, as the Bucks won the series opener. The two teams alternated wins through the first six games, with each ball club winning twice on the opponent’s home court. This trend set up an epic game seven in a series where both teams played better on the road (2-1) compared to home (1-2) through the first six games.

After falling behind early, the Celtics outscored the Bucks 61-38 in the second half on their way to a 109-81 victory. One of the major factors that contributed to Boston’s game seven victory was the disparity from the three-point line. The Celtics shot 22-for-55 from beyond the arc (40 percent), while the Bucks were just 4-for-33 (12.1 percent). Despite Giannis Antetokounmpo putting together another solid performance (25 points, 20 rebounds, and nine assists), the disparity from long range was too much for the Bucks to overcome. That and Khris Middleton missed the entire series with a sprained MCL ligament in his left knee. With the Bucks bowing out to the Celtics in seven games, there will be a new NBA champion this year.

On the flip side of the Eastern Conference Finals matchup, we have the Miami Heat. After finishing the season with the best record in the conference, Miami eliminated the Atlanta Hawks in five games, setting the team up with a second-round matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers. Miami took the first two games of the season while Joel Embiid was sidelined with an eye injury. However, the Sixers responded once Embiid returned to the mix and won the next two games. With the series being reduced to a best-of-three scenario, Miami responded with a blowout 120-85 win in Game 5. Not wanting a do-or-die game seven, the Heat closed out the Sixers 99-90 to advance to their second conference finals in the last three years. It is worth mentioning that Miami’s last trip to the conference finals in 2020 produced the team’s first NBA Finals appearance since 2014. It will be interesting to see if this version of the team will have the same success.

During the regular season, the Celtics dominated the Heat. They won the first of three meetings between the two teams 95-78. In the second meeting, the Celtics raced out to a 27-14 lead. And while the game was somewhat close at the intermission (Celtics-54, Heat-45), Boston outscored Miami by a 40-25 margin in the third quarter, cruising to a 122-92 victory. Miami finally broke into the win column in the third regular-season meeting. In that contest, four of the five Miami starters reached double-figures, propelling the team to a 106-98 victory. Although the Celtics did dominate in their two wins over Miami this season, we should not expect that to heavily impact this conference finals matchup. As was the case with the Bucks-Celtics matchup, this series will be an interesting showdown between the two best teams in the conference.

NBA Conference Finals player to watch Jayson Tatum

Boston Celtics player to watch: Jayson Tatum

Jayson Tatum is our Celtics player to watch in this series. In the three-game set against the Heat during the regular season, he averaged a rather pedestrian 17.7 points per contest. However, in the seven-game series against Milwaukee, Tatum averaged 27.6 points per outing. Not only that, but he averaged 32 points per contest in Boston’s four wins while scoring just 21.7 points in the team’s three losses. While Boston does have other players who can step up on a given night (namely Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart), Tatum will need to play well for Boston’s postseason run to continue.

NBA Conference Finals player to watch Jimmy Butler

Miami Heat player to watch: Jimmy Butler

The Miami Heat player to watch this series is Jimmy Butler (aka. Jimmy Buckets). He led the Heat in scoring this season with 21.4 points per game. And he has been nothing short of spectacular for Miami during these playoffs. Not only is he leading the team in scoring (28.7 points per contest), but he is also averaging a team-high 5.4 assists and 2.1 steals per outing as well. In the six-game set against the Sixers, Butler compiled averages of 27.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game on 51.5 percent shooting from the field.

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NBA Eastern Conference Finals Player Prop Bets & Prediction

First, this will be a series that will go the distance. While the Celtics looked impressive against the Bucks in stretches, look for the Heat to win this series. They have the best scoring defense in the playoffs, limiting their opponents to 97.5 points per contest. Miami has the second-best shooting defense in the playoffs, holding the opposition to 44.1 percent shooting. Miami also has the third-best three-point shooting defense as their opponents are shooting just 29.9 percent from beyond the arc. With that said, if playing well on defense does win championships, Miami is about to take the next step toward securing the team’s first title since 2013.

Player Prop Bet #1: Go with the over for Jayson Tatum if the predicted scoring average is 23 points per game or less. He is averaging 28.8 points per contest in the playoffs and he’s scored at least 23 points in each of his last four postseason games.

Player Prop Bet #2. Go with the over for Jimmy Butler if the predicted scoring average is 23 points per game or less. He is averaging 28.7 points per contest in the playoffs. And like Tatum, Butler has also scored at least 23 points in his last four playoff games as well.

Over/Under Prediction: Go with the over if the O/U prediction is 215 points or less. These teams are averaging a combined total of 215.5 points per contest.

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