NBA Playoffs 2023: Conference Finals Betting Odds Indicate A Boston-Denver Title Tilt Is On The Horizon

Updated: 24 Sport

Rory Breasail breaks down the NBA's Conference Finals with his best bets.

NBA Playoffs 2023: Conference Finals Betting Odds Indicate A Boston-Denver Title Tilt Is On The Horizon

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Experienced sports journalist, College sports expert and broadcaster, hailing from Pennsylvania

Rory Breasail breaks down his best NBA picks for the Conference Finals in the East and the West. 

All wagers can be placed with licensed Sportsbooks in the US.

(8) Miami Heat vs. (2) Boston Celtics-550

The Miami Heat followed up their stunning upset of the Milwaukee Bucks with a methodical dispatching of the New York Knick in round two. Suddenly the Heat are in their third Conference Finals in three years, set to square off once more against the Boston Celtics. While they are heavy underdogs in this series at most sportsbooks, it would be foolish to count out Jimmy Butler and Erik Spoelstra just yet.

Expect the Heat to give a good accord of themselves. Despite some transcendent performances, the Celtics have continued to show a troubling lack of poise throughout the playoffs. The Heat have shown a knack for winning the battles at the margins, in no small part due to the brilliance of Spoelstra’s game-to-game adjustments as well as the wealth of playoff experience on the roster.

But the Celtics are the odds-on favorite to win the title for a reason. They have depth at every position, shooting, wing defense, and size. Their reliance on 3-point shooting creates significant variance on a night-to-night basis, but it also gives them a chance to win any game even when otherwise outplayed.

There are two significant concerns to consider for bettors contemplating a play on the Heat in this series. One is that the Miami offense, after springing to life against the Bucks, looked closer to their bottom-five regular season mark against New York. The second is that Butler has not looked like the world-beater he was in the first round since he sprained his ankle in Game 1 against the Knicks. For the Heat to have any real chance, he has to be the best player in the series. That’s a tall order with Jayson Tatum having just broken the all-time Game 7 scoring record to send the 76ers packing on Sunday.

Given Boston’s inability to close out series early and Miami’s proven resilience against more talented competition, my best bet for the series is Over 5.5 Total Games (-118 odds).

(7) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (1) Denver Nuggets-155

While the second round between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors was billed by the media as a rematch between LeBron James and Steph Curry, ultimately it was Anthony Davis whose play proved decisive. Now that the Lakers turn to play against the Denver Nuggets, the No.1 seed in the West and home to the most dominant offensive big man in the NBA, Davis is once again the central axis on which this series will turn.

Davis has been unquestionably the best defender of the playoffs so far.  His ability to roam, zone up space, and protect the rim fundamentally disrupted how the Warriors wanted to play. Now he faces a much bigger challenge (both figuratively and literally) against Nikola Jokic.

So much of the Lakers' ability to shut down the Warriors’ offense stemmed from their ability to erase their interior attack. Color me skeptical that they’ll have anything close to the same success against Jokic. Jokic is not only a dominant post scorer and otherworldly passer, but his floater (that he hits consistently at a 62% clip) also allows him to punish opposing defenses that don’t fully commit to him.

LeBron will of course be heard from as well. In the close-out game against the Warriors, James demonstrated without a shadow of a doubt that he can still reach something approaching peak, two-way terror LeBron for a critical game. 

The Lakers are also an elite foul-drawing team, and they asserted that fact with a dominant series from the line against Golden State. Denver is not a foul-prone team overall, but Jokic has been known to pick up some foolish ones. If the Lakers can force him into foul trouble in a couple of games, it could well swing the series.

This figures to be a long, evenly-matched series, but I ultimately favor the Nuggets and their homecourt advantage (they were 34-7 at home in the regular season) to win out. Getting the Nuggets to win the series at -155 isn’t quite good enough value, so I’m taking Denver in seven games at +350.

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