No matter what an ESPN algorithm said, beating the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals was never going to be easy for the Boston Celtics.
That was on full display in Game 1 as Jimmy Butler and the Heat went into Boston and upset the Celtics, 123-116, to take a 1-0 lead in the series. Butler was the best player on the floor as he posted 35 points, seven assists, six steals and five rebounds in the win. Beyond Butler, the Heat got contributions up and down the rotation, with five others scoring at least 15 points in the win.
Miami was actually down by nine at halftime before outscoring the Celtics, 46-25, in a blistering third quarter. The Heat were nine-point underdogs in Game 1 and are again significant underdogs as we turn the page to Game 2 on Friday night where the Celtics are favored by 8.5 points at BetMGM.
The Celtics have had an inconsistent postseason, particularly at home. The Celtics are 4-4 straight-up and against the spread at TD Garden during the playoffs, all as a favorite of at least six points.
On the other hand, the Celtics have typically bounced back from losses during this postseason, going 4-1 straight-up off a loss and 4-1 ATS. Additionally, this is exactly what happened when the Celtics and Heat met in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. The Heat won Game 1 in Boston before the Celtics eventually took the series in seven games.
There won’t be any panic from these Celtics, despite the up-and-down nature of their play in the playoffs this year. Jayson Tatum was spectacular in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals but disappeared in the second half on Wednesday night vs. the Heat, particularly when Butler guarded him.
The playoffs are all about game-to-game — and even half-to-half or quarter-to-quarter — adjustments. What will Boston’s adjustments be on Friday night?
Here’s a look at the rest of the sports betting slate for Friday:
NHL: Western Conference Finals get underway
The NHL’s conference Finals began on Thursday night in dramatic fashion with the Florida Panthers going on the road and knocking off the Carolina Panthers, 3-2, in Game 1 of the East Finals in four overtimes.
Now it’s time for Game 1 on the Western side of the bracket with the Vegas Golden Knights hosting the Dallas Stars. Vegas needed six games to dispatch the Edmonton Oilers in the semifinals while the Stars went seven games with the Seattle Kraken.
For Game 1 in Las Vegas, the Golden Knights are -125 favorites. The Stars are +105. The total is 5.5.
PGA Championship continues
While Tom Kim went viral for his muddy pursuit of his errant tee shot on Thursday at the Oak Hill Country Club, little-known Eric Cole finished Day 1 of the PGA Championship atop the leaderboard.
Cole went 5-under through 14 holes before play was suspended due to darkness. Cole and a slew of others were slated to finish their opening round on Friday morning before the second round gets underway later Friday.
Even with his lead, Cole was pretty far down on the odds board at BetMGM. His odds to win the tournament were down at +6600, behind more well-known competitors like Scottie Scheffler (+275), Dustin Johnson (+750), Bryson DeChambeau (+1100) and Viktor Hovland (+1200).
Others near the top of the odds board include Corey Conners (+1400), Justin Rose (+1600), Max Homa (+1800) and Rory McIlroy (+2000).
Busy day in MLB
There are 15 games on the schedule for Friday in Major League Baseball, including the Los Angeles Dodgers on the road vs. the St. Louis Cardinals.
It’s been a tough start to the year for the Cardinals (19-26), but they absolutely trounced the Dodgers on Thursday night by hitting seven homers in a 16-8 win. Both Willson Contreras and Nolan Gorman hit two bombs apiece for the Cards.
In Game 2 of the four-game series on Friday, the Dodgers will be looking for a much better outcome. The Dodgers are -130 road favorites while the Cardinals are +110 at home.
What’s the best bet?
The Heat are 6-3 straight-up and 7-2 ATS as underdogs during the playoffs, but I’m a bit leery about taking Miami in this particular spot.
The Celtics looked out of sorts on offense in the second half of Game 1 and it seemed to really affect them defensively. They should be more locked in on defense and it’s unrealistic to expect Miami to shoot such a high percentage from outside again. With that said, I’m going to play the first-half under 110 points.