Celtics vs Heat Picks and Predictions: Boston Chills Out Miami

The Celtics and Heat meet Friday in an ECF rematch, and Miami still might not have the goods to take advantage of Boston's thin front line. See why we're backing another battle — but one the favorites will ultimately win — with our NBA picks.

Rory Breasail - Betting Analyst at Covers.com
Rory Breasail • Betting Analyst
Oct 21, 2022 • 09:25 ET • 4 min read
Jayson Tatum Malcolm Brogdon Boston Celtics NBA picks
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

It’s an Eastern Conference Finals rematch Friday, October 21 as the Miami Heat seek revenge against their rivals in green, the Boston Celtics.

Boston looked brilliant in its opening game against Philadelphia, even though the worst fears about its paper-thin frontcourt rotation came to pass. Miami is still trying to find its early-season footing, having suffered a bad loss at home to a depleted Chicago Bulls team missing Zach LaVine and Lonzo Ball.

Our NBA picks and predictions for Celtics vs. Heat expect Miami’s early season struggles to continue, as the Heat don’t have the personnel to take aim at Boston’s fatal flaw.

Celtics vs Heat best odds

Celtics vs Heat picks and predictions

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for 70 points in their opening-night win against the 76ers. Boston also saw major contributions from their top offseason acquisition Malcolm Brogdon, who provided high-caliber playmaking and scoring off the bench.

The Celtics’ offense has looked clunky at times against the best of the best opposing defenses, but it seems that potentially both Tatum and Brown have leveled up yet again as on-ball guys. By adding Brogdon’s calming influence as a floor general into the mix, the Celtics might have a new formula for breaking down even the elite of NBA defenses.

And they’ll need it, because Miami is just such a defense. While the Heat don’t have the size of some of the best defensive groups, they more than make up for it with grit, discipline, and all-out nastiness. It is deeply unpleasant to try to score against Miami (just ask Trae Young). 

However, losing PJ Tucker hurts and so does elevating Tyler Herro from bench scorer to full-time starter. Unlike Boston, Miami has weak links early in the rotation. A full-strength Celtics team has no such weaknesses, but even with Robert Williams unavailable, it seems unlikely Miami will be able to out-muscle Boston on the interior.

If they are, it will be because of a mindset change by Bam Adebayo. The world continues to wait for a more aggressive Bam, but at some point, you are who your play says you are. Bam is many things, including a Defensive Player of the Year-level defender, but he’s not the kind of big to consistently bully opponents inside. 

Jimmy Butler was gassed down the stretch of their somewhat shocking loss to the Chicago Bulls in their home opener. After adding 23 points through three quarters, he barely looked to touch the ball in the final frame, fatally deferring to Herro and Adebayo. The Chicago defense was active and feisty, but even at its best, was nowhere near this Celtics squad. That bodes poorly for Miami’s chances on Friday.

The Celtics are also certified road killers. They’ve been 20-6-1 against the spread in their last 27 away games. Miami has also struggled at home in the recent past (against these Celtics no less), as they’ve gone 0-4 ATS in their last four home games.

Given that their thin frontcourt is this Celtics team’s only Achilles heel and I don’t like the Heat’s chances to exploit it, I like Boston to cover.

My best bet: Celtics -2.5 (-110 at 888sport)

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Celtics vs Heat spread analysis

The spread has seen slight NBA odds movement from -1.5 to -2.5 Celtics, probably accounting for the short-term loss of Victor Oladipo, who is out for tonight’s action with knee soreness. While Oladipo’s loss is damaging to Miami’s depth, the real issue is that short of Jimmy Butler going supernova, the Heat lack a top-end gear to match Boston on their best nights.

Now in sum, Boston’s offense last year might not look all that impressive, a ho-hum 114.3 rating, good for 10th overall and just one spot ahead of Miami’s. But that obscures the level this group got to later in the season. 

After the All-Star break, the Celtics posted a staggering 123.5 offensive rating. Taken with their top-tier defense, they had a net rating of +13.7, equivalent to a 68-win pace. Even without Robert Williams, the Celtics must be considered much stronger favorites than this relatively modest line implies.

Celtics vs Heat Over/Under analysis

The Total has been rapidly rising since it opened at 215.5, and at time of writing, has hit as high as 219.5. While not a big number by any means, it’s sizable considering the defensive stature of these two squads.

The Boston Celtics were the No.1 overall defense last season and the Miami Heat ranked fourth despite a slew of absences. Both teams have credible options to defend each other’s best players, both are comfortable switching, and both make a point of denying the rim.

These two teams are also highly familiar with one another, having recently fought a grueling seven-game series in the Eastern Conference Finals last season. Boston didn’t win that series so much as they just managed to outlast Miami, and the physical toll it took on many of the Celtics players doomed them in the Finals.

I’d strongly lean toward the Under given the defensive talent of these two teams.

Celtics vs Heat betting trend to know

Celtics are 20-6-1 ATS in their last 27 road games. Find more NBA betting trends for Celtics vs. Heat.

Celtics vs Heat game info

Location: FTX Arena, Miami, FL
Date: Friday, October 21, 2022
Tip-off: 7:30 p.m. ET

Celtics vs Heat key injuries

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