As the most peculiar NBA regular season in history comes to a close, the playoff aspirations of many teams are becoming more and more clear. Unfortunately, that cannot really be said about the teams vying for spots in the Eastern Conference’s play-in tournament. Two of those teams are the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat, who are meeting at the TD Garden on Sunday afternoon.
Free Picks: Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat
Celtics, Heat Jockey For Playoff Seeding At TD Garden On Sunday (Season Betting Record: 95-103)
As of this writing the Miami Heat are sitting in the driver’s seat with a 36-31 record that puts them in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, one game ahead of their Sunday afternoon opponents, the Boston Celtics. More importantly, however, is that the sixth spot is the last spot that is safe from this season’s new play-in tournament, which makes the sixth seed more important than it has ever been.
Surely, there weren’t many predicting the two teams that met in the NBA bubble last fall with the Eastern Conference title on the line would be fighting to avoid falling into the conference’s unpredictable play-in tourney, but that’s where we are after this strangest of seasons.
Both teams have battled multiple bouts of injuries and inconsistencies throughout this campaign, which has stopped them from reaching the heights they touched in the Orlando bubble in September. Back then, the Heat beat the Celtics in six games thanks in large part to, 1. possibly the second-most clutch block in NBA playoff history by Bam Adebayo, and 2. Jimmy Butler in the midst of the most manly performance I’ve ever seen across a single athletic postseason.
Things have been quite different during this 2020-2021 season, however. Butler missed a ton of time due to the league’s new COVID-induced health and safety protocols and Boston’s best player, Jayson Tatum, actually contracted the virus during the season and has been vocal about the effects he continues to feel.
He seemed no worse for the wear when he was dropping a 60-piece during a 32-point comeback win against the San Antonio Spurs recently, however. While his sidekick, Jaylen Brown, has been in and out of the Celtics lineup recently, Tatum has not missed many games, and has clearly taken another step towards superstardom this season.
For what it’s worth, Jimmy Buckets has been giving off some LeBron James vibes during this campaign: that is to say that he doesn’t seem to give a rat’s butt about the regular season. With 67 games played and only five remaining, however, it’s safe to say that these are now playoff games for both Boston and Miami, so don’t expect any players to take it easy or to be unnecessarily rested. It’s on now.
We believe that the Celtics have the advantage this time around, which is why we like them as our NBA pick for this matchup. Though they won the last meeting, a two-point win back in January, that doesn’t mean a whole lot. There are, however, other trends that lead us to believe that Brad Stevens’ unit is a top pick on Sunday afternoon.
The Celtics haven’t been elite at the TD Garden this season, but they have been a great bet when they’re the favorites in Massachusetts. They’ve won two of every three games in that scenario during this campaign, running up a very trustworthy 18-9 straight up record. It just so happens to be their top SU split for this entire season.
Perhaps it’s a trick by the basketball gods, or perhaps it’s kismet, but the Heat just so happen to be 3-10 SU as the underdog when they’re not at home in sunny South Beach. That’s also their worst SU split of the season, so what else can we do but go with Boston for our NBA pick here. Considering the reasonable odds, we’re going with the Celtics’ moneyline at solid -124 NBA odds as our best bet for today.
- Boston is 18-9 SU as a home favorite this season
- Miami is 3-10 SU as an away underdog this season
- Miami is 16-16 SU on the road this season
- Miami is 4-8 SU in their last 10 games with a spread under 5 points
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The Los Angeles Clippers will renew hostilities with the Dallas Mavericks, who they dispatched in the first round of last season’s playoffs.
The Denver Nuggets and the league’s presumptive NBA MVP will look to get off to a strong start against the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 1.
The Golden State Warriors will host the Memphis Grizzlies in the final play-in game, which will determine the Western Conference’s eighth seed.
The Washington Wizards will host the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night with the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference on the line.
Alex is an alumnus of Ryerson University's RTA Sport Media program, a contributing NHL, NBA, and MLB writer in the BetPicks.ca team. He has been writing on sports, betting, and fantasy contests for several years, including pitstops as an NFL Editor for theScore and as one of the lead NBA news writers for fantasy sports site FantasyPros. As a lifelong athlete, bettor, and sports fan, Alex is uniquely qualified to help you reach the sports betting success that you've always dreamed of and your wife never believed you could achieve.