EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
Boston Celtics -170
Miami Heat +145
Jayson Tatum will win MVP
There’s no doubt that Tatum has been the MVP for the Celtics this entire postseason. From scoring the last-second go-ahead basket in Game 1 against the Nets in the First Round, Tatum has consistently stood out for Boston and has been the go-to in the clutch. Following his 46-point outing in Game 6 against the Bucks, Tatum has made a statement that he is capable of leading his team to a championship. Give him MVP.
Jimmy Butler will average a double-double for the series
Butler has been on a tear this postseason, averaging 28.7 ppg, 7.6 rebounds, and 5.4 assists. Expect the scoring to continue and his rebounding to increase. The Celtics dominate behind the arc, with Tatum, Grant Williams, and Jaylen Brown big threats from the 3. That will enable Butler to rack up the boards if the Celtics run cold. There’s no question about what Butler can do on the offensive front, but his strong defense is often overlooked. If the Heat can take advantage of the Celtics’ misses and capitalize in transition, Miami will have a good shot at defeating Boston in the Conference Finals.
Kyle Lowry won’t return for the Conference Finals
Limited to only 5 games in the playoffs, Kyle Lowry has compiled a disappointing first postseason with the Heat. In those 5 games, Lowry has averaged only 6.2 ppg and 5.2 assists. While his assists in the regular season were similar to past seasons, his scoring has been way down. In 63 games, Lowry averaged 13.4 ppg – the lowest mark in his career starting full-time. It may be in the Heat’s best interest not to rush Lowry and give extra minutes to Tyler Herro and Gabe Vincent at the point.
Al Horford will have a 25+ point game
Horford came alive in Game 4 against the Bucks when he nailed 5-for-7 from the 3-point line en route to a 30-point showing. Many contribute his revitalization to the moment when Giannis stared Horford down, following an unbelievable dunk. Whether or not that riled him up, Horford can be credited for the Celtics’ comeback in that game – and maybe the series. Had Boston dropped Game 4, then the Celtics would have found themselves in a 3-1 deficit in the series. You can bet that there will be at least one game in the Conference Finals when Horford turns back Father Time and posts some big numbers.
Marcus Smart will get a technical for flopping
Smart has become somewhat of a villain this postseason for his blatant flops in both series. That won’t fly in the Conference Finals, especially with Jimmy Butler on the floor. If Smart attempts to draw a charge with Butler driving, you can expect Jimmy to get in Smart’s face. What’s more, if Smart flops in front of the Miami crowd, you know the fans will let him hear it. That will make for an exciting rivalry until the referee tees up Smart with a technical.