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After a lopsided Game 7 between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, the conference-final matchups are set in the 2023 NBA playoffs. In the West, the No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers will take on the No. 1 Denver Nuggets. In the East, the No. 2 Celtics emerged victorious earlier today, cementing a matchup with the No. 8 Miami Heat.
The title odds heading into the NBA’s version of the final four heavily favor Boston.
2023 NBA Championship Odds
|Los Angeles Lakers||+330|
Boston’s short odds are dually motivated. Not only are the C’s rated as the best team in the eyes of oddsmakers, they are also facing the weakest opponent in the form of the Heat.
Miami became just the second-ever No. 8 seed to reach the conference championships when they bounced the New York Knicks in six games in the second round. In round one, Miami took advantage of an injury-riddled Milwaukee Bucks (four games to one).
While Miami struggled mightily in the regular season, at least compared to expectations, this is largely the same team that took Boston to Game 7 in last year’s Eastern Conference final.
Lakers vs. Nuggets Series Odds
|Team||Odds to Win||Series Spread|
|Los Angeles Lakers||+125||+1.5 (-194)|
|Denver Nuggets||-145||-1.5 (+154)|
On the surface, the Western Conference final is a somewhat unlikely matchup with the No. 7-seed Los Angeles Lakers making an appearance. But oddsmakers have been fairly bullish on LeBron James’ team since they booked their ticket to the postseason with a win over Minnesota in the 7-vs-8 play-in game. LeBron and company were modest +120 underdogs heading into their first-round matchup with Ja Morant’s Memphis Grizzlies, the No. 2 seed.
Los Angeles stole Game 2 in Memphis and then held serve on their home court to close out the series in six.
A similar script played out in the second round against the No. 6 Golden State Warriors. The Lakers took Game 1 and then won all three home games to take the series in six games.
Denver’s path to the West finals was markedly similar. They dusted aside the No. 8 Minnesota Timberwolves in five games in round one, winning three at home and one on the road. They needed six games to oust Kevin Durant and the No. 4 Phoenix Suns, going 3-0 at home and winning Game 6 on the road to close out the series.
Observant readers will note that the Lakers and Nuggets are both undefeated at home through two rounds, going a perfect 12-0 between them. As the No. 1 seed, Denver will host Games 1, 2, 5, and 7 if necessary.
Game 1 of the series takes place Tuesday, May 16, and the teams will play every other day until the series concludes.
Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics Series Odds
|Team||Odds to Win||Series Spread|
|Miami Heat||+370||+1.5 (+145)|
|Boston Celtics||-475||-1.5 (-175)|
After bouncing the No. 7 Atlanta Hawks in six games in round one, the Celtics were on the ropes against Joel Embiid and the 76ers in round two. A huge Game 5 upset in Boston gave Philadelphia a 3-2 lead with the series shifting back to Pennsylvania. But two huge defensive efforts saw the C’s overcome the deficit and book their second straight trip to the East finals (and third in four years). Boston won by a 95-86 score on the road in Game 6 and then dismantled Philadelphia 112-88 in Game 7 thanks in large part to a 33-10 third quarter.
Miami’s postseason almost ended before it truly began. The Heat were upset at home by the Hawks in the 7-vs-8 play-in game in the East and then trailed the Bulls in the 8-vs-9 game heading to the fourth quarter. But Miami squeezed by Chicago 101-92 thanks to a strong final 12 minutes, setting up a meeting with the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the first round.
Miami pulled of an upset for the ages by ousting the Bucks in just five games. Giannis Antetokounmpo was only able to play 11 minutes for Milwaukee during the final three games of the series, all Miami victories.
In round two, the Heat took down the No. 5 New York Knicks in six games. Miami took Game 2 to earn a split in New York and closed out the series with three wins at home. Like their Western Conference counterparts, the Heat are undefeated at home so far in the 2023 playoffs.
Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals between Miami and Boston takes place on Wednesday, May 17. Like the Lakers and Nuggets, the teams will play every other day until the series is over.
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