Heat vs. Celtics Game 7 picks, best bets: Why Boston will reach NBA Finals despite Miami’s home-court edge

With the 2021-22 NBA regular season now in the books, the basketball betting market is hotter than ever. CBS Sports will be providing daily picks for the duration of the postseason. Sam Quinn will make at least one pick for every game between now and the NBA Finals. All lines courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.

Featured Game | Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics

I’ve been agonizing over this pick since Game 6 ended. Boston has undeniably been the “better” team within this series. The Celtics have outscored the Heat by 33 points in six games. Their season-long track record is also more impressive. Their second-round win over the Bucks trumps anything Miami did in the first two rounds, and after starting the regular season 23-24, they finished 28-7 with a plus-15.5 net rating. The Heat, in that same period, were a much more modest plus-4.5. There’s a reason the overwhelming consensus coming into this series was that Boston would win.

And yet, home teams win roughly 80 percent of Game 7s. Should that matter in a series in which home teams are 2-4? Maybe? It’s also worth asking how willing we should be to discard the season-long sample in Miami’s case because it has outperformed expectations in two of the past three postseasons. The Heat might just be better-suited to playoff basketball than regular-season basketball. They’ve also kept this series close despite dealing with far worse injuries than Boston has. The Heat seem healthier now than they were during their losses in Games 4 and 5. They definitely aren’t at full strength. Make of that what you will. You’re getting points in you take the Heat. Game 7s are often close.

In the end, I settled on Boston for a few reasons:

  • As Seth Partnow pointed out on Twitter, Miami just had one of the greatest late-clock shot-making performances of all time. They had an effective field-goal percentage of 61.4 in the final four seconds of the shot clock. That’s up from 36.4 percent in the rest of the postseason, and 16 percent of their shots came in the last four seconds. If the Heat make the sort of shots they made in Game 6, they’ll win. It’s a one-game sample. Another hot night isn’t out of the realm of possibility. But it was an enormous outlier of a performance. Typically, defenses are going to do quite well when they can drain the shot clock on 16 percent of possessions.
  • The Celtics have a remarkable capacity for nonsense. The turnovers, sadly, should just be expected at this point. But is Marcus Smart really going to lead Boston in field-goal attempts in Game 7? Are six of its top seven players going to rack up at least four fouls? If Boston can just get out of its own way, it should have a much easier time in Game 7. That’s what has happened in it wins.
  • Miami’s injuries are much more significant than Boston’s, and it’s fair to wonder how much of a toll Game 6 really took. Jimmy Butler played 46 minutes after three injury-riddled games. Remember when he scored 35 to heroically extend the 2020 Finals in Game 5? Well … he scored 12 in Game 6, the series ender. He now has five 35-point games this postseason. In the games immediately following the first four, he’s averaged a more modest 21.8 points per game. Asking an injured Butler to match his Game 6 performance is going to be difficult, but he might need to. Heat players not named Butler scored just 64 points in Game 6. Of those 64, 18 came from Kyle Lowry, who played 37 minutes after averaging just 25 in the first three games of this series that he played in. How will his hamstring handle that load? Having Tyler Herro would help offensively … but at this point, he’d probably do more harm than good. Even healthy, he has to contribute so much on offense to justify his poor defense. Is that even possible with a major groin injury? Would his presence just give the Celtics a target to hunt on the other end? There aren’t good answers here. Maybe the Heat are just so tough that they can gut it out for one more game. It would just be asking a lot.

So, after having been burned in Game 6, I am reluctantly taking the Celtics and hoping for the best. The pick: Celtics -3

I’ve covered Game 7 point totals before, so to keep it brief, they are almost always very low scoring. Chalk that up to Game 7 nerves, defenses having a better understanding of what offenses are running, pure exhaustion, whatever, but I’m always going to take the under because, as I wrote about in more depth here, the numbers suggest it’s typically going to hit. The pick: Under 195.5

Over his last four games, P.J. Tucker is averaging just under 17 combined points, rebounds and assists per game. Remember, that includes a Game 4 blowout in which he played just 21 minutes. Assuming he doesn’t get into foul trouble, he’s going to play much more in Game 7, including some backup center minutes that are ripe for rebounding opportunities. Look at the line this way: Say Tucker makes one corner 3-pointer and another of those little floaters he’s loved all postseason. He’s had at least one assist in his past seven playoff games, so you’d need only seven rebounds to guarantee a victory, and that’s assuming he doesn’t rack up more points or assists. There are just too many ways you can win this bet to take the under. The pick: Tucker over 13.5 combined points, rebounds and assists

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