Preview for Game 1 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals
The Miami Heat has been a very good team all season long. But something has helped change their fortunes in the playoffs. BetAnySports customers might be able to put their finger on it, and we'll try to elaborate on it. The Heat and Boston Celtics will meet at 6:30 PM ET in Game 1 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals.
And if you are a customer, you can get reduced juice on all these games. And you will also be able to place wagers in real-time when you take advantage of what is available through Sports Betting Prime.
There is little question that Erik Spoelstra has done a tremendous job this season, and maybe he should have been given more consideration for the coach of the year award that was eventually shared between Billy Donovan and Mike Budenholzer. But Spoelstra has been doing a good job all along; he just didn't get a lot of credit when he had LeBron James, Dywane Wade and Chris Bosh on his roster.
The Heat were the fifth seed in the East, and it wasn't all that significant because the fourth-seeded Indiana Pacers didn't have any home court advantage. Actually, nobody did. And that was a break for Miami, which was just 14-19 on the road.
Coming into the NBA bubble outside of Orlando, Kendrick Nunn got off to a slow start because of a positive COVID test among other things. Nunn was a viable candidate for the rookie of the year award, so his lack of preparation was a problem. Spoelstra had the solution, as he would call on one of his grizzled veterans to take on a bigger role.
He turned to 34-year-old free agent-to-be Goran Dragic. And that has been a very big difference-maker, with Miami now having won eight out of nine games since the post-season began.
In the NBA playoff odds that have been posted on this game by the folks at BetAnySports, the Celtics are the slight favorites in Game 1:
Boston Celtics -1.5
Miami Heat +1.5
Over 209.5 points -110
Under 209.5 points -110
Dragic is 34 years old but had been a starter all through his NBA career, even garnering an All-Star slot a couple of seasons ago. But Spoelstra asked him to come off the bench this season. It was a tough thing for Dragic to swallow, but he thrived in his role. And he had combined with All-Stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo for a winning combination while they were all on the floor together, as they had a +58 plus-minus.
With Nunn unable to handle a more extensive role - at least in Spoelstra's estimation - Dragic was recruited to go back into the starting lineup. He was unsure about it, because by now he had gotten used to the "sixth man" role.
But he did it anyway, and he's been sensational. He is a principal component to what Miami is doing - to the extent that his Usage figure of 25.5% was the team's highest in the 4-1 victory over Milwaukee in the previous playoff round. He is the player in this lineup who0 has been attacking the basket the most (15.8 times a game). And teaming up with Butler and Adebayo, they've got a +58 plus-minus again, this time in only 188 minutes of playoff basketball.
You had better believe that he is going to be a huge presence in the series against Boston, not just offensively but on defense as well, because Spoelstra has also gone to a smaller, more versatile lineup for defensive purposes. And Dragic, like others in this lineup, has the ability to guard multiple positions.
And I think this is the operative factor that will ultimately put Miami over the top in both Game 1 and the series.
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