NBA Conference Finals Betting Preview & Odds: Who Will Win the East & West?

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Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets high fives Aaron Gordon #50 during the second quarter in game six of the Western Conference Semifinal Playoffs against the Phoenix Suns. Christian Petersen/Getty Images/AFP

For one brief moment, the Philadelphia 76ers had the world in the palm of their hand. After they went up 3-2 on the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Sixers had the best chance in the NBA of winning it all, at least according to FiveThirtyEight. Then Philly lost back-to-back games. So much for The Process.

With Joel Embiid and James Harden out of the way, the Celtics are now runaway -525 favorites to win the East on the NBA odds board at the top US sportsbooks, with the Miami Heat well behind at +375 as we go to press.

Meanwhile, way out West, the Denver Nuggets are -150 favorites on the NBA series prices to put away LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers (+130). I suspect we’ll find that Denver and Miami have all the betting value once we dig deep and peel back the layers, so let’s get cracking.

Eastern Conference: Celtics vs. Heat

Bienvenidos a Miami

The crazy thing about this year’s Eastern Conference is how many good teams there were fighting for a playoff berth. Miami won the Southeast Division at 44-38 (31-49-2 ATS) and still had to go through the play-in tournament as the No. 8 seed.

There were definitely some flaws on this team, as you can guess by looking at that awful ATS record. But they got healthy, more or less, at just the right time; Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry have saved Miami’s bacon this postseason. Adding Kevin Love on the buyout market was also a wise move.

Heat Undervalued

The No. 2 Celtics (57-25 SU, 45-36-1 ATS) are still amazing, that much is self-evident. But FiveThirtyEight “only” has Boston’s chances of winning the East at 78%, which works out to -354 betting odds using the splendid BMR Odds Converter.

As suspected, the Heat have the value despite their mere 22% projected chance of victory. Miami is about as close to a classic “contrarian” pick as you can get; they’re the underdogs and the higher-numbered seed playing in a somewhat regional market now that King James doesn’t rule over South Beach.

The Celtics, in sharp contrast, are the famous large-market franchise with all the hype and increased expectations that come with it. They’ll probably beat Miami, but you’re paying a premium if you’re putting Boston in your NBA picks.

Western Conference: Nuggets vs. Lakers

The Joker Is Wild

Speaking of James, his L.A. Lakers (43-39 SU, 40-41-1 ATS) also had to go through the Western play-in as the No. 7 seed, but that’s about all they have in common with Miami from a betting perspective. It’s the favored Nuggets (53-29 SU, 45-37 ATS) providing the small-market value this time.

Denver’s Top Players

It still boggles our minds here at the home office that Nikola Jokic didn’t win his third straight MVP. We all understand why Embiid won instead, and really, this whole Aristotelian classification regime is a bit silly; the important point is that Denver has the best basketball player on the planet not named Victor Wembanyama, and the betting public doesn’t recognize it.

It looks like Playoff Jamal Murray is back as well. After struggling in his return from ACL surgery, Murray has really turned it on during the postseason, improving his Box Plus/Minus at Basketball Reference from plus-1.3 to plus-4.1.

Everything in Denver rotates around the Jokic-Murray axis. It’s not unlike what’s happening in Los Angeles with James and Anthony Davis, except Murray makes a better point guard than LeBron, especially when it comes to 3-point shooting:

  • Murray: 39.5% (playoffs)
  • James: 26.3%

Jokic and Murray probably have the better-supporting cast as well, although the Lakers made great strides on that front before the trade deadline. Either way, FiveThirtyEight has Denver winning the West 71% of the time (-245). So bet accordingly, and may the sphere be with you.

*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.