Jimmy Butler takes a shot.

Will Jimmy Butler’s Miami Heat upset the odds again? Photo by @SLAMnewswire (Twitter)

  • The Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets are heading to Game 7 to decide who faces the Lakers in the Conference Finals
  •  The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat meet in the Eastern Conference Finals – which begins on Tuesday night
  • Get the odds on the two series, betting discussion and picks below

It’s been a turbulent journey to get here, but the NBA’s 2019-20 Conference Finals are finally here. The Miami Heat and Boston Celtics meet in the Eastern Conference, while the Los Angeles Lakers await the outcome of the Clippers and Nuggets’ Game 7.

Where the Los Angeles duos have been favored in the Conference Finals odds since last offseason’s blockbuster acquisitions, the Celtics and Heat are a surprising matchup. The top seeded Milwaukee Bucks crumbled in the second round, and the two-seed Toronto Raptors could not get past Boston in seven games.

Starting with the East, here’s a quick rundown of the two Conference Finals series.

Celtics vs Heat Eastern Conference Finals Odds

Team Odds to Win Series At DraftKings
Boston Celtics -134
Miami Heat +110

All odds taken September 13th

Battle of Pure Talent vs System & Depth

It’s easy to label this series as the grit of the Heat against the pure talent of the Celtics. There’s an element of truth in that, but it downplays the toughness of this Celtics team and undervalues the depth of talent Miami has. These are two very good teams.

Miami have shooting, a great coach and an elite closer in Jimmy Butler. The Celtics are a top-quality defensive team, with their own great coach, and an array of offensive talent led by the ever-improving Jayson Tatum.

The Celtics played the end of their first-round series and the entirety of the second round without Gordon Hayward. Back in the bubble and having cleared quarantine, the former Utah Jazz wing should be available at some point during the Conference Finals.

How many games the C’s get out of Hayward – and how many minutes he can play – could be crucial. Stevens got useful minutes from his bench at times in the Toronto series, but his options are limited with Marcus Smart in the starting lineup.

Miami lost two of their three regular season matchups with Boston. Their one win came in the seeding games, with Boston at full strength and no Butler. Given how the Heat have performed in Orlando, little can be read into how they played before the season’s hiatus.

The mix of scorers on Boston will test Miami. Milwaukee is short on ball-handling, but the Celtics have no such worry. Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Hayward and Kemba Walker are all more than capable of creating their own shot, and the Celtics are one of the best passing teams in the league.

Both of these teams move the ball well. Playing at their best, there’s off-ball movement aplenty and limited isolations. The scoring burden is shared, but there will be moments when the ability to get a bucket out of nowhere is crucial. How difficult can the Celtics make it for Butler?

The Bucks were an ideal matchup for Miami. Boston will be trickier, and with Hayward coming back, deserve to be favorites. It’s hard to feel confident either way, but the Celtics’ top-tier talent makes it marginally easier to back them.

Pick: Boston Celtics (-134)

2020 Western Conference Finals Series Odds

Team Odds to Win Series
Los Angeles Lakers TBD
Los Angeles Clippers/Denver Nuggets TBD

The Los Angeles series looked inevitable when Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Anthony Davis all headed to California last summer. It’s yet to be confirmed, however, and the Clippers face the unenviable scenario of a Game 7 against the Denver Nuggets.

The Lakers made light work of the Houston Rockets in the semifinals after a Game 1 loss, and have the added benefit of additional rest before they face the Clippers or Nuggets in the Conference Finals.

Potential Clippers-Lakers Showdown

A series with the Clippers is what we have all been waiting for. It’s Kawhi vs LeBron James, it’s the previously quiet neighbors fighting the historic Lakers.

This season will be legacy defining for so many people – a showdown between these two has so much on the line.

The flexibility the Lakers had to show with their line-ups against the Rockets should stand them in good stead for a Clippers matchup. Davis was brilliant at center in that series, and that’s something Frank Vogel will likely need if the Clips go small with Marcus Morris or JaMychal Green at the five.

Inconsistency has troubled the Clippers throughout the season and that has remained in this postseason. Their defense varies between impenetrable and average – such fluctuations cannot be afforded against the Lakers.

Where Vogel tweaked his approach to guide his team through the second round, Doc Rivers was unable to take control of the series with Denver. The play of Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams is a major concern for Rivers if the Clips make the Conference Finals.

Not so long ago, the Clippers looked set to cruise to the Conference Finals while the Lakers battled the Rockets. The opposite has happened, and that extra rest could benefit the Lakers early in the series.

Nuggets Pose Different Threat

If the Nuggets get past the Clippers, they will challenge the Lakers in a very different way. Denver went 1-3 versus the Lakers in the regular season, and while fatigue could be an issue at the start of the Conference Finals, they will be playing with immense confidence after overturning a 3-1 series deficit for the second time in these playoffs.

Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray have taken turns at getting hot in this postseason. Murray was unstoppable in the first round, and the Clips have had no answer for the Joker in the semifinals. Davis will take the Jokic assignment, a fascinating matchup at both ends, while Murray is a challenging guy for the Lakers to guard. Perimeter defense is one of the main weaknesses on this Lakers roster – there’s no obvious answer for who takes Murray.

For Denver to seriously challenge the Lakers, they need consistent play from their non-stars. Jerami Grant, Torrey Craig and Gary Harris need to be effective at both ends. A game or two of offensive magic from Michael Porter Jr. would be helpful.

Mike Malone’s team will be massive underdogs if they face the Lakers, but that’s a status they are familiar with. This has the makings of a compelling series, and one which prove to be tougher than expected for the Lakers.

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