- The Denver Nuggets beat the Clippers in Game 7 to book a Conference Finals meeting with the Lakers
- 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 face the Denver Nuggets.
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|
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||-560|
The Los Angeles series looked inevitable when Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Anthony Davis all headed to California last summer. That scenario has not become reality, however, with the Denver Nuggets upsetting the Clippers in the second round.
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 Nuggets in the Conference Finals.
Nuggets Pose Different Threat
The Nuggets 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 are 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.
Dare Anyone Doubt Denver?
Denver has looked down and out more than once in this post-season. They have made a habit of overturning major second-half deficits against both Utah and the Clippers. Nothing fazes this team, and neither should it after what they have achieved in these playoffs. Betting against them feels perilous at this point, but the Lakers might prove too much for them.
@patbev21 I guess I should extend this Cancun invite since I haven’t made my arrangements yet 😂😂😂
— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) September 16, 2020
The extra rest could be critical. Davis is a better matchup for Jokic than any player on the Clips. LeBron James has been picking defenses apart this post-season, and will take advantage of a Denver defense that can leave people open.
The Nuggets won’t go out with a whimper. Expect a deep series, but the Lakers should have enough to get over the line.
Pick: Los Angeles Lakers -400
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