The NBA futures bet in the tight Eastern Conference playoff race

Action Network’s NBA expert offers up to three betting recommendations in the extremely tight Eastern Conference.

Heat under 54.5 wins (-120, DraftKings)

The Heat is 43-22, meaning Miami has 17 games left. In other words, the heat would need to finish 12-5 or better to make this over. And honestly, I’m not sure they’re going to need that.

Look, this isn’t even really a vote against Miami. The Heat are doing really well and finally healthy and now the word is that Victor Oladipo is healthy and back soon too. The Heat have a relatively soft schedule and should win many games. However, I’m not sure if they really need 55 wins.

As Sunday began, the Heat were three games ahead of Philly, and Miami were already 3.5 games plus a tiebreaker ahead of the Bulls.

You might not have to go much better than .500 the rest of the way to roll out to an easy 1-seed, and at that point there’s no motivation to play that older roster rather than rest Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Kyle Lowry for those Playoffs after a grueling, injury-plagued season.

Jimmy Butler (22) beats Tyler Herro (14).
Jimmy Butler (22) beats Tyler Herro (14).
NBAE via Getty Images

The Heat end their season against the Bulls, Raptors, Hornets, Hawks and Magic. Four of those teams will be desperate for wins to improve their postseason chances, and the Magic may have gotten their tank by then, too. I’m not fading Miami, just the Heat’s motivation to hit 55 wins. Give me the underwear.

76s over 2.5 seeds (+145, DraftKings)

The Heat are almost certainly entrenched in one of the top two seedings, meaning we only need one other team from the East to finish ahead of Philadelphia to reach this over. Perhaps Milwaukee will recover and finish strong. Perhaps Boston’s rise in the standings will continue. Maybe Chicago or Cleveland make a big push for the division title.

Even if none of that happens, we still don’t really know that Philadelphia will stay healthy and great. Joel Embiid or James Harden could get injured again and wins may not be that easy once the schedule tightens and teams have a chance to play against their new look.

We don’t need miracles here. We really just need a better than 40 percent chance that one of these things will jump in our favor and Philly will end up missing the 2-seed. Look, Embiid has about an equal chance of winning the MVP, and if the Sixers finish as a top 2 seed, he’s a very strong favorite to win that honor. The fact that he’s not a heavy favorite is a good reminder of why there’s value here.

Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts
Joel Embiid’s absence leaves the Sixers five starters amid a daunting road stretch.
AP photo

Celtics +370 to win Atlantic Division (DraftKings)

I’ve been pumping up Boston for a few weeks now and this looks like a great opportunity to invest. The Celtics currently have the best defense in the NBA. They got Robert Williams out of the paint and unleashed him as a backup defender and that’s also put Al Horford in a rotating role that he’s at his best. The presence of Derrick White was a great asset at both ends too, especially in place of Dennis Schroder.

The Celtics are flying now. They had won 13 of their last 15 on Sunday, with many of those wins being dominant, and they have a very winning schedule the rest of the way as well. Just three of their next 13 games are against teams in the top four in each conference, and a difficult closing stretch on the road against the Bulls, Bucks and Grizzlies could end easier than it seems if one or two of those teams are already rest for the playoffs. The NBA futures bet in the tight Eastern Conference playoff race


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