NBA playoffs: Heat are in a great spot in Game 1 against Celtics

The Eastern Conference finals get started Wednesday night as the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat add another chapter to their ongoing rivalry.

This will be the third conference final in four years between these two teams, with each winning once previously. This time around, the Celtics are massive favorites to advance to the NBA Finals for the second consecutive season, but they will need consistent play out of their stars to put a tenacious Miami team away.

The deeper we get into the postseason, the more it becomes a chess match between coaches countering each other's adjustments. Forecasting which players are most likely to benefit (or struggle) can make targeting player props the more advantageous path to coming out of the series with some profit. Here are three solid bets for player props that you will want to consider before the Heat and Celtics take the floor.

Bam Adebayo over 17.5 Points (-130)

Jimmy Butler can’t do it alone despite how amazing it is to watch him try. Butler clearly wasn’t the same player after returning from an ankle injury, but Adebayo stepped up when Miami needed him. And the Heat will certainly need him against the Celtics. Bam went over this total in each of the final three games against the Knicks and posted 23 points in Games 4 and 6.

Boston’s defense hasn’t been able to slow Adebayo this year. The last time Bam faced Boston, he dominated down low for 30 points and 15 rebounds. It’s possible Joe Mazzula goes big to make life harder on the Heat’s center, but I’m going to ride the hot hand one more time. The Heat enter the game with a pretty significant rest advantage, so I am going to bet Bam’s fresh legs produce more second-chance points for Miami’s offense.

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) drives toward the basket as Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, behind, defends during the second half of Game 7 in the NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series, Sunday, May 14, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Jayson Tatum under 44.5 Points, rebounds and assists (-120)

If Jayson Tatum plays like he did in Game 7 against Philadelphia, the other three teams remaining are in trouble. However, it’s his lack of consistency that makes us add these caveats whenever Tatum is mentioned among the elite.

This is a pretty good spot to fade Tatum off his incredible 51-point performance Sunday. I expect to see the Heat flying all over the floor on defense, and the clean looks on the perimeter will be much harder to come by than they were against a lethargic Sixers team in the last two games of that series.

Erik Spoelstra’s defense has historically done a decent job on Tatum, limiting him to finish under this prop total in five of the seven meetings this year. I will bank on Miami's defense forcing the ball out of Tatum's hands early and often.

Kyle Lowry over 18.5 points, rebounds and assists (-120)

As much as we talk about Adebayo’s resurgence in the postseason, Kyle Lowry has been a solid contributor. Erik Spoelstra is leaning on Lowry more and more as the playoffs progress, with the veteran guard logging at least 30 minutes in four of the last six games.

Boston has the bodies to slow Butler, and guys like Lowry are going to be crucial to the Heat’s offense in this series. Lowry cleared this prop in three of his last four games easily, combining for 21 and 24 (twice) points, rebounds and assists. He has been even better against Boston, averaging 22 total points, rebounds and assists, which bumps up to 25 in two games this season at the TD Garden.

We will see a solid team effort from a motivated Miami team, and I am betting Lowry steps into a big role Wednesday night.