Hello! I hope you've enjoyed your Memorial Day weekend. We have an excellent slate of sports awaiting us tonight, with Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat and Game 6 of the Western Conference Final between the Dallas Stars and Las Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL.
The biggest story, of course, is Game 7. Boston is looking to become the first team to overcome a 3-0 deficit in the NBA Playoffs (meanwhile, Dallas is trying to pull off the same feat against Las Vegas), and the Heat are looking to avoid being on the wrong end of history. Winner goes to the NBA Finals where the Denver Nuggets await, and I couldn't live with myself if I didn't share some of my gambling thoughts for the game with you.
But first, some holiday reading.
Let's fire up the grill.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
Heat at Celtics, 8:30 p.m. | TV: TNT
- Key Trend: Butler is averaging 24.2 points per game in the series.
- The Pick: Jimmy Butler Under 28.5 Points (--119)
Let's start with some NBA Game 7 factoids. Tonight's game will be the 148th Game 7 in NBA Playoffs history. Of the first 147, only six have gone to overtime, and the home team is 112-35. No franchise has won more Games 7 than the Boston Celtics, who have won 27. The next closest team is the Lakers at 16. Boston is 27-9 all-time in Game 7. Miami is 6-5.
So when you see how home teams perform in these situations and how the organizations have individually, it doesn't inspire much confidence in Miami's chances tonight. And it's hard for me to imagine Jimmy Butler playing well in a game Miami loses, so I have to take the under on his point total.
But that's not the only reason I'm doing so. Butler is averaging 24.2 points per game in the series and has scored 29 points in only two games. There was his 35-point performance in Game 1 and his 29-point performance in Game 4. I expected Jimmy to empty the clip in Game 6, but while he had a great overall game and stepped it up in the fourth quarter, he finished with only 24 points, and 12 came at the free throw line. That's important because, in this series, Butler has averaged 11 free throw attempts in Miami's three home games compared to only 6.3 per game in Boston.
Sia Nejad, Jon "Buckets" Eimer, Propstarz and Larry Hartstein join forces to dish out Monday's Memorial Day best bets!
After dominating the first two games of the series, Butler's shooting has fallen off a cliff in four games since, as he's shot 36.9%. In other words, those free throws are critical to him reaching the over on his point total. I wouldn't expect he gets a friendly whistle on the road environment, plus officials tend to let things go a bit more in Game 7.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: As has been the case most of the series, the Projection Model is leaning toward one side of the total.
🏀 More Eastern Conference Finals
The Pick: Marcus Smart Over 13.5 Points (-129) -- There's been a subtle but effective shift in the Celtics offense. In the series' first three games, Marcus Smart was trying to play the pure point guard role. In those losses, Smart averaged 7.3 assists per game to only 6.7 shot attempts. In the three wins, he's averaged 12.7 shots to 3.0 assists. The ball has been in the hands of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown a lot more, with Smart serving as an outlet. Nearly 70% of the shots Smart has taken have been threes.
While he shot poorly in Game 4, he's lit it up the last two games, scoring 23 points in Game 5 and 21 in Game 6. I don't know if he gets into the 20s again tonight, but assuming Boston continues the approach that's been effective for it on offense tonight, he'll continue getting shots.
The Pick: Max Strus Under 4.5 Rebounds & Assists (-139) -- During the regular season, Max Strus had even splits at home and on the road when it came to his rebounds and assists. At home, he averaged 5.4 per game. On the road, it dropped to 5.3. However, that has not been the case in the playoffs. Strus is averaging only 4.3 rebounds and assists in the postseason, and we've seen a drop-off in production since Miami's series against the Knicks, particularly on the road.
In Game 1 of the Knicks series, Strus finished with five total rebounds and assists. He hasn't had more than three in a road game since. In three games in Boston in the series, he's had five total. So, while it's not impossible, Strus would have to match the combined output of his first three games in Boston tonight to go over this total.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: While it doesn't have an A-graded play, the Projection Model does have a B-grade on a play in tonight's hockey game.