Ignore the pounds, it’s Boston’s losing streak
The Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors will face off in the 2022 NBA Finals. The Warriors have the home court advantage, but that hasn’t hurt the Celtics much in the playoffs. Let’s take a look at the matchup in our Celtics-Warriors picks.
The NBA Finals are just days away and bettors don’t have much time before the books adjust for some net money. The Warriors come into the series with several advantages, including home court, rest and health. They are therefore considerable betting favorites.
But the math favors the Celtics. Boston was the favorite to win the NBA Finals in FiveThirtyEightpredictive model of since the first round. The site now gives the Celtics an 83% chance of winning the title.
Boston boasts the model’s highest full-power rating. In contrast, the Warriors only rank 13th. Mathematical modeling may underestimate the Warriors’ star power cap. After all, it’s hard to quantify Klay Thompson’s Game 6. But Boston’s huge advantage leads to betting value.
Here are my Celtics-Warriors picks and predictions for their NBA Finals game (odds via BetMGM, DraftKings Sportsbook, and FanDuel Sportsbook; pick confidence is based on a 1-5 star scale).
Celtics vs Warriors Odds Analysis
You will find the Warriors listed as -160 or -150 favorites among the most reputable sportsbooks. The Celtics are +130 underdogs. The books give Golden State a 1.5 game advantage in major playoff broadcast markets, though the Warriors only have +155 to cover. Boston is between -184 and -210 on the spread of the series.
Among the exact score markets, Golden State 4-3 received the shortest odds between +310 and +350. Boston 4-2 gets the next shortest line between +370 and +400. Both of these make sense, as the home team is expected to win the series on home soil, although road wins haven’t been a problem for Boston. The Celtics are between +550 and +650 to win the series in Game 7 on the road.
Stephen Curry is the favorite to win the NBA Finals MVP at odds between +120 and +110. Jayson Tatum holds the second shortest odds at +175 in the market. Jaylen Brown, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are the only other players with ratings below +2000.
Celtics pick vs. Warriors
- To win the series: Celtics (+130 via DraftKings) ★★★
- Spread of the series: Celtics +1.5 (-184 via FanDuel) ★★★★
- Exact result: Celtics 4-3 (+650 via DraftKings) ★★★★
- NBA Finals MVP: Jayson Tatum Finals MVP (+175 via BetMGM) ★★★★
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Celtics vs. Warriors Predictions
To win the series: Celtics (+130)
It’s a three-star bet only because you’ll probably be able to buy it for a much better price after the first game.
The Celtics have lost their last two series openers – one of which even came at home – and they barely won their opener against the Brooklyn Nets. So expect them to start in a 1-0 hole. This line should move towards +175 or so once this happens.
Either way, the Celtics should win this series because they play a more enduring brand of basketball. The Warriors possess star power, advantage, and a tendency to crush mathematical patterns with their breakthrough precision. But all good things must end. Golden State’s 66% winning percentage in 2022 should actually be around 60%, according to Shooting quality. Meanwhile, Boston’s 63% winning percentage should be around 65%.
In addition, Boston has an advantage in two crucial parameters. They had a better free throw rate (29.8% to 25.3%) and a lower turnover rate (14.6% to 15%). The Warriors produced the best effective field goal percentage (57.2% to 53.6%), but that rating seems too high. Golden State recorded an effective field goal percentage of just 55% during the regular season, which was not far off Boston’s 54.1%.
Golden State is expected to experience a severe regression, and putting the numbers in context reveals just how unsustainable their performance has been. The team’s current effective field goal percentage of 57.2% is higher than any rate ever achieved by their previous Championship rosters. The 2016-17 Warriors have the highest effective field goal percentage ever for an NBA champion at 56.7%. Only one other champion, the 2019-20 Los Angeles Lakers, has finished above 56% – and they’ve done it in the bubble.
The Warriors are good, but they’re not good as a superteam. Regression is inevitable, especially against Boston’s elite defense. The Celtics allowed an NBA-lowest effective field goal percentage of 50.2% during the regular season. They only got better in the playoffs, as their playoff opponents possess an average effective field goal percentage of just 49%.
Look for the best regular season defense in the NBA to stop Golden State’s unsustainable offensive run.
Series gap: Celtics +1.5 (-184)
It’s probably silly to play most playoff markets before Game 1, but this one feels like a lock at all costs. The Celtics have not lost consecutive playoff games in all of the playoffs. They should do it at least once, but more than likely twice, not to cover here.
Boston’s incredible ability to bounce back from losses was on display throughout the campaign. The Celtics were at one point 11th in the Eastern Conference, but they entered the playoffs as the No. 2 seed. Boston is 26-11 after a loss in 2021-22, the second percentage highest number of wins after a loss. The Warriors are just 20-13 after losing, which ranks them eighth overall.
The Celtics can lose all of their road games and cash in on that bet. Considering the Warriors are a measly 25-23 on the road, there’s a good chance that will happen.
Golden State has consistently failed to capitalize on big road spots in the playoffs. The Warriors held a multiple-game advantage in each previous series before allowing the action to return to San Francisco. If the Warriors win 3-2 against Boston, they are unlikely to win Game 6 given their recent history. This makes this game relatively safe.
Exact result: Celtics 4-3 (+650)
The odds for this game are irresponsible. The Celtics are 30-20 on the road in 2021-22, giving them the third-best winning percentage on the road. Yet the books yield to conventional wisdom about home court advantage. Boston won Game 6 on the road against the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round, and the Celtics went on to win Game 7 on the road against the Heat.
However, the Warriors own an incredible 40-10 home record. It will be tough for any team to beat them at Chase Center, but the Celtics have already done it in 2021-22. They beat the Warriors by 22 points in San Francisco in March, although Stephen Curry left the game with a foot injury. Still, he only recorded three runs and had shot 1 for 4 before leaving.
You’ll find odds for this game at +550 at BetMGM, so we’re getting surprising value from DraftKings.
NBA Finals MVP: Tatum Finals MVP (+175)
The NBA Finals MVP comes from the winning team of all series since 1969. Since I’m aiming for the Celtics to win, I’m also going to focus on their best player to get the MVP award.
Tatum is averaging 27 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists per playoff game. Stephen Curry, who is the favorite, is averaging 25.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game. Only one other player (Jaylen Brown) averages more than 20 points per game.
Tatum led the Celtics in their blowout win over the Warriors in March. While he scored 26 points with Brown, Tatum also paced the team in rebounds with 12. He also dished out one more assist than Brown.
I’m also targeting Tatum because of his clutch performance in do-or-die games. He scored a team-high 46 points in Game 6 against the Bucks. Tatum also produced a team-high 26 points in Game 7 against the Heat.
Tatum has shown incredible clutch skill since his 360-degree layup to win Game 1 against the Nets, and he offers the most value for the Finals MVP. However, you might be better off waiting until after the first game.
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NBA Finals picks made on 05/30/2022 at 2:31 PM ET.