While Super Bowl Sunday is undoubtedly today’s main event, there’s a nice little NBA appetizer on deck with Eastern Conference rivals squaring off as the Boston Celtics visit the Miami Heat.
While the Heat vanquished the Celtics in a memorable playoff series last summer, it’s the Celtics who have dominated the league this season and are NBA odds favorites to win the whole thing in June.
Miami is happy to claim perpetual underdog status, however, and has shown time and time again the danger of underestimating them.
My NBA picks and predictions for Celtics vs. Heat for Sunday, February 11 believe Boston should comfortably clear today’s spread.
Celtics vs Heat odds
Celtics vs Heat predictions
The Boston Celtics have been the NBA’s best team all year long. Both in the standings and the statistical resume, they are the team to beat.
They are the only team to sport a Top-5 rating on both sides of the ball (they’re Top 3 on offense and defense), leading to a best-in-class +9.3 point differential, per Cleaning the Glass.
If there are questions about the Celtics as a title contender, they largely center on how they fell apart against Sunday’s opponent last May: the Miami Heat.
The Heat earned their trip to the NBA Finals last season but have been sleepwalking ever since. While they’re a respectable 28-24 on the season, they have a worse point differential than the Nets, who are 10 games under .500.
The talent disparity is real. The Heat beat Boston during the playoffs because they got a hot shooting stretch from most of their roster. The trio of Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, and Kyle Lowry are no longer with the team.
They’re not shooting nearly well enough collectively to hang with the Celtics. The Kristaps Porzingis addition also allows Boston to bend the Miami defense in ways they couldn’t when they relied on Al Horford and Robert Williams III.
The statistical disparity has lessened in recent weeks however, with the Celtics only modestly outperforming the Heat in terms of point differential over the past two weeks. Boston is also a miserable 3-7 against the spread in their last 10 games. That’s why this line isn’t bigger than it might otherwise be.
I don’t believe that’s indicative of some sea change in overall team quality. The Heat are genuinely playing a bit better, and the Celtics worse, but I have reason to believe the latter will not continue.
If the Celtics have had a real issue lately, to my eye, it’s been solely one of motivation. A team like Boston is playing only to win the championship, and the daily grind of beating up on mostly lesser teams doesn’t always hold attention for a squad that has been to the Eastern Conference Finals five times in seven seasons.
That’s why I think they let a team like the Wizards hang around late into their last game and why I don’t think the same thing is going to happen on Sunday.
The Heat are not just a conference rival, they are the architects of the lowest moments in Celtics history over the last few years. Going down 3-0 to them last season in the East Finals seemed like the nadir of the Celtics’ recent history until they managed to come back and hit a new low by choking Game 7 at home.
Those are fresh scars, and the Celtics are going to make a point of punishing the Heat for it as long as their talent allows them to.
When these teams played two weeks ago, the Celtics won 143-110. The final result on Sunday might not be quite that disparate, but I don’t think there’s reason to expect a dramatic change either.
My best bet: Celtics -5.5 (-110 at SIA)
Celtics vs Heat same-game parlay
For the second leg of my SGP, I’m banking on Derrick White to get at least one block. White was a dark horse candidate to make the All-Star team this year because of all the little things he does that add up to winning. In addition to the playmaking and shooting, he’s also a better rim protector than you might expect.
His 1.8% block rate is the highest of his career and puts him in the 99th percentile among all combo guards, per Cleaning the Glass.
He’s averaging 1.5 blocks over his last 10 games and has had at least one block in all 10. This was very close to being my best bet for this matchup, so I’m happy to include it in my SGP.
Remember how I just finished saying the Celtics’ problem recently has largely been one of motivation? The same logic applies to Heat star Jimmy Butler.
Butler is notorious as a player who turns things up a notch (or several) in the playoffs, and who famously considers making the All-Star team an unworthy distraction from winning, but even he can get up for certain regular season games, and a matchup against the Celtics on his home floor with a chance to put the scare into a likely playoff foil again is too good to pass up.
Butler is the caliber of player who determines his own performance level. The Celtics by all rights have an elite perimeter defense that should be well-suited to slowing him down, but Jimmy is good enough to succeed despite all of that if he has the right mindset, and I believe he will on Sunday.
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Celtics vs Heat spread and Over/Under analysis
Boston opened as -4.5 and -5.5 road favorites for Sunday’s tilt with most sportsbooks offering it at -5.5 at the time of writing.
The Celtics record against the spread has not been strong in recent weeks, but neither has the Heat’s. Miami is just 4-6 ATS in their last 10 and a rough 11-16 ATS on their home floor. That further drops to 0-6 ATS as home underdogs.
The Heat have a positive point differential over the past two weeks, which has not been true for much of the season. While they have a couple of decent wins in that span against the Kings and Magic, that number is mostly inflated by wins against the Association’s bottom-feeders.
They’ve shown no ability to match up against the NBA’s elite, and Boston is the cream of the crop.
The total for Celtics-Heat opened at a modest 225.5, with early action moving that as high as 227.5. Oddsmakers are seemingly forecasting a low-scoring game despite the Celtics’ elite offense rating.
That’s because the Heat have been a wretched offensive team for most of the season. Their 113.8 offensive rating is only slightly better than the Magic, Wizards, and (wait for it) the Pistons.
They haven’t been better relative to the rest of the league since they brought in Terry Rozier either. While they felt moving off Lowry was the best move for their chances this season, I think they’re continuing to miss his intangibles on both ends.
Boston’s defense has been much worse than their standard the past two weeks, but I again think that’s because they’re bored and waiting for the All-Star break. I think they’ll ratchet things up against the Heat and that’s why this total is justifiably low.
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Celtics vs Heat betting trend to know
The Heat are 0-6 ATS as home underdogs this season. Find more NBA betting trends for Celtics vs. Heat.
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Celtics vs Heat game info
|Kaseya Center, Miami, FL
|Sunday, February 11, 2024
|2:00 p.m. ET
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