The 2023 postseason has been one of the most unpredictable playoffs in recent memory. The Heat, Nuggets and Lakers all pulled off series upsets in the Conference Semifinals. The six series upsets so far this postseason are the most through two rounds in over 35 seasons according to SportsOddsHistory.com.
However, the Conference Finals have typically yielded expected results. Favorites are 18-2 in Conference Finals series in the past ten seasons. The two upsets were by the 2020 Miami Heat (+110 vs Boston Celtics) and 2019 Toronto Raptors (+230 vs Milwaukee Bucks). A Heat upset (+400) would be the largest Conference Finals upset since 2009 when the Orlando Magic (+550) beat the Cleveland Cavaliers.
While the series have resulted in upsets, favorites have still covered at a 61% rate, going 40-26-1. That’s the second-highest rate through two rounds in the last decade behind 2020-21.
Home teams have also been successful, going 40-27-1 ATS, the best mark through two rounds since 2007-08. They are 11-1 ATS in Game 2 and 9-2-1 ATS in Game 3. Over the last three postseasons, home teams are 35-7 ATS in Game 2, including 16-2 ATS when trailing the series 1-0.
No teams have been better at home this postseason than the Lakers and Nuggets, which are a combined 12-0 outright and 11-1 ATS.
Odds from Caesars Sportsbook. Historic series odds from SportsOddsHistory.com.
Los Angeles Lakers (+145) at Denver Nuggets (-170)
This is the first time LeBron James has been an underdog in three straight playoff series. He is now 6-7 in playoff series where his team enters as an underdog.
LeBron’s teams had been favored in 10 of their first 11 Conference Finals series, with the only exception being the first time he reached that round in 2007 with the Cleveland Cavaliers. That year, the Cavaliers upset the Pistons as +270 underdogs.
The Lakers were -550 favorites against the Nuggets (+425) when they met in the 2020 Conference Finals. This is the first time in five playoff meetings in the last 30 seasons where Denver has been favored.
The Lakers opened 22-1 to win the NBA title at Caesars Sportsbook and dropped as short as +950 before entering the season as 18-1. Their title odds reached as long as 75-1 in late November. The Nuggets opened 20-1 and reached as long as 22-1 in the offseason before entering the season at 16-1.
The Lakers are 6-0 ATS at home this postseason. Only three teams in the last 30 postseasons have started the playoffs at least 7-0 ATS at home (2017-18 Celtics: 10-0, 1991-91 Jazz: 8-0, 1995-96 Jazz: 7-0). The Nuggets are 5-1 ATS at home this postseason.
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Joe Fortenbaugh explains why he is giving the edge to the Nuggets in the Western Conference finals vs. the Lakers.
The Nuggets have been favored in eight straight meetings including all four this season. The teams split four meetings this season with the Lakers going 2-1-1 ATS. Three of the four meetings went under the total. The home team won all four meetings.
The Nuggets are 19-13 ATS after a loss this season, the second-best mark in the NBA.
LeBron James teams are 156-119-3 ATS in the playoffs. They are 29-23 ATS in Game 1 (8-11 ATS on the road), 28-24 ATS in Game 2, 31-21 ATS in Game 3, 31-18-3 ATS in Game 4, 15-23 ATS in Game 5, 16-8 ATS in Game 6 and 6-2 ATS in Game 7.
The Lakers are 48-45-1 ATS this season, including 27-20 ATS at home and 22-27-1 ATS on the road. They are 21-18 ATS as favorites and 26-26-2 ATS as underdogs. Overs are 49-46 in Lakers games. The Lakers are 26-22-1 ATS with both LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the lineup (overs are 28-21).
The Nuggets are 49-41-1 ATS this season. They are 30-16-1 ATS at home and 20-23 ATS on the road. They are 36-32-1 ATS as a favorite and 14-8 ATS as an underdog. Unders are 48-44-2 in Nuggets games.
Miami Heat (+400) at Boston Celtics (-525)
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Erin Dolan breaks down why she thinks the Heat have the upper hand over the Celtics.
The Heat seek to become the third team in the last 35 seasons to reach the NBA Finals despite being underdogs in each of their first three playoff series, joining the 1999 Houston Rockets and 1995 New York Knicks.
This is the fourth time the Heat have been +300 series underdogs under Erik Spoelstra. They won two of the previous three instances, including upsetting the Bucks as +750 underdogs in the first round.
The teams split four meetings this season with each team winning one road meeting. Two games went over and two went under.
Last year, the Celtics beat the Heat as -160 road favorites in the Conference Finals. These teams also met in the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals with the Heat pulling off the series upset as +110 underdogs. That is the last time there was a series upset in the Conference Finals.
Over the last two seasons, the Heat are 12-2 ATS as at least seven-point underdogs (7-2 ATS this season). They are 46-20 ATS in that role over the last seven seasons.
The Heat are 15-1 to win the NBA title at Caesars Sportsbook. They opened 12-1 last June, entered the season at 24-1 and were as long as 250-1 during the play-in tournament. The Celtics opened +650 last June, began the season +575 and have never had longer odds since.
The Heat are 40-52-3 ATS this season. They are 19-26-3 ATS at home and 21-26 ATS on the road. They are also 23-35-3 ATS as a favorite (14-22-3 ATS as home favorite) and 17-16 ATS as an underdog. Overs are 47-43-1 in Heat games this season, including 7-3-1 in the playoffs.
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Doug Kezirian weighs in on how he thinks the Eastern Conference Finals will play out between the Celtics and Heat.
The Celtics are 52-41-2 ATS this season. They are 28-20 ATS at home and 24-21-2 ATS on the road. The Celtics are 42-39-2 ATS as a favorite and 9-1 ATS as an underdog. Overs are 50-44-1 in Celtics games this season (8-5 in playoffs). 18 of Boston’s last 27 games have gone over the total.