Celtics-Heat pick, Jimmy Butler player prop for NBA playoffs: Best Bets for May 19

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Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) shoots against Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) in the first half of game 1 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals playoff series in Boston, Wednesday, May 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Each day, one of our experts will offer up a best bet (or two or three) that mobile sportsbooks are offering. It might be a traditional spread bet, a player prop or one of the various odds boosts that books offer.

Here are our best bets for Friday, May 19:

TOP PLAY

The play: NBA Eastern Conference Finals Game 2, Celtics -9 over Heat

The odds: -108

The book: FanDuel Sportsbook

Time/TV: 8:30 p.m. (TNT)

Our take: The NBA playoffs are a great spot to bet bounce-backs and gauge motivation, and this one seems easy: The Celtics absolutely, positively need to have Game 2 and go to Miami with a split, while the Heat can be content headed home with the victory it’s already achieved.

The only question here is whether the big spread is too much. This line is -9 in most places, so grab the 8½ if you can, but be aware that Boston usually has won these “desperation” types of games by a bunch of points this postseason: Beating the 76ers 121-87 in Game 2 in a similar situation, taking them out again 95-86 in Game 6 down 3-2 and then winning Game 7 in a 112-88 rout.

Boston is 4-1 both straight up and against the spread following a loss in the playoffs. Miami, meanwhile, has the opposite trend: The Heat were blown out by Milwaukee after winning Game 1, and both games it lost to the Knicks in the second round were with the series under control.

For a team that relies so heavily on its stars — see the bet below — choosing when to give max effort is important. If Boston comes out hot tonight, Miami may decide this isn’t the time to waste energy trying to keep a game close.

As a bonus: Look for a bet that has Boston leading after every quarter. You can find it for better than even money, and there’s a better than 50/50 chance the Celtics cruise here.

JIMMY BUTLER PLAYER PROP

The play: NBA Eastern Conference finals, Jimmy Butler UNDER 28½ points

The odds: -115

The book: FanDuel Sportsbook

Our take: Yes, this one sounds weird. But sometimes the best bets do sound weird. Butler has undoubtedly been the star of these Eastern Conference playoffs, even more so than Celtics counterpart Jayson Tatum, who’s been amazingly inconsistent.

Butler scored 35 points in Game 1 and led the Heat to victory, which has led folks to jump all over his player point total for Game 2. But the truth is, Butler didn’t go over 28.5 even once in the second-round series against the Knicks, and he also only scored 25 in the aforementioned Game 2 against the Bucks, which is a close comp for the feel of this game.

Playoff Jimmy is a star, and he’ll have his say later in this series, but the safe bet is that say won’t come in this one.

MLB FRIDAY NIGHT

The play: MLB, Braves money line over Mariners

The odds: -152

The book: FanDuel Sportsbook

Time/TV: 7:20 p.m. (Apple TV+)

Our take: It’s a battle of young pitchers named Bryce, with the Braves’ Bryce Elder facing the Mariners’ Bryce Miller.

Both have been remarkable this season — especially Miller, who has had a historic three-start stretch to open his career, but the reason we’re taking Atlanta here is because of the offenses. With Julio Rodriguez scuffling and Jarred Kelenic slowing down from his torrid start, the Mariners have far too many holes in their lineup. Seattle is tied for third in majors with 415 strikeouts and fourth from last with 329 hits. The M’s (team OBP is .308, sixth from the bottom) have spent far too much time sitting around and waiting for solo homers.

The Braves, on the other hand, are getting those homers; they’re tied for second in baseball with 74 long balls, and with the league’s No. 4 OBP at .337, many of them are going for multiple runs. As great as Miller has been thus far, he challenges hitters, and the Braves should hit a couple of those challenges a long way. The Mariners will be hard-pressed to keep up on offense.

HOW WE’VE FARED

Thursday’s best bets

NBA playoffs: Nuggets -5 over Lakers (PUSH)

NBA playoffs: Lakers to win first half (WON)

NBA playoffs: LeBron James OVER 6.5 assists (WON)

Thursday’s record: 2-0-1

Total for the week: 5-1, 1 pending

Total for May: 20-14, 1 pending

Total for 2023: 108-119, 1 pending

NOTE: If a line or odds are minus, it considers the juice one must lay to place the bet. Ex: Team A is -160 on the money line, one would have to bet $160 to win $100 (or $16 to win $10). OR Team B is a 5-point favorite at -110, one would have to bet $110 to win $100 (or $11 to win $10.)

Conversely, on positive lines, if Team C is +140 on the money line, $100 would bring in $140 (or $10 to win $14).

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