TST betting preview: Dig deep for value in NBA conference finals

The Sporting Tribune's Danny Burke discusses his betting strategies for the upcoming NBA conference finals, which begin Tuesday night.

A pair of Game 7 finishes, a series clinched via free throws and a gentleman’s sweep is the path that’s been taken to the Conference Finals for the remaining four teams. 

The survivors include the Timberwolves and Mavericks in the West, and the Celtics and Pacers in the East. 

Not only have this year’s playoffs been entertaining and exciting, but also very profitable if you’ve been following along with our breakdowns. 

Throughout the first two rounds we’ve gone 6-3, and are up +11.32 units with our series prop bets. 

Let’s try to keep that momentum going. 

Boston Celtics vs Indiana Pacers 

The top-seeded Celtics will be entering their 6th Conference Finals appearance in the last 8 seasons. 

Though they’ve reached the finals only once in that span (2021-2022) and eventually lost in 6 games to the Golden State Warriors.

Indiana hasn’t been to the Eastern Conference Finals since losing to the LeBron James-led Miami Heat back in the 2013-2014 season. 

The Pacers are one of 10 teams to have never won an NBA Championship. 

Their quest to change that narrative begins Tuesday night. 

Boston has been listed anywhere from a -850 to a -1200 favorite to win this series. 

Indiana can be found in the range of +600 to +680. 

The Celtics’ big-man, Kristaps Porzingis, is still expected to be sidelined for at least the first two games of this series. 

I do believe Boston will find their way back to the Finals, but I don’t see much value on any series prop wager revolving around a team as of this moment.

However, where I do view some intrigue surrounds a series player prop. 

Several sportsbooks offer wagers on which player will score the most points in their respective playoff series. I believe there’s a viable angle with Jaylen Brown to acquire this accolade versus the Pacers. 

During the regular season, Brown faced Indiana 5 times and tallied 28.4 points per game on over 60% shooting.

Among the teams he faced at least three times during the regular season, the Pacers ended up being the group he scored the most on. 

The reason being because of Indiana’s style of defense and the shot quality/preference of Brown. 

In this postseason alone, he’s taking 35% of his shots from mid-range, and of that percentage 25% are classified as being via short mid-range. 

In their first two-rounds the Pacers have struggled to defend shots from that precise territory, allowing opponents to make 46% from mid-range overall, and over 47% from short mid-range specifically. 

Though Brown is only attempting 26% of his shots from beyond the perimeter, he has a quality opportunity to produce from out there against an Indiana defense that has allowed their opposition to connect on over 37% from three-point land during these playoffs. 

Realistically, the one man standing in his way is his teammate Jayson Tatum. Tatum can be found around the price of -500 to claim this bet.

In 4 games versus Indiana this season, Tatum averaged 32.5 ppg on about 58% shooting. 

He took only one more shot per game, but the biggest differences were a larger frequency of shot attempts from beyond the arc (31%) as well as free throw attempts (6.0 FTA compared to Brown’s 4.8 FTA). 

Despite all of that, Brown has not trailed by much in terms of scoring this postseason. 

Tatum has accumulated 243 points and Brown has put up 231. 

In fact, Brown has been more effective – shooting 55.4% on 168 FGA, compared to Tatum’s 43% on 179 FGA. 

Brown also had his worst effort in their last affair versus the Cavs, where he scored just 11 points. 

He is clearly in striking distance of passing his counterpart, which alone would make taking him enticing. But, where the real intrigue resides is within the odds that are being dealt.

The prices being offered on Brown to lead this series in scoring has been anywhere from +500 to +650. 

That seems like a very attractive bargain considering he matches up extremely well with his upcoming opponent and has averaged just 1.2 points less per game this postseason compared to Tatum. 

This will be the only wager I place on this series before it begins. 

Play: Jaylen Brown to Score the Most Points in the Series (+650); Risk 1 unit to win 6.50

Minnesota Timberwolves vs Dallas Mavericks 

It has been 20 years since the T’Wolves played in a Conference Finals game. They, too, belong in the club of no championships. In fact, they’ve never even reached the finals in the Land of 10,000 lakes. 

This is their time to make history.

In order to do so they’ll have to overcome the likes of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. 

Though, it’s clear that it’s a hobbled-version of Luka Doncic. 

Despite playing through injuries he has still been effective – just not as much as the regular season.

Entering the playoffs he averaged 34 points, 9.8 assists and 9.2 rebounds per game. He shot 48.7% from the floor and over 38% from three-point range. 

Throughout two postseason series he’s racked up 27.3 points, 9.7 boards, and 9.1 dimes per contest. He’s shooting 42.3% from the floor and connecting on just 30% of his looks from deep. 

Again, those are still great numbers, but it’s obvious he isn’t at 100%. 

And after a pair of taxing series, it’s only going to get more gruesome and strenuous against the league’s best defense. 

Not to mention the home court advantage that falls in Minnesota’s favor, along with the massive contributions from their role players.

The Timberwolves have six players that are averaging double-digit scoring in these playoffs. The Mavs have just four. 

To dive deeper into both team’s postseason numbers, it’s evident that Minnesota has been the better team.

According to, the T’Wolves efficiency differential is +7.7, whereas the Mavericks are at +4.8. 

Minnesota is averaging 117.6 points per 100 possessions, have an effective field goal percentage of 54.7% and are getting to the line almost 24 times per contest. 

Dallas is putting up 115 points per 100 possessions, has an eFG% of 54% and getting to the charity stripe about 20 times per game. 

During regular season play the biggest difference between these groups was on the defensive side of the ball. 

Coach Finch’s roster finished 1st in both Pts/Poss and eFG% allowed. Coach Kidd’s team ranked 17th in both categories. 

I could continue to expound on the numbers, but I’m sure you get the gist. 

At the end of the day, what both teams have accomplished to get to this point is very impressive. 

The Mavericks outlasted the top team in the West and the Timberwolves overcame the defending champs away from home. 

The deeper and more effective roster, along with the home crowd advantage and a formidable defense gives Minnesota the edge in this series, though. And it’s a fairly large one. 

Most shops have them around a -170 favorite to win this series outright, or you could venture into laying -1.5 games (+125) on the series spread – meaning they have to win in 6 games or less. 

While I don’t mind attacking the plus price on the series spread, ultimately I’m going to choose the path of less risk.

That’s not to say I don’t have a lot of confidence in this T’Wolves group – I’ve got plenty. But, rather, I’m comfortable with laying the -170 price and don’t mind having an extra game to cash the ticket. 

Minnesota will win this series and find themselves an opportunity to hoist their first Larry O’Brien Trophy in franchise history. 

Play: Timberwolves to win the series (-170); Risk 3.40 units to win 2.00