NBA predictions: Expert picks for Lakers-Nuggets and Heat-Celtics as playoffs move to conference finals (2023)

For the first time in NBA history, a No. 7 (Lakers) and 8 (Heat) seed are in the conference finals. You might be tempted to call these developments a fluke. They're not. They are an illustration of what has become an extremely equitable NBA landscape. In sports, we love to say "anybody can win" but that's rarely actually true. At this moment in the NBA, it is true.

The 2023 title race was wide open at the start of the playoffs. and it remains wide open now that we're down to the final four.

If you're looking for the betting favorite, it's the Celtics at +105, followed by the Nuggets (+240), Lakers (+300) and the Heat, who come in at +1600, via Caesars Sportsbook. If you ask me, that's some pretty great value on Miami, which could reasonably win the whole thing. I don't think they will. In fact, I'm picking them to lose to Boston in the ECF. But it could happen.Anythingcould happen.

With that in mind, let's get to our staff picks for the two conference-final matchups, which begin Tuesday with the Lakers at Denver. (All predictions were made before the series started.)

Nuggets vs. Lakers picks

Reiter's pick: Nuggets in 5.There's no time like the present to go all-in correcting a mistake. And the Nuggets have showcased to me and those around the NBA just how great they are. Nikola Jokic, of course, is an all-world talent, but this is a complete basketball team that compliments Joker's immense talents. They made easy work of the Phoenix Suns, and there's no reason to think they can't do the same against the Lakers. LA's run has been remarkable, of course — but LeBron's age and minutes, AD's fragility and unreliability and the reliance on so many overachieving role players catches up to them against a legit No. 1 seed.

Quinn's pick: Nuggets in 6. Denver has been by far the best team of the postseason. The Lakers have been rockier, hitting enormous highs and troubling lows that often boil down to their inconsistent 3-point shooting and how much energy LeBron James is capable of expending at any given time. They are incredibly vulnerable to foul trouble in this matchup. As well as Anthony Davis played the last time the Lakers and Nuggets met in the playoffs, Dwight Howard spent major chunks of that series guarding Nikola Jokic. The Lakers have no such secondary option. If Davis ever has to sit, Jokic gets to destroy Wenyen Gabriel. It's been a remarkable effort for the Lakers, but the Nuggets have been the class of the West all season, and they should enter this series as the favorite.

Ward-Henninger's pick: Nuggets in 7. I vastly underestimated the Lakers before seeing them methodically eviscerate the Warriors, but the Nuggets are a much better team with an unstoppable MVP playing the best basketball of his career. Denver should have success drawing Anthony Davis out of the paint defensively, opening up back-door cuts and drives to the lane. Offensively the Lakers should have much more success than they did last round, but the question of LeBron James' durability given his foot injury and age is pretty much the only thing making me lean toward the Nuggets with home court advantage.

Botkin's pick: Nuggets in 6. Nikola Jokic is the best player in the league. He will guarantee Denver good shots all series long, and the only way that kind of consistent, high-quality offense doesn't result in a win is if the defense can't hold up at all. Have you been watching the Nuggets play defense? They're more than holding up. I think L.A.'s run ends here.

Herbert's pick: Nuggets in 6. Los Angeles might be able to find a lineup that can muck up the Nuggets' beautiful offense, but it would likely struggle to score. And if the Lakers prioritize spacing, then it's hard to imagine them getting enough stops. Unless Anthony Davis makes a zillion jumpers, I don't see a realistic path to an upset.

Kaskey-Blomain's pick: Lakers in 7.I've learned not to bet against LeBron James and I'm not going to start now. The fact that the Lakers are even in this position after completely retooling the roster at the trade deadline is impressive, and the team appears to be growing increasingly comfortable as a unit with each passing game. Anthony Davis has been inconsistent this postseason, but when he's been good, he's beenreallygood, and if he can channel that level of play for the bulk of the games, the Lakers should have the edge.

Wimbish's pick: Nuggets in 5. The Nuggets have been the most consistent team in the postseason, and they've proven time and time again that they can adjust and respond in after a loss. The Lakers had an impressive series against the defending champions, but Denver has better depth to make things difficult for L.A.'s defense.

Maloney's pick: Nuggets in 6.Nikola Jokic is playing at an unbelievable level and has the Nuggets humming along with the best offense in the playoffs so far. Things won't be quite so easy for them against a Lakers defense that has been the best in the postseason on that side of the ball, but Jokic is so dominant that he essentially guarantees a good look every time he touches the ball. Add in the Nuggets' serious home-court advantage and a defense that's better than you might realize and they have what it takes to win the West.

Celtics vs. Heat picks

NBA predictions: Expert picks for Lakers-Nuggets and Heat-Celtics as playoffs move to conference finals (17)

Bill Reiter

NBA predictions: Expert picks for Lakers-Nuggets and Heat-Celtics as playoffs move to conference finals (18)

Sam Quinn

NBA predictions: Expert picks for Lakers-Nuggets and Heat-Celtics as playoffs move to conference finals (19)

Colin Ward-Henninger

NBA predictions: Expert picks for Lakers-Nuggets and Heat-Celtics as playoffs move to conference finals (20)

Brad Botkin

NBA predictions: Expert picks for Lakers-Nuggets and Heat-Celtics as playoffs move to conference finals (21)

James Herbert

NBA predictions: Expert picks for Lakers-Nuggets and Heat-Celtics as playoffs move to conference finals (22)

Michael Kaskey-Blomain

NBA predictions: Expert picks for Lakers-Nuggets and Heat-Celtics as playoffs move to conference finals (23)

Jasmyn Wimbish

NBA predictions: Expert picks for Lakers-Nuggets and Heat-Celtics as playoffs move to conference finals (24)

Jack Maloney









Reiter's pick: Celtics in 7. It's deja vu all over again, and again this will be a grinding, physical, defensive-minded battle. Several factors will narrow the talent gap here: Boston's tendency toward lackadaisical play and Miami's razor-sharp focus. Erik Spoelstra's coaching superiority, and experience, over the impressive-but-still-learning-on-the-job Joe Mazulla. Jimmy Butler's basketball super-hero-turn as Jimmy Buckets in the playoffs. But in the end, Jayson Tatum is the series' best player, the Celtics are too deep and too talented, and they beat a worthy but lesser foe.

Quinn's pick: Celtics in 7. We saw this series a year ago, and I'm not just talking about the names and uniforms involved. Boston entered the third round having felt as though it slayed the dragon in the second. As the Celtics proved against Atlanta, they have a greater capacity for nonsense than any other team left in the playoff field. There will be a game or two littered by sloppy turnovers. There will be a game or two dominated by Jimmy Butler. Boston should be heavy favorites here, but if the Celtics couldn't make life easy for themselves against the Hawks, they're not going to be able to shrug off the Heat either.

Ward-Henninger's pick: Celtics in 7. Miami is going to make life a living hell for Boston, but the Celtics have proven that when they're locked in, they're arguably the best team in the NBA. Joe Mazzulla should stick with the double-big lineup that will wreak havoc on the offensive glass against a small Heat team, with a roving Robert Williams there to muck things up for Miami's offense. Boston also has plenty of quality defenders to throw at Jimmy Butler and the ability to switch all the dribble hand-offs and off-ball action that generates Heat 3-pointers. It's hard to trust Boston, but it's possible that Games 6 and 7 against Philadelphia woke them up.

Botkin's pick: Celtics in 6. From a matchup standpoint, Boston's double bigs intrigues me the most in this series. With Robert Williams roaming around, Jimmy Butler may find life more difficult in the paint, and I think Miami's 3-point shooting looks more like it did in the regular season against all of Boston's length and versatility on the perimeter. I don't know who the best player in this series is, Butler or Tatum, but after that it's the Cetlics who are clearly more talented. Maybe I'm just a talent snob and am too easily dismissing Heat Culture and Eric Spoelstra's coaching, but I think Boston wins this series relatively convincingly.

Herbert's pick: Celtics in 6. Boston knows who to attack offensively in this matchup, and its spacing is waaaaay better than what the Heat just saw in the second round. The question is whether or not the Celtics can stay as disciplined as they need to be against a Miami defense that is going to do anything it can to get them off-kilter. I am pretty optimistic about that, and I'm worried that the Heat's offense won't look the same without an obvious weak link to hunt.

Kaskey-Blomain's pick: Celtics in 6. The Heat have had an impressive run this postseason, but it ends here against a more talented Celtics team. The Celtics bested the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals last season, and the outcome will be the same this time around. Boston has a deeper roster, and they match up well with Miami. Jimmy Butler will likely lead the Heat to a victory, or two in the series, but they don't have enough firepower to make it to the Finals.

Wimbish's pick: Celtics in 6. The Celtics finally started to look like a championship-contending team in Game 7, and Jayson Tatum showed why he was an early-season MVP contender with his 51-point performance. It's difficult to pick against Jimmy Butler and the Heat, but they don't really match up well against the Celtics and not having Tyler Herro is really going to cause issues for Miami in this series.

Maloney's pick: Celtics in 5. The Heat have proven time and again that they are more than the sum of their parts, but toughness, determination and self-belief can only get you so far. They are at a real talent and depth disadvantage in this series, especially on the offensive side of the ball. It's hard to see how they keep up with a Celtics team that boasts one of the best offenses in the league and showed last series that they can be devastating defensively as well. The Celtics should also take extra confidence from the fact that they beat a better version of this Heat team last season.


Who is favored to win the Eastern Conference finals? ›

Eastern Conference finals

With all due respect to Jimmy Butler and the Heat, the Celtics should win this series convincingly. They are the better team overall, the top team in the league, according to ESPN's Basketball Power Index, and the BPI series projector has the Celtics winning the series 97% of the time.

Who will be in the NBA Finals 2023? ›

In the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Lakers take on the top-seeded Denver Nuggets in a rematch of the 2020 West finals inside the NBA's Orlando, Florida, bubble.

Who is favored to win the NBA championship? ›

The two title favorites for this postseason as of Wednesday morning — the Celtics (+100) and Nuggets (+180) — are naturally the favorites for next season, too. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and the Celtics are the overall favorites at +500 while Nikola Jokic and company are +550.

What are the odds the Heat will win the championship? ›

The Celtics, who lost the 2022 Finals in six games to the Warriors, are heavy favorites (+110) to capture their first title since 2008. They're followed by Denver (+250), then Los Angeles (+300) and the Heat (+1200) have by far the longest odds to raise their first championship banner in a decade.

Has the East or West won more championships? ›

The Eastern Conference has provided the most champions, with 38 wins from 10 franchises; the Western Conference has 35, from nine franchises.

Who is still in the NBA Playoffs 2023? ›

2023 NBA playoff matchups
  • Milwaukee Bucks - Miami Heat.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers - New York Knicks.
  • Philadelphia 76ers - Brooklyn Nets.
  • Boston Celtics - Atlanta Hawks.

Who is the best NBA player right now 2023? ›

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks.

How many games left in NBA season 2023? ›

While it's almost certain that the Denver Nuggets will finish the season at the top of the Western Conference standings, the East is still up for grabs. Overall, there are 454 games left to play in the 2022-23 NBA season.

How often does the favored team win in the NBA? ›

How often do moneyline favorites win in NBA? Over the past five seasons, 67.25% of favorites have been successful in the NBA regular season. Home favorites have a slightly higher success rate than those on the road, with 69% of home favorites winning compared to 64.4% of those on the road.

How many NBA Finals was Lebron favored in? ›

This is just the third time in James' NBA Finals career that he will be a listed favorite in both the series and in Game 1.
NBA Finals Series Odds — LeBron James Teams & Opponents.
2013Heat -220 *Spurs +180
2012Thunder -175Heat +155 *
2011Heat -175Mavericks +155
2007Spurs -450Cavaliers +360
5 more rows
Dec 9, 2021

What is the heat longest winning streak all time? ›

During the 1971-72 season, the Lakers set an NBA record that stands to this day by winning 33 straight games. Only one team has come close to breaking it in a single season in the 50-plus years since — the 2012-13 Heat, who won 27 consecutive games.

Who broke the Heat win streak? ›

The Miami Heat's winning streak is over. An inspired performance in a 101-97 victory by an undermanned Chicago Bulls team ended Miami's run at 27 straight games.

Who ended Heat win streak? ›

March 27, 2013 — Bulls end Heat's win streak, 101–97.

Has any city won 4 championships in one year? ›

No city has ever won more than two championships in the four major sports in the same season.
Multiple championships in a calendar year.
City or metro areaNumber of times winning multiple championships in one calendar year
Greater New York7
Greater Los Angeles3
4 more rows

Has any team won 3 championships in a row? ›

For the Lakers, it was their second in franchise history, and only the first since moving from Minneapolis. As of 2022, the Lakers are the last team of the 4 major American professional sports (NHL, MLB, NFL, & NBA) to accomplish the three-peat.

Has any team won 4 championships in a row? ›

The Yankees have won three World Series in a row (1998-2000). They've won four World Series in a row (1936-39). And they've won five World Series in a row -- the longest championship streak in MLB history.

What NBA team has the best record 2023? ›

Since January 1, 2023, the Milwaukee Bucks have the best record by a team, with a record of 35-12.

What is the last team to join NBA? ›

The league expanded to 30 with the Charlotte Bobcats in 2004, following the 2002 relocation of the Charlotte Hornets to New Orleans. In 2014, the Bobcats rebranded to and acquired the history of the Charlotte Hornets, with the now New Orleans Pelicans being retroactively recognized as a new franchise founded in 2002.

How many teams go to the playoffs 2023? ›

A total of 14 teams compete in the playoffs, which means there are seven teams from each conference. Each first-round seed will receive an automatic bye into the divisional round, while the other six teams will compete in the wild card round. In the wild card round, the No.

Who is the greatest player in NBA history? ›

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan is widely known as the game's greatest player—and for good reason. "MJ" accomplished everything possible in the game, piling up on the stats and awards. On the game's biggest stage—the NBA Finals—Jordan went a perfect 6-for-6, also sweeping Finals MVP in his appearances.

Who is the best Lakers player right now? ›

2022-2023 Los Angeles Lakers Season Leaders
Season Leaders - ESPN Rating
1LeBron James, SF2.2
2Anthony Davis, PF0.3
3Russell Westbrook, PG1.2
23 more rows

Who is the best dunker in the NBA? ›

1. Michael Jordan. When you think of NBA dunkers, Michael Jordan is the first name that comes to mind. Jordan was not just a great player; he was also a master of the dunk.

How often do NBA players play games? ›

NBA teams play, on average, slightly over three games a week over a 26-week regular season.

What was the last year for an NBA live game? ›

The last released installment to date was 2018's NBA Live 19. As of 2022, the series has been in an indefinite hiatus, and after the cancellations of NBA Live 20 and NBA Live 21, there has not been any official confirmation on whether or not more games would be developed.

How many games per year do NBA players play? ›

82 games

What percentage of underdogs win? ›

NFL underdogs won 34.3% of games during the 2022-23 regular season. That's approximately three percentage points lower than the 2021-22 season (37.5%), reducing the three-year winning percentage (2020-22) to 34.7%. Since 2013, NFL underdogs have a winning percentage of 33.8%.

How accurate are NBA odds? ›

It turns out that the implied win probabilities (and therefore the moneylines) are pretty accurate! In general, the actual and expected win probabilities don't differ by more than 5%. However, there is a slight negative correlation between residual and expected win rate.

Who is better LeBron or Jordan? ›

Jordan vs.

James is the NBA's all-time scoring leader, but Jordan hit major scoring milestones well ahead of James throughout his career. Some may say James has an advantage because scoring has been easier in this era.

Who has the most wins against LeBron? ›

Mike Bibby was 6-12 versus LeBron James in his career.
Mike Bibby184.7
Doug Christie42.5
Vlade Divac17.0
Bobby Jackson73.6
12 more rows

Who has more blocks LeBron or Jordan? ›

Michael Jordan was all about taking over the game and single-handedly outplaying his opponents with his dominant game.
LeBron James vs Michael Jordan Regular-Season Stats.
Career (Totals)LeBron JamesMichael Jordan
4 more rows
Apr 5, 2023

Is NBA schedule out 2023? ›

The 77th NBA regular season will start on Tuesday, October 18 and conclude on Sunday, April 9 2023. The 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament will take place from April 11-14, 2023, followed by the start of the 2023 NBA Playoffs on April 15.

Will NBA have play-in 2023? ›

NBA Play-In 2023 Start Date

For the NBA 2022-23 season, the Play-In Tournament will take place from April 11th to 14th, 2023, between the last day of the Regular Season, April 9th, and the start of the playoffs.

How long is the 2023 NBA season? ›

The 2023 NBA All-Star Game was played on February 19, 2023, at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City. The 2023 NBA playoffs began on April 15, 2023, and will end with the 2023 NBA Finals in June.
2022–23 NBA season
Number of games82
Number of teams30
TV partner(s)ABC, TNT, ESPN, NBA TV
13 more rows

Why no NBA games on April 3 2023? ›

There are no Monday games in the NBA, as is always the case during the first week of April due to the NCAA men's championship game.

What is the NBA format for 2023? ›

All rounds are a best-of-seven series; a series ends when one team wins four games, and that team will advance to the next round. All rounds, including the NBA Finals, will be in a 2–2–1–1–1 format with regards to hosting.

Will there be a NBA lockout? ›

NBA Avoids Lockout By Agreeing To New 7-Year CBA With Players' Union.

Who has all the odds for NBA 2023? ›

2023 NBA Championship Favorites
Denver Nuggets+340
LA Lakers+370
Boston Celtics+430
Phoenix Suns+800
4 more rows

Who clinched NBA playoffs 2023? ›

The Milwaukee Bucks became the first team in the league to clinch a playoff spot after beating the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, March 14 to secure win No. 50 on the season. Exactly one month later, the Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves picked up the last remaining playoff spots via the Play-In Tournament.

Are the Warriors eliminated from playoffs 2023? ›

The Golden State Warriors were eliminated from the 2023 NBA playoffs Friday at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6, and it was a historic loss for the team.

What is the longest NBA regular season? ›

Longest NBA regular season winning streaks in a single season
TeamSeasonWinning Streak
1. Los Angeles Lakers1971-7233
2. Miami Heat2012-1327
3. Golden State Warriors2015-1624
4. Houston Rockets2007-0822
16 more rows
Mar 10, 2023

How many years do you have to be out of the NBA to be in the Hall of Fame? ›

Players are eligible for the Hall of Fame after they have been fully retired from play for at least three years. Only players with at least 50 career Win Shares are displayed.

How many teams are in the NBA 2023? ›

2023 NBA Team Rosters: All 30 Teams (Live Updates)


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