In late January, the Celtics were 23-24, and there was talk of trading either Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown.
Boston’s NBA championship odds skyrocketed as high as 150-1 at the Westgate SuperBook before it made a stunning turnaround.
The Celtics closed the regular season on a 28-7 run before sweeping the Brooklyn Nets — the preseason NBA title favorite — and beating the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and No. 1 seed Miami Heat in seven games each to reach their first NBA Finals since 2010.
The Golden State Warriors are back in the finals for the sixth time in eight years, and the betting public is backing them as -155 series favorites and 3½-point favorites in Game 1 on Thursday in San Francisco.
But sharp bettors are banking on Boston in the series (+135) and in Game 1 (+3½). BetMGM also reported sharp action on the over, which has inched up from 210½ to 212½.
The Westgate took a $20,000 sharp bet on the Celtics to win the series at +145 and a $5,000 sharp bet on Boston on the money line (+145) in Game 1. But the SuperBook and Station Casinos, BetMGM and Caesars Sportsbook still need the underdog.
“We are Boston fans for both the championship and Game 1,” Caesars vice president of trading Craig Mucklow said.
Professional sports bettor Erin Rynning is backing Boston to win the series.
“I’ve had the Celtics rated as the top NBA team for months and will continue to ride them,” said Rynning (@ersports1). “The argument can certainly be made for the Warriors’ championship pedigree. However, the Celtics have continued to improve and overcome in 2022. Their experience of essentially coming from the dead to eventually eliminate Kevin Durant and the Nets, the best player in the NBA (Giannis Antetokounmpo) and the Bucks, and the East’s best regular-season team in the Heat has the Celtics entering the finals with tremendous confidence and unquestionably the best defense in the basketball world.
“This isn’t the best version of the Klay Thompson-Steph Curry-Draymond Green era, with age sapping their best abilities for a possible seven-game series. The Celtics will feature the best player on the court in Jayson Tatum, while their athleticism and defensive dexterity lead them to the title.”
ESPN “Daily Wager” host Doug Kezirian also likes the Celtics in the series. He bet on Tatum to be NBA Finals MVP at 16-1 at the start of the playoffs, when Boston was 9-1 to win it all. It was a value bet on the Celtics, as Kezirian expects the young star to win the award if Boston prevails.
“I think the Celtics are the better team. Their defense is outstanding, they have plenty of offense, and they’ve always played Golden State tough,” said Kezirian (@DougESPN). “The Warriors are not as good as they were, and they’re getting by on reputation a little in the betting market.
“Our analytics team at ESPN has loved Boston since January and thinks they should be sizable favorites in this series. The key is they switch on all picks, and that’s what Golden State struggles with the most.”
Curry is the -110 favorite to win NBA Finals MVP, and Westgate vice president of risk Jeff Sherman said some bettors might back him to win the award rather than wagering on the Warriors at the -155 series price.
Brown is the 12-1 third pick for MVP, followed by Klay Thompson at 20-1 and Green, Andrew Wiggins and Marcus Smart at 40-1. Wiggins and Smart opened at 80-1 at the Westgate, and Kezirian said Smart is still worth a shot at 40-1.
Sherman also likes the Celtics to win the series, though he would prefer to take them at a bigger plus price, if possible, after Game 1.
“I respect what Boston’s done the whole season and don’t think they’ll let up here,” he said. “Usually, you see the home team win Game 1 in those spots. If they did, it would be inviting to take Boston in the series down 0-1. But if I had to take the series right now, I would take the plus money rather than the minus, for sure.
“I think Boston’s defense can frustrate Golden State. We’ve seen the Warriors go on these runs in the playoffs where they’ve had all these open looks. I think Boston can cover them and make 3-point shooting difficult for them.”
During the Steve Kerr era in Golden State, the Celtics are the only team with a winning record against the Warriors, going 9-7 straight up and 11-3-2 ATS.
(Best-of-7; x-if necessary)
All games on KTNV-13
■ Thursday: at Golden State, 6 p.m.
■ Sunday: at Golden State, 5 p.m.
■ Wednesday: at Boston, 6 p.m.
■ June 10: at Boston, 6 p.m.
■ x-June 13: at Golden State, 6 p.m.
■ x-June 16: at Boston, 6 p.m.
■ x-June 19: at Golden State, 5 p.m.