Heat vs. Celtics Game 1 betting preview: Smart's injury hurts Boston's outlook

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The conference finals tip off Tuesday with a compelling clash between the Heat and Celtics, who met two years ago on this very stage. Here's how we'd bet the first game of the series:

Celtics @ Heat (-2, 204), 8:30 p.m. ET

As we explained in Monday's series preview, the Celtics have a great outlook in this matchup and a solid chance of winning it all. But that doesn't mean they'll waltz to a Game 1 win, as they have a few factors working against them Tuesday.

The biggest is the uncertain status of Marcus Smart (foot), who battled through injury in Round 2 and could be limited in this contest - if he plays at all. Boston is stocked with capable perimeter defenders, but Smart is the key that unlocks the Celtics' elite defensive ceiling. He's also crucial as a facilitator on the other end. Boston's offense has looked stagnant at times this year, and that could be exacerbated if its starting point guard is hindered or unavailable.

It's also tough to win in Miami, especially on short rest. Since the Heat signed Jimmy Butler ahead of the 2019-20 season, they're 37-20 against the spread when better rested than their opponent - including an 18-12 record at home and a 3-0 record in the postseason. They're also 12-6 ATS in home playoff games since 2019, winning five of six this season.

It's even tougher to win coming off a draining Game 7 victory, as the Celtics are here. Teams in that spot are 20-31-2 ATS since 2003-04, a mark that includes a 2-6-1 ATS run dating back to 2019. Even if Boston is the better team in this matchup, the Heat are well-positioned to secure a 1-0 series lead.

Pick: Heat -2

C Jackson Cowart is a sports betting writer at theScore. You can follow him on Twitter (@CJacksonCowart) or email him at cjackson.cowart@thescore.com.

Heat vs. Celtics Game 1 betting preview: Smart's injury hurts Boston's outlook
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