You can pretty much count out the Celtics and Grizzlies if they don't hold home court on Tuesday. They're both in danger of digging themselves 0-2 series holes. Teams that win the first pair of contests in an NBA playoff series go on to advance (or win the title) 92.9% of the time.
That's a brutal reality, considering Memphis was a missed scoop layup from Ja Morant away from upsetting Golden State in Game 1. And after sweeping the Nets, Boston is suddenly on the ropes against the defending champion Bucks. So yeah, tonight's NBA twin bill is pretty significant.
Celtics still favored despite opening flop
Bucks at Celtics (Game 2 — MIL leads 1-0), 7 p.m. ET on TNT
Wagering on the NBA, particularly before a game tips off, is among the hardest things to do in sports betting. Vegas is freakish with its Over/Under projections. You can often get far better lines, namely for the spread, on either side once the game goes live due to the nature of runs and all. For instance, I picked the Mavs +5.5 last night (along with Big Cat). It was a bad beat. A bricked 3-pointer at the buzzer cost Dallas bettors an epic backdoor cover. Anyway, my buddy FaceTimed me before it started, and I told him to take Dallas' live spread early, figuring the Suns would get out to a hot start at home. Turns out, that's precisely what happened.
I say all that to set this up: As difficult as it is to bet the NBA and forecast how a game will play out beforehand, I'm going to savor this moment, because I couldn't have been much more correct about the Bucks-Celtics Game 1 if I tried. Boston was overvalued. All their wins against Brooklyn were by single digits. Milwaukee seemed affronted that they were underdogs. So what that Khris Middleton was out? They were still playing lights-out defense and drubbed the Bulls without him. DEFENSE was the Celtics' calling card as they kept obliterating everyone toward the end of the regular season. And guess what? The Deer beat the C's at their own game.
So again, similar to my initial writeup on this series, I'll ask: Where does this Celtics -5 line come from?
I get that Boston is in desperation mode. I understand it was their worst overall performance in quite a while. I grasp that the Bucks couldn't have played much better, especially sans Middleton. But we're talking 101-89! Hot damn that's ugly.
Let's reiterate another point from the previous post: Giannis Antetokounmpo (OU 49.5 pts, rebs, ast) is the perfect weapon to beat the Celtics' defense. Physical, long, strong and an excellent passer. Killer combo. He's not that bothered when he drives to the paint. If he sees that his shot at the rim is too contested, he'll kick out to the plethora of perimeter shooters Milwaukee has. Even in going 9-for-25 from the field in Game 1, Giannis had 24 points, 13 boards and 12 assists.
Here's a fun fact: The underdog (which would be the Bucks at +170) has won six of the last seven meetings between these squads at TD Garden.
And oooooooh boy you have to love Celtics arch-nemesis and Lakers legend Magic Johnson stirring the pot a little bit with a HOT TAKE!!
That's what's on the line here for the C's. Their entire phenomenal finish to the season will be drastically reframed if they get big-boyed by the Bucks. I have a hard time believing Milwaukee can limit Jayson Tatum (OU 28.5 points) and the Celtics as a team to 33.3% shooting like they did in the second-round opener. Still, to disrespect the Deer like this AGAIN is dangerous ground to tread on — and I doubt Giannis will have as poor of a shooting effort the rest of the series than he just did.
One more trend: The Over (215.5 at -109) is 8-2 in the past 10 Bucks-Celtics matchups.
Golden State's championship DNA is a real thing
Warriors at Grizzlies (Game 2 — GS leads 1-0), 9:30 p.m. ET on TNT
Stephen Curry spoke after a thrilling 117-116 victory over Memphis about the "championship DNA" the Warriors have developed across years on the postseason's center stage. That's a big reason why Golden State is a -120 bet to cover -2.5 games in the latest series lines. You can't replicate playoff experience. You have to go through it. The Grizzlies, to their credit, are mature beyond their collective years. Here's my concern: Game 1 might've been their best punch.
I don't mean to be too down on Memphis. What a great story that team has been all season long. That said, Golden State (-2) has an average point differential of +5.9 coming off a win. The Warriors (-127) didn't cover that minimal spread the last time out, thanks in part to Klay Thompson uncharacteristically bricking two late free throws. Yet another bad beat on a pre-game spread.
So yeah, there's some of that same desperation going on in Memphis as there is in Boston. Consider, though, that the Dubs are 13-2 SU in Game 2s of late when they've held a 1-0 series lead. Again — CHAMPIONSHIP DNA. That's what they do. You could argue Golden State would've won Sunday's showdown by a more comfortable score had Draymond Green not been ejected under dubious, reputation-fueled circumstances. You won't find a tougher out on the road in the playoffs than Golden State, by the way:
Grizzlies superstar Ja Morant (OU 28.5 points) seems to step up when his side is counted out. Morant has scored 29+ points in each of the last six contests when Memphis was an underdog. He may need to go for at least THIRTY-nine if the Grizz are meant to have a shot at knocking off Golden State.
Beyond the multiple titles Curry, Klay and Dray have achieved during their legendary shared time with the Warriors, what's notable about this year's team is how deep they are. Jordan Poole had a freaking 31-8-9 line in 38 minutes off the bench. Gary Payton II has sprung up as a viable playoff contributor. Andrew Wiggins was an ALL-STAR this season! I know Memphis has a ton of young guns who get a lot of deserved attention, but the Dubs have multiple, legit stars and depth to burn.
We saw the Grizzlies capitalize on Minnesota's inability to close in the opening round. Memphis had an eight-point lead after a quarter on Golden State and a six-point edge at halftime. The Warriors won the third quarter by seven, and traded haymakers with the Grizz in the last 12 minutes to prevail. Once more: That's what championship DNA looks like in motion.
One more trend: Memphis (+2/+107) has gone 5-1 ATS and 4-2 SU vs. the Warriors in the past six meetings.
NBA Plays of the Day: Bucks +5 and Warriors -127
Especially with Marcus Smart questionable due to a quad contusion — he also raced to the locker room with an injured shoulder in Game 1 before returning — I don't see why Boston is so esteemed by the bookmakers tonight. It may just be down to how much of a must-win scenario this is for them. Milwaukee has already stolen home-court advantage. I could see the Bucks coming out flat. Then again, they have the chance to bury the Celtics with a win. I say the visitors at least keep it close.
I considered taking the Grizzlies in an upset. They forced the third-highest turnover rate in the regular season, and the Warriors coughed the ball up at the second-highest clip. Then I noticed that in Game 1, it didn't matter. Golden State still won while committing 18 turnovers. I'm willing to be proven wrong about Memphis for this one. In fact, I'd actually welcome it, because I'd love to see this upstart youth movement challenge a Warriors nucleus with multiple championships to their name. I struggle to see how it'll come to fruition.
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