Better Friday NBA Playoff Bets
Friday Hard Court Betting Propositions
By Liam Davis
If the Boston Celtics' Game 1 loss to the eighth-place Chicago Bulls was a letdown, then the Game 2 shellacking they suffered was demoralizing. This team looks soft, and it's unclear if they have the leadership outside head coach Brad Stevens to weather the storm that accompanies a 2-0 hole in a best of seven series.
Still, we have to remember that the Celtics are better than they've showed. Much better.
Take, for example, Game 2. They shot 3-of-10 on wide-open threes. They hit less than 40 percent of their uncontested looks in general. That isn't going to happen again. Both Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas aren't going to struggle at the same time again, either.
Plus, at their heart, the Bulls are still a below-average basketball team. Rajon Rondo will regress to the mean at some point, and Dwyane Wade isn't going to be hitting these threes forever. This a must-in game for the Celtics, and after the uninspiring effort they turned in for Game 2, they should be itching to respond with a decisive victory.
The Pick: Boston Celtics (+1.5)
If there's one good thing to take away from the Oklahoma City Thunder's losses to the Houston Rockets in Games 1 and 2, it's this: They've hung in there despite playing far from their best basketball.
Game 1, of course, was less convincing. The Thunder fell apart by the end of the third quarter. But Game 2 was a different story. If not for a fourth-quarter implosion, during which they squandered a lead, we would be talking about a 1-1 series tie right now.
Alas, we aren't, because the Thunder have devolved into too much of a one-man show, even for them.
Part of this is on Russell Westbrook himself. He didn't look to pass and set up his teammates nearly enough down the stretch of Game 2. The rest is on his teammates themselves.
Not one of them has proved to be a viable No. 2 in this series, which has no doubt compelled Westbrook to attempt shots he shouldn't. Watch him, and it's clear he doesn't fully trust Victor Oladipo to knock down an open three, or Steven Adams to finish a pick-and-roll in traffic, or Andre Roberson to hit jumpers (even though he's hitting jumpers), or—well, you get the point.
And yet, for most of Game 2, the Thunder were so close. That they can hang around for so long while playing noticeably below their ceiling is encouraging. It implies they have another level to reach, and what better time to reach it than now, at home, in front of one of the most rowdy crowds in existence?
The Pick: Oklahoma City Thunder (-3)
Rudy Gobert will not be suiting up for Game 3, which obviously matters to the Jazz. They aren't nearly as good on defense when he is off the floor, and his finishing out of the half-court pick-and-roll will be missed on offense.
While the Jazz have the depth to overcome his absence, as we saw in Game 1, the Los Angeles Clippers' star power should overwhelm at some point. They can't defend the Clippers' pick-and-rolls as effectively without Gobert, and Los Angeles' offense has thus far underachieved.
Under normal circumstances, at full strength, the Jazz should be up 2-0 right now. That they aren't tells us all we need to know. The Utah crowd is loyal and loud, and the Jazz have the depth required to continue making things interesting, but the Clippers are the far more talented team so long as Gobert is on the shelf.
Plus, every meeting between these two deems, including the regular season, has been played at the Jazz's pace. And it's them with the losing record. That's a red flag we just can't gloss over.
The Pick: Los Angeles Clippers (-1)
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