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NBA Playoff Betting: The Washington Wizards Are Out For Revenge
By Liam Davis
Game 1 didn't unfold as planned for the Washington Wizards. Hell, it didn't unfold as the Boston Celtics planned either.
The Wizards jumped out to a commanding lead early on, outpacing the Celtics by as many as 17 points. But the boys in green began a comeback by the end of the first quarter, and they never stopped coming.
Then, just when the Celtics were on the verge of grabbing the lead anyway, the Wizards lost Markieff Morris to a sprained ankle. He was unable to return, and everything spiraled in the wrong direction from there. The Celtics outscored the Wizards 36-16 in the third quarter and never looked back.
As always, it's important not to read too much into the first game of a series. At the same time, you don't feel good about the Wizards' chances.
Morris wants to play in Game 2, but his status is up in the air. If he can't go, that hamstrings the Wizards' defense by considerable margins. He switches more than anyone on the roster not named Otto Porter, and Washington doesn't have the defensive flexibility off the bench to mask his absence for an entire game.
Even if he plays and isn't 100 percent the Wizards are in trouble. The Celtics jacked 39 three-pointers in Game 1. They made 19, an absurdly high number, but the attempt rate is more important in this case. When they're firing away that frequently, it opens up lanes for Isaiah Thomas. It also makes it easier for Al Horford himself to drop passes off the dribble.
Every action, every movement, sends the collective into a state of disarray. If the Wizards don't start chasing the Celtics off the three-point line and trying to clamp them down inside the arc, they'll be at a severe disadvantage no matter who's playing and who isn't.
Equally troubling, the Wizards cannot necessarily count on a better offensive showing. Porter was dynamite in the first game, and Marcin Gortat was his usual self. John Wall and Bradley Beal can both be better, but they weren't playing at severely below-average rates. So if Morris is a no-go, the Wizards suddenly find themselves looking to any one of their unreliable bench contributors for traces of certainty.
The smart bet is to roll with the Celtics here, and then re-evaluate them when they return home to play in Washington.
The Pick: Boston Celtics (-5.5)
Certain people will be hopeful that the Utah Jazz's slow-and-steady play style will beat the Golden State Warriors into submission, kind of like how the San Antonio Spurs have done for one or two games at a time.
Don't be one of those people.
Though the Warriors only collected one win by double-digits against the Jazz during the regular season, this is a different ballgame. It's the playoffs. It's Oracle Arena. The Warriors aren't coasting anymore.
More than anything, they take and make a lot more threes than the Jazz while playing a lot faster. Utah may be able to hang tough for a little while using Joe Johnson at the 4, but they'll be toast whenever Draymond Green moves to the 5, at which time head coach Quin Snyder has a decision to make: Does he pull his best or second-best player in Rudy Gobert, or does he bank on his team being able to figure it out?
That's not an ideal place to be in. Even if Gobert is able to keep himself in the game, you never want to reach a point where you're wondering whether one of the team's most valuable players will play long enough to make a meaningful contribution.
We can take stock of this series once again after Game 1. For now, the Warriors are the pick, even against a 13.5-point spread, until the Jazz prove they aren't.
The Pick: Golden State Warriors (-13.5)
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