NBA Playoff Betting Tips On Friday
By Liam Davis
Utah Jazz (-6) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (+6)
This spread is a little surprising. Not one of the previous five games in this series has been determined by more than eight points, and only two of them would have covered a six-point spread victory.
Considering the Los Angeles Clippers are facing elimination, and that the Utah Jazz have failed to pull away in all three of their wins until the waning seconds, this six-point cushion feels much too large.
Sportsbooks appear to be betting on the Jazz shutting down Chris Paul's supporting cast once again. He received a lot of help in Game 5 from J.J. Redick, who had his first quality outing of the postseason. The Clippers still lost, at home, and will face even more of an uphill battle in Utah, with hostile fans getting rowdy in hopes of cheering their team to its first second-round playoff appearance since 2010.
Still, with the way the rest of this series has unfolded, the Jazz are too much of a risky pick. They may still pull out a victory, but Joe Johnson and Gordon Hayward have been the lone constants on offense through and through. The Clippers found ways to limit Joe Ingles in Game 5 and have been giving George Hill trouble all along.
Whatever happens in this one, the outcome should remain in doubt right up until the end.
The Pick: Los Angeles Clippers (+6)
This line is also pretty surprising, mostly because the Boston Celtics should be favored by much more.
The Chicago Bulls have fallen apart on offense since Rajon Rondo suffered a fractured thumb in his shooting hand. In the 173 minutes they have played without him this series, they've been outscored by 36 points. By losing him, they've also lost their best option when it comes to defending Isaiah Thomas.
Jimmy Butler can check the Celtics' leading scorer, and he will. But that will leave him wasted on the offensive end by the time the fourth quarter rolls around. That's exactly what happened in Game 5, when pundits, fans and even Dwyane Wade were left asking why Butler didn't attempt more shots down the stretch.
It's very rare a team rattles off four straight victories after falling into a 2-0 series hole, and there remains the chance that Rondo forces himself to play. The latter is why the line has not mushroomed yet. Sportsbooks are covering themselves in the event Rondo is given the green light.
The safest pick, however, is the Celtics. Their small-ball lineups have been too much for the Bulls to handle over the last three games, and there's no reason to expect that'll change now.
Boston Celtics (-2)
This best-of-seven set between the Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls has been the most unpredictable of any first-round series.
Just when you think the Wizards have seized control, boom! The Hawks come back. And just when you're ready to show the least bit of confidence in Atlanta, Washington re-establishes itself as the better team.
Neither team has won on the road in this series, which favors the Hawks. It helps, too, that the Wizards' bench, with the exception of Game 5, has been largely ghost. The Hawks are able to stretch 10 or 11 players deep on most nights, and the Wizards just don't have the personnel to give their starters enough rest.
Add in Markieff Morris' recent slump, John Wall's spotty defense and the Wizards' rather porous sets in general, and you have a recipe for a Hawks victory and, after the fact, a Game 7 on Sunday in Washington.
The Pick: Atlanta Hawks (-3)
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