NBA Playoffs: Game 2 Betting Previews
With favorites Boston and Toronto both taking their Game 1 matchups against Philadelphia and Brooklyn, respectively, let’s cast our attention on the totals for Game 2, how the lines have adjusted, and what we might see when it comes to scoring in these two Wednesday encounters.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics -4.5 O/U 214.5
Game 1 finished 109-101, with the UNDER covering by a mere half point. While intuitively, the look might be to the OVER, as the line has dropped six points, there’s good reason for the adjustment, and the UNDER may still hold some value. The biggest thing that jumps out here is the pace factor. Both of these teams were playing faster than usual during the seeding round. Philadelphia put up a pace rating of 101.3, while Boston’s ended up at 101.0. These numbers are increases from the regular season, where the Sixers had a pace rating of 99.4, and the Celtics closed at 99.8. However, in Game 1, the teams came screeching to a halt. The first matchup was played with a pace rating of only 92.0, the slowest of Monday’s action. There’s plenty to suggest this will continue. For one, the Celtics are without Gordon Hayward, who will miss up to four weeks with an ankle sprain. In addition to the fact Hayward is a great offensive player, his presence alongside Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown is what allows Boston to seek out favorable matchups with lots of switching on the offensive end. Losing Hayward is not going to stop the Celtics from employing this deliberate method, but it will be harder to exploit, and the offense could slow even further. Hayward will be replaced in the starting lineup by Marcus Smart, one of the best defensive players in the NBA. Smart scored only two points on 0-for-5 shooting in Game One, but can defend all five positions, and is notoriously difficult to play against.
Although Philadelphia ran out of gas down the stretch in the first meeting, its on ball defenders did have real moments of quality. Jason Richardson gave Kemba Walker fits all game, while Mattise Thybulle held Jayson Tatum to 2-for-8 from the field while guarding the young superstar. When anyone else was guarding Tatum, he was 8-for-13 shooting the ball. Look for head coach Brett Brown to use these athletic wings to even greater effect against a short-handed Celtics team. And, although Joel Embiid will continue to get his, after a 26-point effort on Monday, Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens used a three-man rotation at the center position to try to cope with Embiid. Daniel Theis, Enes Kanter, and the athletic Robert Williams all faced Embiid, and Marcus Smart also guarded him sporadically. Embiid started 4-for-4 from the field, scoring eight quick points. He went 4-for-11 the rest of the way.
Play: UNDER 214.5
Brooklyn Nets vs. Toronto Raptors -11.5 O/U 226.5
Game 1 flew OVER the 221.5 total with the Raptors dominating the Nets in a 134-110 win. Toronto scored at least 36 points in three of the four quarters. The Nets settled in on offense midway through the second quarter, themselves going on a 47-22 run after falling behind 68-35. The books obviously didn’t love what they saw from a defensive standpoint, and the line here is a full five points higher. The line makers likely figure the recency bias will lead bettors to see a line that is still comfortably below the 244 points scored in Game One and choose to press down. That said, UNDER actually seems like the better play here.
To begin with, Toronto’s outside shooting was absolutely ridiculous in the first meeting. The Raptors connected on 22-of-44 shots from distance. Jacque Vaughn absolutely has the ear of his short-handed but spirited squad, and we can expect perimeter defense to be a huge focus in the team’s preparation for Wednesday’s game. Toronto is a good three-point shooting team, but a season-long 3PM% of 37.4% suggests some regression may be on the way. Moreover, if the Nets focused is renewed, the Raptors will be less likely to get the sort of open looks they pounded home as a demoralized Brooklyn stumbled its way through the first quarter and a half.
Caris LeVert, who dished out a career-high 15 assists in Brooklyn’s loss had this to say. “(The comeback) was huge for us. We know the type of game we have to play,” LeVert said. “We know the type of mentality we have to play with on offense. And defensively, play with more force…The first quarter they were just coming off freebies, making shots like they were just warm-up practice shots. We can’t play that way.” Head Coach Jacque Vaughn decided to stay positive himself following the lopsided loss. “They’re champions and have played on the big stage before, and seemed like they were trying to deliver an early message,” said Vaughn. “I did like the way our group responded after halftime and accepted that first punch: The rounds will continue.” While a better game from Brooklyn seems almost certain, most of that improvement will probably come on the defensive end. The fact is, this is a brutal matchup for the Nets on the offensive end. The talent gap is severe, and Toronto is perhaps the most intense defensive team in the entire NBA. Brooklyn’s outside shooting was putrid in Game One, hitting on 31.0% of three-point attempts. But, that’s almost par for the course for the Raptors, who lead the league in three-point percentage allowed at only 33.7%. Although Brooklyn got to 110 points, the bulk of that came after the Raptors had built a 30-point lead. If this game remains close enough for Toronto to give a full effort on defense, this line is probably too high.