Pelicans vs. Warriors Odds – 2018 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Semifinals

pelicans-warriors-2018-playoffs-oddsThe New Orleans Pelicans whipped through their first-round playoff matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers. No. 6 New Orleans pulled off a surprising sweep of the Blazers and are now locked in a semifinals series with the No. 2 Golden State Warriors.

Predictably, their first game at Oracle Arena wasn’t as easy as their contests against Portland. They dropped the game by a score of 123-101. Now the Pelicans will regroup and try to bring the same fire they did against the Trail Blazers.

But New Orleans will have an even tougher time, given that Steph Curry is expected to take the court for Game 2. Curry has been out since late March with an MCL sprain and will try to shake off the rust tomorrow night against the Pelicans.

The last time that the two-time NBA MVP had a long layoff before returning to the playoffs, he scored 40 points against Portland in a 132-125 victory. For good measure, Curry also grabbed nine rebounds and delivered eight assists.

Fellow Golden State star Kevin Durant looks forward to seeing his teammate back on the court.

“He loves the game just as much as anybody I ever been around and I know he wants to play. I’ve just been thinking about that, just worrying about how he feels not playing,” Durant said.

“Excited for him to get back just to be in a place where he enjoys most, which is playing ball, and the other stuff, we’ll figure it out. But I’m more so excited as his brother that he’s out there, he gets to play basketball, something that he loves to do.”

With another game at Oracle and Curry returning, the odds are stacked against New Orleans more than ever before. And you can see this reflected in our GTBets odds below.

Can the Pelicans shock people and even up the series, or at least play well enough to cover the spread? Find out as I discuss both teams’ prospects in Game 2 of this Western Conference semifinals series.

Warriors Pelicans Odds – 2018 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Semifinals Game 2, May 1 at 10:35pm

  • New Orleans +10.5 (-109) / +550 moneyline
  • Golden State -10.5 (-109)/ -755 moneyline
  • Over/under 226.5 (-109)

Why the New Orleans Pelicans Will Cover +10.5

New Orleans struggled to continue the same offensive dominance against Golden State. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that they still have four skilled veterans who can score.

Everything starts with forward Anthony Davis who’s averaging over 30 points in the playoffs. He wasn’t as dynamic against the Warriors in Game 1. But The Brow still put up a solid state line with 21 points, 10 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocks.

Jrue Holiday had been on fire after torching Portland. But Golden State cooled him down. Nevertheless, Holiday is still averaging 24.4 PPG in the postseason.

Rajon Rondo has upped his game in the playoffs as usual. He’s averaging 10.6 PPG and giving the Pelicans gritty defense. Sharpshooter Nikola Mirotic remains a threat from anywhere on the court, and he’s averaging 16.4 PPG in the postseason.

New Orleans plays at the league’s fastest pace, with 102.73 possessions per game. This is even quicker than the Warriors, who ranked fifth with 101.5.

The Pelicans are one of the few teams in the NBA that can keep up with Golden State. And Warriors guard Klay Thompson discussed how tough it is to compete against this New Orleans squad.

“Man, it was tiring,” Thompson said. “The Spurs (first-round opponent), they are a little older, so they play a little more methodical. They try to beat us up in the half court and low block. This team is kind of like playing ourselves.

“It’s like, you make a bucket, you can’t relax. You have to sprint back, find a shooter and they are pushing the tempo. It’s a whole different ballgame.”

The Pelicans are up against a seemingly impossible task. They face a team with the NBA’s best offensive rating (112.3) and a strong defense. But they have enough star power, and a lightning fast pace that can give Golden State trouble.

Pelicans Playoffs ATS Record: 4-1 overall; 2-1 on the road

Why the Golden State Warriors Will Cover -10.5

durant-warriors-pelicans-oddsMissing Steph Curry hasn’t slowed the Warriors down too much so far. Kevin Durant is leading the charge with 27.8 PPG, while Klay Thompson has proven a worthy sidekick with 23.3 PPG. Even Shaun Livingston has stepped up his game with 9.5 PPG.

Then there’s the ultimate utility man in Draymond Green, who played a fantastic all-around game against San Antonio. Green is leading the team in rebounds (11.8), assists (8.5), steals (1.7), and blocks (1.2) in the postseason.

“Draymond is going to guard everybody,” said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. “He started on Davis, but when (Looney) came in to guard Davis, Draymond slid over to (Rajon) Rondo. You know how Draymond is. He wants to be in the fray and he wants to be in the middle of the floor.

“Middle of the action, I should say. We’re going to put him on people that are going to be in the middle of the action and probably not guys who are spotting up and shooting, so that he can make an impact.”

Golden State has proven very tough to score on. Holiday is a perfect example, because he couldn’t find his shot with Durant draped on him. He also faced Iguodala, Kevon Looney, Klay Thompson en route to 11 points on just 4-for-16 shooting. Holiday was particularly stifled by Durant, finishing 1-for-9 when guarded by the 7-footer.

“Well, Holiday has been really, really good, in that last series and late in the year so he was a priority for us for sure,” Kerr said. “I thought Kevin’s size factored in and Kevin did a great job on him.”

Golden State also did a good job of throwing different looks at Mirotic. In Game 2, Livingston, Thompson, Looney, and Green all harassed Mirotic into 3-of-9 shooting.

With everybody on their game and Curry coming back, it doesn’t seem like Golden State will have too much trouble winning Game 2. The only question is how much they’ll win by.

Warriors Playoffs ATS Record: 4-2 overall; 3-1 at home

Final Thoughts on Warriors and Pelicans Odds

New Orleans has been a feel-good story so far. They’re the lowest seeded team remaining in the playoffs. And it’s no secret that many fans would love to see this David topple Goliath, especially considering the success that the Warriors have had in the past few years.

But Golden State likely won’t face any serious challenge if/until they play the Houston Rockets next round. They don’t have much to worry about at home. But maybe New Orleans can give them a serious run at the Smoothie King Center in Game 3.

Final Score Prediction: Golden State wins 117-106 – Warriors cover -10.5 spread

Cavs vs. Raptors Odds – 2018 NBA Playoffs Betting Game 1

cavs-raptors-2018-nba-playoffs-oddsNeither the Cleveland Cavaliers nor the Toronto Raptors had an easy time in the first round. But both teams managed to get by their initial playoff opponents and will meet in the 2018 Eastern Conference semifinals.

Toronto is hoping to beat James and the Cavs in their third try in as many years. And it seems like they have a better chance to do this than ever before, considering that they won a franchise-best 59 games and have the East’s top seed.

They’re also playing better team basketball than ever before. Head coach Dwane Casey redesigned the offense to move away from repeated pick-and-roll sets with guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. This has helped the Raptors’ assist percentage to go from last in the league in 2016-17 (47.2 percent) to 11th this year (59.0 percent).

These numbers alone don’t mean that Toronto is going to get past Cleveland. They’ve gone to 2-8 against the Cavs in the last two postseasons. And the main reason why is because of LeBron James.

To be fair, nobody has stopped James from reaching the NBA Finals in the last seven years. And this is why GM Masai Ujiri Work has worked so hard to put versatile pieces in place that are capable of stopping Cleveland.

Will that be the case in 2018? Find out as I preview the first game of this Eastern Conference semifinals series. You can also see the odds on this game below and make your wagers at GTBets.

Cavs Raptors Odds – 2018 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 1, May 1 at 8:00pm EST

Cleveland +6.5 (-113) / +221 moneyline
Toronto -6.5 (-105)/ -263 moneyline
Over/under 215.5 (-109)

Why the Cleveland Cavs Will Cover +6.5

Looking at stats from the Pacers series, one thing is clear: LeBron is carrying his team more than ever before.

kevin-love-cavs-raptorsJames averaged 34.4 PPG, 10.1 RPG, and 7.7 APG in the first round, while scoring 45 points to extinguish Indiana in Game 7. Cleveland added a number of players in the offseason that they hoped could take the load off LeBron. But many of these players were sent packing in a midseason roster overall.

One thing’s for sure, and that’s how Kevin Love needs to step up in the second round. He averaged 11.1 PPG and 9.3 RPG against the Pacers. While not bad numbers, this isn’t what you’d expect from the team’s No. 2 option.

Of course, Love isn’t the only one who needs to contribute more for Cleveland to beat the Raptors. J.R. Smith, Rodney Hood, and Jordan Clarkson have also been underwhelming so far. Meanwhile, George Hill, Kyle Korver, Larry Nance, and Tristan Thompson (namely Game 7) played up to their abilities during parts of the Indiana series.

Hood has especially been disappointing so far. He averaged 16.8 PPG and shot 38.9% from the three-point line before being acquired from Utah. However, he’s struggled in Cleveland, averaging 10.8 PPG and shooting 35.2% from the arc.

I chalk up some of this to Cleveland playing their first postseason series together. I can’t guarantee that they’ll gel enough to knock off the Raptors. But they should certainly play better as a unit with seven playoff games under their belt.

And Cleveland has one undeniable advantage in that nobody in the East can handle James one-on-one. This was evident in the Pacers series, and it will be true against Toronto as well. He’ll see a lot of rookie OG Anunoby, whom he shot 61.9% against in the regular season.

Another plus for Cleveland is that they led the league in spot-up shooting (1.08 points per possession) and rank well in transition offense (17.5 possessions per game). Defending against these areas is a strength of Toronto’s, but they won’t have these defensive advantages against Cleveland.

Cavs 2018 Playoffs ATS Record: 1-6 overall; 1-2 on the road

Why the Toronto Raptors Will Cover -6.5

As good a job as Toronto has done in sharing the ball, it’s clear that DeRozan and Lowry are still the leaders on this team. DeRozan averaged 26.2 PPG against Washington, while Lowry averaged 17.2 PPG and shot 43.6% from beyond the arc.

cavs-raptors-odds-2018-nba-playoffsLowry has a history of struggling every time that Toronto has exited the playoffs in the past three seasons. But if he plays as well as he did against Washington and John Wall, then this team has a definite shot to move on.

Point guard play should be a big strength for the Raptors, because they also have Fred VanVleet, who played well against the Wizards. This bench unit as a whole has been outstanding, showing the ability to flip games. Their offensive net rating led the lead (8.3) while their effective field goal percentage was 54.0%.

Toronto should also have the better defense in this series. They ranked eight in the league by allowing 104.9 points per 100 possessions, which makes them better than Indiana (16th, 106.3). It’s doubtful that this team defense will slow down James, but it could affect the supporting cast even more than the Pacers were able to do.

This looks like the Raptors’ best chance to take down James in years, especially since he no longer has Kyrie Irving as a sidekick.

Raptors 2018 Playoffs ATS Record: 4-2 overall; 3-0 at home

Final Thoughts on Cleveland and Toronto Odds

Cleveland has never looked more vulnerable in the four years since James has came back to the city. Of course, this has nothing to do with LeBron himself, but rather a supporting cast that hasn’t provided much support at all.

Meanwhile, the Raptors have been crafted to take down James. And they have the numbers and roster to back up this vision. However, they didn’t look so dominant against Washington. I think that they’re going to have another tough series when facing off against James.

They’ll most likely take down the first game in the series, but look for this to be another close affair for both teams.

Final Score Prediction: Toronto wins Game 1 by a score of 106-101 – Cleveland covers -5.5

Victor Oladipo and the 3-Pointer that Cost Vegas Millions

victor-oladipo-three-pointer-sportsbooksThe Indiana Pacers came up just short in their first-round playoffs series against the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron James torched them for 45 points in what would be the difference maker in a 105-101 loss. But maybe Indiana can find some solace through an interesting story involving Victor Oladipo.

The Pacers guard hit a three-pointer as time ran out. The shot was virtually meaningless, other than to make the score closer. But it has special significance from a betting perspective. Specifically, it caused a multimillion-dollar swing at Vegas sportsbooks.

Oladipo’s Three Helps Pacers Cover Game 7 Spread

victor-oladipo-three-pointer-sportsbooks-1Many Vegas and online sportsbooks opened their Game 7 line with the Cleveland Cavaliers as a 6.5-point favorite. This is understandable, given that James hasn’t lost a first-round playoff series in 13 years, and he was playing at home.

Regardless, people were taking the Pacers at -6.5. This caused most land-based and online sportsbooks to close the Cavs’ line at either 5.5 or 5 points.

Both of these turned out to be losing propositions. Oladipo’s last-second three-pointer helped Indiana close the gap to 105-101. This meant that the Pacers covered their spread anyway you slice it.

How Oladipo’s 3-Pointer Happened

Cleveland point guard George Hill was fouled with six seconds to go in the ballgame. And he made his first free throw to give the Cavaliers a 105-98 lead. This basically iced the game, because it meant that Indiana would need the impossible task of scoring three times in six seconds to win.

Nevertheless, Victor Oladipo wasn’t ready to give up yet. Hill missed the second free throw and Oladipo rebounded it. He then dribbled up the court and hit a wide-open three-pointer to close the game.

Sportsbooks Lost Millions on Oladipo’s Three

vegas-sportsbooks-lose-oladipoFew people feel sorry for the sportsbooks when they lose big. And it appears that Vegas did lose big when Oladipo nailed the three.

According to ESPN’s David Purdum and Darren Rovell, the sportsbooks were seeing a lot of action on Indiana. And this came back to burn them when the Cavs didn’t cover.

“It was probably a swing of $3 million to $5 million in Nevada,” said Johnny Avello, who runs the Wynn’s sportsbook. “These types of things happen five or more times a week in our industry, whether it’s a two-run home run to cover the run line in the bottom of the ninth or an empty-net goal in the last minute of an NHL game.”

Westgate assistant manager Ed Salmons was bold enough to throw his support behind Cleveland before the game.

“We need the Cavs,” Salmons said. “The smart money was on the Pacers.”

The ESPN column also points out how William Hill Nevada saw 70 percent of the point spread money put on Indiana. This means that William Hill took a healthy loss here, because they couldn’t balance both sides of the line.

Scott Shelton, who supervises the Mirage sportsbook, said that his company was in a strange position. Indiana covering the spread meant that the Mirage suffered a five-figure loss. But if the Pacers had won the series, then Mirage would’ve booked a six-figure profit.

The good news for online and Vegas sportsbooks is that we’re still relatively early in the 2018 NBA Playoffs. That said, they have more than enough time left to recoup their losses and win money.

Thunder vs. Jazz Odds – 2018 NBA Playoffs Betting

thunder-jazz-playoffs-odds-game-6The Oklahoma City Thunder looked finished in Game 5, down by 25 points in the third quarter. Many already began wondering if the super trio of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony would break up after losing a first-round series against the Utah Jazz.

Then Westbrook got hot. The reigning MVP scored 33 points in the second half and 45 overall to lead his team back from a seemingly insurmountable deficit. Now the Thunder go on the road with a chance to tie up the series.

Utah, meanwhile, has maintained a solid grip on this matchup from the outset. But now they must dig deep and try to rebound from surrendering what should’ve been a series-clinching victory.

Keep reading as I cover both teams’ chances of winning along with the odds on this game. Also note that you can bet on the Thunder vs. Jazz at GTBets.

Oklahoma City Utah Odds – Game 6 First Round Playoffs Series, April 27 at 10:35pm

  • Oklahoma City +5.5 (-109) / +200 moneyline
  • Utah -5.5 (-113)/ -244 moneyline
  • Over 206 (-109)
  • Under 206 (-109)

Why the Oklahoma City Thunder will Cover +5.5

Russell Westbrook won the league MVP last season after becoming just the second player to record a triple-double. He bettered this mark in the 2017-18 season by becoming the only player to average a triple-double in two seasons.

There’s no question that Westbrook is the star of Oklahoma City. And he backed this up by leading his team to victory when they were down by 25 points midway through the third quarter.

“It was win or go home,” he said. “Regardless of what is going on in the game, you have to give yourself a chance to win, and I thought our guys did a good job of that tonight. They did an amazing job of sticking together.”

Gone were the distractions that Westbrook had been immersed in throughout the series, including his personal vendetta to shut down Ricky Rubio. This led to a particularly bad Game 4, and he was assessed a technical during an ugly loss.

All seems forgiven after he scored 45 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, and dished out seven assists. He also got plenty of help from Paul George, who scored 34 points and grabbed eight rebounds. George feels that the reason why his team came back from such a huge deficit is that they never gave up.

“We just never quit,” he said. “We never quit. I can’t pinpoint one thing we did wrong. We just never got down on ourselves, regardless of the lead they built and the shots they were making. We could surge back and we did.”

But one missing star for Oklahoma City is definitely Carmelo Anthony, who only scored seven points on 2-for-6 shooting. Anthony was subbed out midway through the third quarter with the Thunder down 71-53. He didn’t see the court again until Oklahoma City was winning 88-87.

Anthony played just 26 minutes in total, which is a far cry from Westbrook and George playing almost entire game. Assuming Oklahoma City can get all three of their stars on the same page and playing well, then they have a good chance to cover their spread and possibly even win a tough road game.

Oklahoma City ATS Record: 2-3 in first-round playoffs series; 0-2 on the road

Why Utah Jazz Will Cover +5.5

jazz-thunder-playoffs-game-6-oddsThe Utah Jazz are still trying to figure out what happened after they got such a big lead and were on the verge of advancing to the second round.

Jae Crowder was particularly good in this contest, scoring a playoff career-high 27 points. Donovan Mitchell added 23 points, while Joe Ingles chipped in 16.

The Jazz played well enough offensively to have closed out the series. But they didn’t get it done on the other end the court. Utah’s Post players, Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, got into foul trouble in the second half. And the Jazz never looked the same after that as they gave up basket after basket.

“We stopped playing defense,” Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell said. “We stopped getting back. Our offense got stagnant. They made adjustments and we didn’t make the right adjustments back. We will watch the film and figure out what went wrong, but from my analysis right after the game, we just stopped getting back in transition and they just fed off of that.”

Gobert, a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, picked up his fifth foul early in the third quarter. This robbed Utah of their shot-blocking presence and made team defense more difficult.

“It’s a different feeling when you don’t have big fella back there,” Mitchell said. “It’s hard that we put all the pressure on him. We have had success but eventually it’s not going to work and we have to play better defense as guards ourselves.”

To be realistic, the Jazz could’ve won the series in five games and should be preparing to face the Houston Rockets. But as it stands, they must win at least one more game within the next two contests.

This is very possible as long as they keep Gobert on the court. That said, the Jazz just need to stay out of foul trouble and keep doing what they already are.

Jazz ATS Record: 3-2 in first-round playoffs series; 2-0 at home

Final Thoughts on Utah and Oklahoma City Odds

The Oklahoma City Thunder are coming off an emotional win, where Westbrook and George really stepped up. Now they head out on the road to face a Jazz team that’s been out-playing them throughout much of the series.

Utah doesn’t have the headlining stars that the Thunder do. But they’ve really come together this season to exceed expectations. They were on their way to blowing out Oklahoma City in Game 5. I don’t see this being too much outside the bounds of happening in Game 6.

Final Score Prediction: Utah wins 104-97 – the Jazz cover their -5.5 spread

Cavs vs. Pacers Odds – 2018 NBA Playoffs Betting

cavs-pacers-2018-playoffs-oddsThe Cleveland Cavaliers are now firmly in control of their first-round playoff series against the Indiana Pacers. They have LeBron James to thank for their 3-2 series lead. He provided the heroics in Game 5 after blocking Victor Oladipo’s shot and hitting a last-second three-pointer.

The Pacers were in control early with a 2-1 series lead. But they’ve since relinquished their lead and now face elimination on their home court.

Can Indiana win to even up the series and force a deciding seventh game? Find out as I look at the odds and discuss both teams chances of covering and winning. Also note that you can wager on this game at GTBets.

Cavs Pacers Odds – Game 6 of First Round Playoffs Series (April 27 at 5:05pm)

  • Cleveland +1 (-110) / -104 moneyline
  • Indiana -1 (-108)/ -118 moneyline
  • Over 204 (-108)
  • Under 204 (-110)

Why Cleveland Will Cover +1

lebron-james-cavs-pacers-2018-playoffs-oddsCleveland didn’t have an ideal regular season, finishing 50-32 and earning the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. But many expected that they’d easily get past the Indiana Pacers since they swept them last year.

That hasn’t even been close to the case so far. Cleveland has either surrendered huge leads or had to claw back from big deficits. The latter was the case in Game 5, because they were down by 7 points at halftime.

The Cavs controlled the third quarter by outscoring Indiana 32-17. But then they let the Pacers back into the contest and needed James’ three-point shot to win in the end.

It’s fitting that LeBron saved Cleveland, considering that he’s averaging 34.8 PPG, 11.4 RPG, and 8 APG in this series. He’s gotten decent contributions from teammates like Kevin Love (11.8 PPG, 10.4 RPG) and Kyle Korver (9.8 PPG). But the consistency hasn’t been there for the entire team, and they don’t have a true No. 2 scoring option.

Nevertheless, it seems that LeBron has been all they’ve needed to get close victories. He scored 44 points to help Cleveland win Game 5 in the Q. And he poured in 32 points to help the Cavs to a 104-100 victory in Game 4.

The Cavs now have the lead and two chances to eliminate a club that James has vanquished many times in the past. If they can get any extra help for LeBron, then they can win Game 6. All eyes are on Love, who’s been held to single digits in two of the five contests so far.

Cavs Playoffs ATS: Cleveland is 1-4 ATS in this series, including 1-1 on the road. They have a terrible home ATS record this season (12-27-2) but have been more consistent on the road (18-22-1).

Why Indiana Will Cover -1

cavs-pacers-2018-playoffs-bettingIndiana may not be leading this series, but the numbers are on their side. They’ve gone 5-4 against Cleveland this season. The Pacers also have stronger team defense (104.2 PPG allowed vs. 109.9 PPG) and a decidedly better turnover margin (21.2 vs. 17.2).

Nate McMillan has done a good job coaching this squad. In fact, Indiana is easily the biggest surprise of the 2017-18 season.

One big reason for their success is the play of Victor Oladipo, who’s become an All-Star after middling seasons in Orlando and Oklahoma City. He leads the Pacers in the series with averages of 20.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG, and 5.2 APG.

But they’re going to need him to play better than he has in the last two contests. Oladipo is just 10-for-30 from the field and 4-of-16 from three-point range in this spin.

The good news for Indiana is that, unlike Cleveland, they can count on consistent contributions from non-star players. Bojan Bogdanovic is scoring 14.8 PPG in this series, while Myles Turner is averaging 13.4 PPG and 5.8 RPG.

Assuming Oladipo can get hot again, and Turner and Bogdanovic continue playing well, then Indiana has a good chance to win this game and extend series.

Indiana Playoffs ATS: The Pacers have surprised many, including myself, in this series. They’re 4-1 ATS in this so far, including 1-1 ATS at home. They’ve exceeded expectations all year with a 47-35 ATS mark, including a 24-17 ATS home record.

Final Thoughts on Cavs Pacers Odds

Indiana has certainly been a feel-good story for the season. A team that most experts picked to finish in the lottery, this squad rose to the fifth seed and has pushed Cleveland further than anybody expected.

The Cavs, on the other hand, have yet to play up to their capabilities. James can never count on a good sidekick on a nightly basis. Considering how subpar Cleveland has played throughout the series, they haven’t put it all together yet. But I can see this happening in Game 6, especially if starting point guard George Hill (back) returns to the lineup.

Final Score Prediction: Cleveland wins 99-95 – Cavs cover +1 spread.

Celtics vs. Bucks Odds – 2018 NBA Playoffs Betting Game 6

Many wondered how the No. 2 seed Boston Celtics would perform in their first-round playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks. After all, they lost point guard Kyrie Irving for the remainder of the postseason to a knee bacterial infection.

Everything seems to be going well for the undermanned Celtics right now. They won Game 5 by a score of 92-87, giving them a 3-2 lead as they head to Milwaukee.

As for the Bucks, they’re now facing elimination despite having a relatively healthy squad. And star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo noticeably struggled in the last contest.

The good news for Milwaukee, though, is that Boston hasn’t won a road game yet. Therefore, the Bucks have the perfect chance to win and force a deciding Game 7 contest.

I’ll discuss the odds of Milwaukie winning Game 6. You can also see the betting odds for this game below. And keep in mind that you can wager on Milwaukee vs. Boston at GTBets.

Bucks Celtics Odds – Game 6 of First-Round Playoff Series (April 26 at 8:05pm)

  • Boston Celtics +5 (-109) / +170 moneyline
  • Milwaukee Bucks -5 (-105)/ -211 moneyline
  • Over 199.5 (-113)
  • Under 199.5 (-105)

Why Boston Celtics will Cover +5

boston-celtics-bucks-game-6-2018-oddsBoston is far from the team that started the season with All-Stars Irving and Gordon Hayward. It only took 5 minutes into the season opener for Hayward to break his ankle and be sidelined for the season. Irving noticeably struggled with his knee down the stretch and was finally ruled out by doctors.

The good news for Brad Stevens’ squad is that the remaining talent is still capable of winning a playoff game. Al Horford, Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier, Jalen Brown, and Jayson Tatum are all solid players who’ve stepped up.

But no player may be more key to Boston’s cause than Marcus Smart. Having been out for six weeks with a thumb injury, Smart finally made it back onto the floor for Game 5. The difference was noticeable, especially on the defensive side.

Boston plays better overall defense when they have Smart hustling and diving for loose balls. He plays a great all-around game, as evidenced by the fact that the 6’4″ guard blocked three shots.

But Smart wasn’t the only hero in this game. Stevens went with a small lineup that involved inserting Semi Ojeleye in place of Aaron Baynes. The moved worked out well, with Ojeleye playing good defense on Antetokounmpko.

The Celtics also have some good history on their side. 29 NBA teams have won at least one playoff series since 2002. The only team that hasn’t is the Milwaukee Bucks. Therefore, this team must overcome a mental block to advance past the first round for the first time in 17 years.

More good news for Boston is that they’ve shot 130 free throws in this series. Milwaukee, meanwhile, has only attempted 100. This makes sense when considering that they’ve out-fouled the Celtics 124-94. If Boston can keep getting these extra opportunities to score and keep the Bucks in foul trouble, then they have a strong change to win and advance.

Why Milwaukee Bucks Will Cover +6.5

boston-celtics-bucks-odds-game-6-2018-bettingGiannis Antetokounmpo certainly hasn’t been a letdown this series, averaging 25.4 PPG on 60.5% shooting. But he didn’t play up to his standards in the Game 5 loss. He took only 10 shots (third lowest of entire season) and wasn’t as aggressive as usual.

Antetokounmpo still finished with a near triple-double (one assist short) and helped keep the contest close. But he was his harshest critic after the loss.

“Game 6, I’ve got to come out and be more aggressive,” he said. “It’s on me. I had open shots, but they weren’t my shots so I didn’t feel comfortable taking them. … I’ve got to be more aggressive, make more plays because definitely, my teammates need me.”

Stevens was pleased with their defensive effort against Antetokounmpo, which took an entire team and a healthy Smart to accomplish.

“Giannis is a heck of a player,” said Stevens. “You’re not going to be perfect against him. You’re not going to hold him down by any means. He makes plays for other people, he’s very unselfish … but we just felt like we needed a little bit more ball pressure overall, and so that was the decision to go smaller.”

Chances are that Antetokuompo won’t sit back and let his teammates take all the opportunities this time around. Expect him to be much more aggressive in driving to the basket and looking for shots.

He and the Bucks have performed well in elimination games in recent years. They went down 3-0 to the Chicago Bulls in 2015, but stormed back to win the next two games and make it a series (they lost in six games). Milwaukee also took Toronto to the brink in Game 6 of last season’s first-round series, before finally letting their lead slip in the waning minutes.

Another thing that the Bucks can hang their hats on is the fact that they’ve outscored Boston 520-519 so far. The games haven’t really been all that close, with each team leading by at least 16 in the last four contests. But the overall point total shows that the Bucks are capable of winning Game 6 for sure.

Final Thoughts on Boston and Milwaukee Odds

Boston played a great defensive game against Milwaukee at TD Garden. But I have trouble seeing them replicate this on the road, especially since they have yet to win at the Harris Bradley Center. I feel that their outstanding defensive performance last timeout was due to the emotional lift from Smart’s return.

Milwaukee was thoroughly figured out in Game 5. But now they have time to plan and prepare to deal with what Boston threw at them. I don’t see Milwaukee winning by a big margin, though. Instead, they’ll eek out a close victory and extend the series.

Final Score Prediction: Milwaukee wins 97-94 – Boston covers +5 spread