Boris Diaw

Celtics, Hawks, Jazz set as favorites for Friday’s NBA playoff slate

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The Boston Celtics and Isaiah Thomas fare well as a favorite against the Chicago Bulls, plus they’re fully staffed going into a potential clinching Game 6 on Friday.

The visiting Celtics are listed as two-point betting favorites against the Bulls with a 204-point total for Friday at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Celtics are 10-4 straight-up and 9-5 against the spread in their last 14 games against the Bulls where they were favored.

Boston is 3-7 SU and 4-6 ATS over its last 10 road games against the Bulls, but sticking to the present tense, Chicago is compromised in the point-guard matchup with Rajon Rondo (fractured right thumb) almost certain not to play.

The Celtics, who are 7-4 SU and 7-3-1 ATS in road games this season against Central Division teams, have improved their ball movement over the run of the series, showing why they earned the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. That’s enabled Boston to have a three-pronged attack with Thomas, SG Avery Bradley and C Al Horford (who had a game-high nine assists in Game 5).

The Celtics won Game 5 by 11 points even while shooting only 22.5 percent on three-pointers.

The Bulls, who are 7-3 SU and 6-4 ATS in their last 10 home games against the Celtics, will need better three-point shooting than they have had for most of the series. Boston’s defense has made SF Jimmy Butler and PG Dwyane Wade earn everything they get. Chicago, which will start backup Isaiah Canaan in Rondo’s place, has had the edge in rebounding during the series.

The total has gone under in eight of Boston’s last 10 games when it was favored on the road; it has also gone under in nine of Chicago’s last 10 games as a home underdog, according to the OddsShark NBA Database.

Elsewhere, trailing 3-2 in their series the Atlanta Hawks are listed as three-point favorites against the Washington Wizards with a 210-point total. While PG John Wall almost always helps Washington hang around in games, they are just 2-9 SU and 3-8 ATS in their last 11 games as a road underdog. Bradley Beal has also given Washington a big edge in the shooting guard matchup against Atlanta’s Tim Hardaway Jr.

Over the last two seasons, PF Paul Millsap and the Hawks are 11-1 SU and 9-3 ATS in home games in April. With the backcourt leadership from PG Dennis Schroder, Atlanta has a good chance to stay alive.

The total has gone over in six of Washington’s last 10 road games against Atlanta, with one push. The total has gone under in seven of Atlanta’s last 10 games as a home favorite.

And in NBA history, when a series is tied 2-2 the Game 5 winner wins the series 85 percent of the time. The Utah Jazz, who are listed as 5.5-point favorites against the Los Angeles Clippers with a 192.5-point total, could add to that historic trend at home on Friday.

The Clippers aren’t necessarily DOA without Blake Griffin (toe), whose starting spot could be filled by Paul Pierce, as they are 9-8 ATS as a road underdog this season. But PG Chris Paul will probably need an extraordinary night to give the Clippers a chance.

The Jazz, who have C Rudy Gobert closing down the lane, are 9-1 SU and 7-1-2 ATS in their last 10 home games where they were favored by six or fewer points. Utah had six double-figure scorers in Game 5, as veterans Boris Diaw, Joe Johnson and George Hill soothed any jangled nerves in the team’s ranks.

The total has gone over in six of the Clippers’ last eight road games. The total has gone over in seven of the Jazz’s last nine home games.

USA men’s basketball looking vulnerable, still quarterfinal favorite vs. Argentina

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So much for being the only Olympic men’s basketball superpower – Team USA has been less than the sum of their parts after winning their last two games in Rio de Janeiro by only three points apiece.

Team USA’s margin of victory thus is 23.4 points, well below the respective 38.2 and 32.2 of their 2012 and 2008 counterparts. However, with the quarterfinals set for Wednesday at Carioca Arena, the Americans remain the -2000 favorite to win the gold medal at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The gold medal futures board includes Spain at +1400, Australia at +2000, Serbia at +2200 and Lithuania at +2500.

The Americans are 23-point favorites for their quarterfinal against Argentina, and the total is 190.5. A team with Kevin Durant, Paul George and Draymond Green should win, but a cover might be daunting for a team that has yet to establish continuity. Argentina, bolstered by crafty NBA veterans such as Carlos Delfino, Manu Ginobili, Andres Nocioni and Luis Scola, has potential to stick around for three or more quarters.

Back-to-back silver medalist Spain is a 5.5-point favorite against France in the matchup that will decide who faces the U.S.-Argentina winner in the semifinals. The total is 154.5 points.

With Pau Gasol and Rudy Fernandez, Spain excels at getting and making open looks on offense. They are suspect defensively, and France with San Antonio Spurs PG Tony Parker – whose minutes have been rationed in the tournament – is capable of dictating the pace. With Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw, France can also play physically.

On the other half of the bracket, Serbia is a 5.5-point favorite against arch rival Croatia, with a total of 157 points. The x-factor might well be Denver Nuggets F Nikola Jokic, who went off for 25 points when Serbia gave Team USA a scare last round. In a matchup of developing bigs, Jokic is just more polished than Croatia’s Dario Saric, who is joining the Philadelphia 76ers after the Olympics.

Patty Mills-fueled Australia is a 3.5-point favorite against Lithuania. The total is 158. Australia has overachieved so far in Rio, whereas Lithuania has underachieved. Mills and Matthew Dellavedova supply the 1-2 punch at point guard that is a necessity in international hoops. Dellavedova will probably be trusted to try and slow up Lithuania PG Mantas Kalnietis.

Each men’s semifinal is on Friday. Team USA has won five of six gold medals since 1992.