NBA Playoffs

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.

Cavaliers begin playoff run behind Warriors on NBA championship odds

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For all the hand-wringing about the Cleveland Cavaliers’ slump, LeBron James and company enter the NBA playoffs in pretty much the same state as they did before winning it all in 2016.

Having weathered a 19-game absence from Kevin Durant, the Golden State Warriors are the -160 favorite on the odds to win the NBA championship, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Stephen Curry and the Warriors’ price will only drop farther as the playoff field gets whittled down, assuming they don’t have an epic collapse.

James and Cleveland are listed at +333 after going just 9-11 straight-up and 8-12 against the spread in their final 20 games against the Eastern Conference. However, the Cavs had a so-so stretch run last year, when they were listed at +400 going into the playoffs.

Thirty of the league’s last 35 champions were either a No. 1 or 2 seed, and the last four were No. 1. Based on their championship experience, the No. 2 seed in the West, the San Antonio Spurs, are third on the board at +600. The No. 1 Eastern seed, the Boston Celtics, are a distant +1600, level with the Houston Rockets. That’s not surprising, considering Boston’s per-game point differential (2.7) is the lowest of a No. 1 seed since 1979.

The Cavaliers are a -275 favorite on the Eastern Conference champion odds, which reflects that James’ team has made the last six NBA Finals. The Celtics are at +425. The Toronto Raptors, whose seeding puts them on course to meet Cleveland in the second round, are listed at +900.

The Western Conference board is very similar, with the Warriors at -250 followed by the Spurs (+300) and Rockets (+750).

Among the four major pro leagues and March Madness, the chalk prevails most often in the NBA. Some general trends to be mindful of is that home teams who lose Game 1 – looking in your direction, Toronto – are 49-10 SU in Game 2 since 2003. Higher-seeded teams who win the first two games are also 40-111 SU in Game 3 (on the road) during that span.

Historically, No. 5 seeds win about a quarter of the time and No. 6 seeds win about 20 per cent of the time. In terms of first-round series prices, the Atlanta Hawks (+175) do stand a decent chance of knocking out John Wall and the Washington Wizards (-205), since Washington might struggle to find a defensive matchup for Hawks big man Dwight Howard.

The No. 8 seed Chicago Bulls (+405), with their savviness at point guard with ex-Celtic Rajon Rondo and former champion Dwyane Wade (who’ll have more recovery time for his 35-year-old legs), could be capable of taking out the Celtics (-500). Eighth seeds have a much better success rate than No. 7 seeds.

Pistons return as big underdogs to NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs

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On Sunday the Detroit Pistons will be making their first NBA playoff appearance since 2009 when they open their first-round series against the Cleveland Cavaliers as +800 underdogs on the NBA series prices at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Pistons ended their seven-year playoff drought with a 44-win campaign, powered by a 10-4 straight-up stretch run that included a 3-1 SU record on the road, and a 112-110 season finale victory in Cleveland as 4-point underdogs.

The win improved Detroit to a surprising 7-2 SU in their past nine visits to Cleveland, but they enter Sunday afternoon’s Pistons vs. Cavaliers Game 1 matchup at Quicken Loans Arena as big 10.5-point underdogs.

The Cavaliers hit the postseason as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and are -2565 favorites on the series prices to dispatch Detroit for the third time in as many playoff meetings.

While Cleveland has struggled at times in regular-season dates with the Pistons, they have dominated in the postseason, winning eight straight against Detroit, covering in their past nine and amassing a 14-1 against the spread record in 15 meetings dating back to 2006.

However, the Cavaliers were far from a sure bet in the final weeks of the regular season, going 7-10 ATS in their last 17 games, and 4-5 ATS over their past nine home dates.

Also on Sunday, the Miami Heat play host to the Charlotte Hornets as 4.5-point favorites in a in Game 1 showdown of Southeast Division rivals.

Miami split their four-game season series with the Hornets, but claimed the division crown and the No. 3 seed in the East on the strength of a 10-6 division record, edging out Charlotte and the No. 4 Atlanta Hawks, who all finished the campaign at 48-34.

The Heat struggled to a 5-4 SU regular season finish, 4-5 ATS, but are 11-2 SU in their past 13 home dates.

Charlotte was one of the league’s best teams in the second half, posting a 23-8 SU record in their final 31 contests according to the OddsShark NBA Database, and travel to Miami as intriguing +125 NBA series betting underdogs.

The Hawks open their postseason on Saturday as 5.5-point favorites against the Boston Celtics, who also finished with 48 regular-season wins. Atlanta has won 10 of their last 12 at home, and seven of their past 10 against the Celtics, who are pegged as +170 underdogs on the series prices.

As well, the Toronto Raptors look to claim their first seven-game playoff series win in franchise history as they host the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 on Saturday as 6.5-point chalk. The  Raptors are strong -337 favorites against the Pacers on the series prices.