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.

Reminiscing on Vince Carter and Paul Pierce competing in a dunk contest in high school

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Vince Carter is arguably the NBA’s best-ever dunker (just watch the 2000 NBA Dunk Contest again if there’s anyone who disagrees) but some may be surprised that Paul Pierce went toe for toe in dunks with Vinsanity in a slam competition years ago…in high school.

Yes, before both launched epic, Hall of Fame-likely careers in the NBA after being drafted in 1998 draft lottery, they faced each other in the McDonalds’ All-American dunk contest. While it isn’t surprising to see Carter there, as he’s had some epic slams over an almost 20-year career, it’s stunning to see Pierce, who isn’t known for athleticism and is lauded as an old school player, holding his own in the contest’s finals.

On an interesting side note, Kevin Garnett has long been an admirer of Carter’s dunks. From the aforementioned 2000 contest to the punishing dunk on Frederic Weis, KG has often shown his support in a very enthusiastic manner. That apparently has been around since the mid 90s, watch the 40th second of the video for proof.

Kevin Garnett has struck gold with recent Instagram posts (PHOTOS)

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Kevin Garnett has been turning back the clock with his recent Instagram pictures and everybody is winning.

From old school pictures with everyone from Paul Pierce to Randy Moss to the late Flip Saunders, KG has been taking us back.

Enjoy some of the gems below.

Setting his soccer loyalties straight:

Throwback to the high school squad:

Two stars with very different styles:

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"The Ying vs Yang "….. #RESPECT LIKE MFO…

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Garnett, Saunders, Kevin McHale and Glen Taylor rocking phenomenal turtlenecks:

Mount Rushmore of trash-talkers:

15-year-old KG with Pierce:

His days in Boston:

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Thanks for the memories, KG. Keep them coming.