Boston Celtics Over Chicago Bulls and Friday’s NBA Playoff Predictions
We’re set up for a very interesting night of NBA playoff action on Friday, as someone gets an edge in the Jazz vs. Clippers series and we get to see if the Celtics and Thunder plan on showing up in their respective first round matchups.
It’s been a mixed bag for all parties to this point, as OKC had game two in control but saw Russell Westbrook falter down the stretch, wasting an otherwise impressive 50-point triple-double in a second straight loss on Wednesday night.
Chicago has flexed their defensive muscle in two surprising wins in Boston and will look for a commanding 3-0 lead when their series shifts back home to the United Center. The Clippers will take it to the road to battle the Jazz, as well, with each game potentially giving us a hard-fought contest and maybe even some late game theatrics.
Vegas certainly is expecting something along those lines, as all three games have a 3-point spread or tighter, with the Bulls, Thunder and Clippers all entering as ever so mild favorites. Let’s dive into Friday’s matchups and see which way we should be leaning with our NBA betting:
The first game on Friday’s NBA slate is a huge clash between the Bulls and Celtics in Chicago. The Bulls have stormed out to a very surprising 2-0 series lead and seem to be in control despite owning the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference.
Celtics star point guard Isaiah Thomas has been playing with a heavy heart due to the death of his sister, while his play wasn’t up to snuff in a disappointing game two performance. Boston hasn’t really rallied around him, either, as the likes of Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley and Al Horford have all been erratic, opting to show up and disappear at the wrong times.
Boston’s defense hasn’t been where it needs to be, either, while the Celtics got destroyed on the glass in game one. The lack of control and composure has been startling for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, especially since this is a team that ranked 2nd on the season at defending the perimeter and has typically done as they pleased offensively.
So far, the Celtics have not looked like a real title threat and they could be in very real danger of sliding out of these playoffs in round one. That being said, they’re still the top seed in the conference and they still have the talent, coaching and depth to turn this thing around.
More importantly, it’s still very difficult to trust the Bulls, who went 42-40 during the regular season and were an erratic team throughout the year. Just when they appear to be stable, they tend to collapse and we’re waiting for that moment where they shrink under the spotlight.
Boston’s defense can be better than what we’ve seen and it’s not very likely Chicago’s usually spotty shooting keeps burning the Celtics. This series is almost certainly over if Boston doesn’t rise up and steal game three, so we think they do just that as they get back some much-needed momentum. If you agree, the Celtics could be an attractive bet to storm back and win the series with +195 odds at Bovada.
It pains us to look back at picking the Thunder in each of their last two playoff games, not only because they’re down 2-0 in their first round series, but because they seemed to be in control of both of them for over an entire half.
OKC had their best shot yet at taking down James Harden and the Rockets on Wednesday, but they got into a ton of foul trouble and Russell Westbrook was truly horrific down the stretch. It’s a nightmare of a catch-22 for the Thunder, too, because Westbrook scored 50 points and continues to be the main reason why they have a chance, but his spotty shooting and hero ball ways also continue to sink them in this series.
Houston is obviously the better team and ultimately they’re going to win this series. They very well might do it with a 4-0 sweep. However, Vegas saw in the first two games that everyone else did: Westbrook is a man possessed and OKC is close to getting a win. The Rockets can score the ball at will and light the Thunder (and most everyone else) with their elite pick and roll game, but they also don’t defend and can be a bit more vulnerable on the road.
Harden really wasn’t great in game two and got bailed out a ton by the referees; something I don’t think will happen as much in game three on the road. OKC was inching toward a win in their last game, but now they’re in a much more comfortable spot on their home floor, where they went 28-13 during the regular season and also notched their only win against these very Rockets during the regular season.
Russell Westbrook is amazing, but he needs to realize he can’t beat the Rockets on his own. I expect a huge game out of him (obviously), but this could be a spot where his teammates step up at a place they’re more comfortable – at home. Westbrook will need to not launch nearly 50 shots and put everything on him again. Doing that had him go 4-18 in the fourth quarter on Wednesday, which led to OKC’s best player ultimately being their worst enemy.
Betting against OKC remains logical enough, plus the Rockets actually carry the upside with a +130 Moneyline at Bovada. Still, OKC’s last gasp resides in game three and Westbrook should come out as furious as ever. If the Thunder can’t claw out a win on their home floor, we know they’re dead and this series is over. I expect them to show life and get a win. It’s going to still be very tight, however, so a push or Houston beating the spread doesn’t feel crazy. This game also continues to carry a serious offensive punch, so I have no qualms about betting on the Over, either.
You can probably still go either way on the first two games for Friday. Either the Celtics show up to save their series, or they’re as soft as they looked in the first two games. Either Russell Westbrook beasts out again and OKC gets back in this thing, or Houston just is that much better than the Thunder.
This series between the Jazz and Clippers, however, is a different story. We got battles across four games between these two teams during the regular season and through two playoffs games – yep, more battles.
Utah didn’t have star center Rudy Gobert for game two and almost all of game one due to a minor knee injury, but he was reportedly seen walking without any restrictions recently:
Just saw Rudy Gobert walking through Beverly Hills. No limp.
— Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody) April 18, 2017
That could give the defensive ace a good chance at hitting the floor on Friday, where he’ll be needed to slow down the likes of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
Gobert’s presence certainly isn’t a guarantee that Utah stifles two of the Clippers’ best players, of course, as both still provided strong impacts and helped L.A. take the regular season series, 3-1.
Still, getting Gobert back could be huge, as he naturally helps Utah’s rebounding, shot-blocking and overall defense, while he’s also improved as an interior scoring option. Gobert’s presence takes pressure off of the rest of Utah’s defense, which already boasts stable wing performers in George Hill, Rodney Hood and Gordon Hayward.
It works both ways, of course, as the Clippers sported a top-10 defense during the regular season and have clearly had an impact on Utah’s perimeter offense. Chris Paul can potentially lock down Hill, J.J. Redick does a serviceable job on the outside and Luc Mbah a Moute has made life very difficult on Hayward, as well.
Across the board, this remains a very even matchup, as neither team seems to balk at the prospect of playing tight defense, pounding the ball inside and/or resorting to a slow, methodical offense. That naturally has most of these games favoring the Under and every possession is going to count. Utah starts with the slight edge after going a strong 29-12 on their home floor during the regular season, but the Clippers entered this series as the favorites and they may feel the pressure to steal back home court advantage after Utah took game one.
The Jazz can really be a problem defensively, but the Clippers are the more experienced playoff team and of the two, have by far the more reliable and explosive offense. Chris Paul also feels like a guy who won’t be denied, so until the Clips drop this game, I’ll believe he’ll will them to victory. I think this is going to be a very intense series that could stretch to seven games, but I think the Clippers at least take back the momentum with a huge game three win on the road. Vegas certainly is favoring them and in what amounts to a pick’em, I don’t see enough reasoning to back the less experienced Jazz. As stated before, the defense and slow pace here should also promote the Under.