The second round tips off on Sunday with an early afternoon slate. The action gets underway at 1 p.m. ET with the Boston Celtics hosting the Milwaukee Bucks. In the Western Conference, the Golden State Warriors face the Memphis Grizzlies at 3:30 p.m. ET. Let’s survey the slate and pick the best bets for Sunday.
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Warriors -2 (-110)
Most teams cannot flip the switch and become great teams. The Warriors can. Curry’s injury doesn’t appear to have been serious. The Warriors’ uneven play in the second half of the regular season hasn’t seemed to bother the chemistry of this team. The NBA regular season is too long and pointless. Box scores and data points from January won’t mean much on Sunday. What matters is that Steve Kerr has the Warriors firing on all cylinders.
The Grizzlies have looked like the best team in the NBA at times. During the Timberwolves series, Memphis showed both sides of their split personality. This young team is high functioning and dysfunctional. Game 3 perfectly sums up this team. The Grizzlies pulled off an unbelievable 26-point comeback, but at the same time, the Grizzlies dug themselves into a 26-point deficit. Even if the good Grizzlies show up on Sunday afternoon, they’re going to face a better team led by veterans.
The question surrounding the Warriors does not involve their big three. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are going to do their part. The championship will be won by the Warriors’ role players and their second unit. At times this season, Jordan Poole, Gary Payton II, Andrew Wiggins, Nemanja Bjelica and Kevon Looney were ready to step up. Often they were not. Again, that’s the regular season — it’s pointless. It’s hard to imagine these young role players stepping up every night against different opponents with their own lineup in flux. Against the Nuggets, there were five games of continuity. Rotations and roles stabilized. The Warriors cruised.
The Warriors are rested and ready. The Grizzlies just emerged from a dog fight. Against a regular team, the Grizzlies’ momentum would likely carry them in Game 1, but not against a team led by veteran superstars.
Bucks +4.5 (-110)
On Apr. 7, the Bucks beat the Celtics 127-121 in Milwaukee. They did not cover the 8.5-point spread. Why was the spread so large? Jason Tatum, Robert Williams and Al Horford were all out that night. On the Milwaukee side, everyone was in. Khris Middleton was a major contributor in that win with 22 points, eight rebounds and nine assists. Middleton has a sprained MCL. He’ll miss the entire series with the Celtics.
The Celtics were nearly flawless in their sweep of the Nets. The only criticism is that they let comfortable leads slip away in Game 1 and Game 4, but no lead is safe against a team with the fire power of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. What truly matters is that when the clock hit zero, the Celtics were leading (they covered in three of the four games — that also matters given that this is a betting article). The Bucks also dominated their first-round series. The Bulls struggled down the stretch, and their offense couldn’t get right in the playoffs. It was an easy series for the Bucks. For the most part, both teams look great heading into Sunday’s afternoon matinee, but both teams played inferior opponents in round one.
Sunday comes down to two factors. The home team won both matchups this season. Boston is at home, so advantage Boston. The second piece is that Khris Middleton is out. Grayson Allen was phenomenal in Middleton’s absence in round one. In the final three games of the Bulls series, Allen averaged 21 points per game and made 14-of-20 3-point attempts. Allen is volatile in many aspects and this series could hinge on his play. If that’s the case, then Boston is the much safer bet. Maybe Allen has transformed into a star or maybe Allen got hot against an inferior team. Boston was the best team in the NBA at defending 3-pointers during the regular season (33.7%), but they were the worst team during the first round (42.2%). Boston wins, but the Bucks cover. The spread is just a little too much.
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