The NBA Finals resumes on Sunday night for Game 2. After two days off, the 18-day long championship contest gets underway at 8 p.m. ET. with the Golden State Warriors hosting the Boston Celtics. Let’s survey the slate and pick the best bets for Sunday night.
Warriors -4 (-110)
The NBA Finals has just begun its month long grind. Technically, it’s only 18 days for the viewer, but for the teams it’s 21 days. That three weeks might as well be a month. It’s an eternity when compared to the NFL — who decide their championship in three hours. A month is a blast for the casual fan, but it’s torture for the purist. Are you a purist or a normie? There is an easy test. Watch the NBA’s nine-minute highlight reel for Game 1. The Warriors make a three then the Celtics make a three and back and forth. Do you like 3-point contests? This is a dream series for the casual fan, but this is a disaster for basketball fans. There were 173 field goals attempted in Game 1 and 86 were 3-point attempts — that’s half. The point here is not to be the old man yelling at the clouds. The point is to separate fantasy from reality and see what is truly happening in this series, and in most games for that matter. Dialing down the noise and the media hype will allow bettors to make better bets. The best bet is the 11th commandment — He who makes the three, shall win the game.
Who is going to make their threes on Sunday night? Both teams made more than their fair share in Game 1. Both teams shot above their season averages. The better question is who will run cold or colder in Game 2? The Celtics shot 35.6% from three this season, but shot 51.2% in Game 1. The Warriors shot 36.4% this season (many of those games were without Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson), and that number increased to 42.2% in Game 1. Just from those numbers, it’s clear who won Game 1. It’s also clear who deviated from the mean and is more likely to regress in Game 2. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics shot 34.5 % from beyond the line in seven games against the Heat. Take out the Game 2 outlier — 50% on 3PA — and that average declines to 31.9%. This is where the Celtics should live, somewhere in the thirty to forty percent range. If that’s the case, then the Warriors win.
The case for Boston’s regression strengthens from the perspective of 3-point defense. Both team’s surrendered a 33.9% 3P% this season (tied for the best). Not only did Boston punch above their weight in terms of 3-point shooting, but the Warriors dropped the ball in terms of 3-point defense. Steve Kerr has two days to address this failure. In Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, the Warriors allowed the Mavs to shoot 50% from beyond the arc. In Game 3, the Mavs shot 34.4%. In Game 3 of the semi-finals, the Grizzlies made 53.1% of their 3-point attempts but were held to 24.3% in the subsequent game.
Finally, Marcus Smart, Al Horford, Derrick White and Payton Pritchard combined to shoot 17-for-26 from behind the 3-point line (65.3%) in Game 1. Seven of those threes were in the fourth quarter. Who believes that will happen again? Not DraftKings Sportsbook. Look at the 3-pointers made over/under bets for Game 2: Horford 1.5 and Smart 2.5.
“15 for 23 from those guys? We’ll be fine,” Draymond Green said as he smiled and shrugged. Either the Celtics are due for regression or Payton Pritchard and Derrick White are on their way to becoming All Stars. It’s your money, but the former seems like the more realistic scenario. When regression hits in Game 2, the shots stop hitting and more rebound opportunities arise. Who is going to get those boards? The most passionate player, the most active player and the most likely to respond when his team is on its heels will grab those rebounds with elbows up. That’s Draymond Green. It also helps that he is often the defacto big man on the floor, and he logged 38 minutes in Game 1. Green might get to this number through rebounds alone. Speaking of regression, how about some positive regression. Green shot 2-for-12 in Game 1. That’s not going to happen again.
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