We are not allowed to wager on the number of technical fouls that will be called. Nor can we bet on whether someone will have double-digit turnovers, as Trae Young did last night.
The rules of gambling in the legalized U.S. sports market do not allow for it, which is somewhat disappointing. Through four nights of great NBA action during the postseason, it has become clear that the “over” would hit in both categories pretty much every night.
This is what we waited all season for, and we should have a healthy dose of both tonight as there are three more games on the slate, and tomorrow and Friday when there are a pair of other tripleheaders. And before you get too down on the teams trailing 0-2, try to remember that the Milwaukee Bucks rallied from a pair of those deficits last season, as did the Los Angeles Clippers.
We have said it before and we will say it again: The NBA playoffs are a marathon, not a sprint. And we are still on Mile No. 1.
Not only that, but when Chris Paul can have 14 assists over zero turnovers and still lose to a No. 8 seed, the unpredictable factor ratchets up. And when Steven Adams can play less than three minutes and accumulate two fouls, one of which was a flagrant, in a 28-point victory by the Grizzlies, and Devin Booker can be killing it and fist-pumping a baby before getting injured …. well, you get the point.
What happened yesterday or two days ago has very little bearing on what will happen tonight or tomorrow night. For those who wager, it is all about making sense of the senseless and having a crystal ball that glistens rather than fogs up. We do what we can here at sidelines.io to give you the perspective you need to be one of the gamblers known as a sharp (while warning you that sharps often get limited at the big U.S. sportsbooks, so operating under their radar is crucial, too.)
Making sense out of chaos is a specialty of people in New York, where mask rules continue to be enforced on trains and subways despite a federal judge’s ruling that the national mask rules were overly broad. So while folks one state over in New Jersey are unmasked and breathing freely, the automatons and fun-haters who ride the rails in Gotham are still pulling up their chin diapers. We will see a whole bunch of this later this week as subways packed with fans converge at Atlantic Yards when the Celtics-Nets series returns to Brooklyn, but first we get to see how many middle fingers Kyrie Irving flips at the crowd in TD Garden tonight in Boston. And no, sports books are not allowed to post an over/under on that, either.
So let’s take a look at the three games being played tonight and give our our best take on what to expect. What you do with that info is up to you, but we advise you to keep the mortgage/rent safe and make your wagers using those discretionary dollars that you may or may not use on an airplane flight that will be mask-free … unless/until the powers that be change that rule to keep everyone scared. And don’t get us started on fearmongering politicians, OK?
Brooklyn at Boston, 7 p.m. EDT
Game 1 on Easter Sunday will immediately go down as an all-time classic as Jayson Tatum won it at the buzzer as the Nets fell asleep on defense, but the redeeming thing for their fans was the dominance displayed by Kyrie Irving in scoring 39 points and coming up with four steals on defense. Kevin Durant was not up to his usual standards and lost track of Tatum on the final possession while scoring 23 points, and his 6 turnovers were a playoff no-no that got outdone by Trae Young (10 of them) last night in Miami. Coach Steve Nash has coached questionably, using Nicolas Claxton for more minutes than Andre Drummond at center, and going with Goran Dragic more than Patty Mills when using a smaller lineup. It will be interesting to see whether he decides to go super small tonight with Irving, Mills/Seth Curry, Dragic and Bruce Brown on the court together with Durant, who would be a de facto center in that type of alignment.
Playoffs are all about matchups, and the Celtics are particularly confounding when Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart are all on the court together. Look for the Nets to try to bait those guys into the same kinds of technicals and chippy fouls that the referees were calling in all three playoff cities last night. Boston is favored by 3 ½, which may seem a bit high. The Nets have gone under in eight of their last 11 games, and the over/under has been set at 226 after the over hit in Game 1 by two points. The player prop lines that everyone will be trying to beat include Irving at 28.5, Durant at 30.5, and Tatum at 30.5. Two more games until we possibly throw Ben Simmons into the mix and see whether he remembers how to play basketball. Hopefully for the Nets they are not down 0-3 at that point, because teams that fall behind three games to none have advanced a grand total of zero times in 143 tries. So unless you believe Simmons is the secret sauce, it behooves Brooklyn to win tonight or Saturday.
Philadelphia at Toronto, 8 p.m. EDT
With the Nuggets trailing 0-2 in their series against Golden State, watch for an MVP announcement out of Denver if Nikola Jokic is the guy who is going to win that award. The NBA likes to give out that award with a player on hand to accept it, and Jokic is two losses away from being back in Serbia for the summer. And if Jokic beats out Joel Embiid, we are going to have a very angry Sixers star playing in Canada tonight and Saturday because he will feel he has been snubbed. Heck, Embiid has probably already been told that it is more likely he finishes second than first for the league’s most prestigious individual award, and the guy has been on a mission the past several months. He came back from a sub-par (19 points) Game 1 and put up 31 in Game 2 of the playoffs as the Sixers (now Tyrese Maxey’s team? LOL) have taken a 2-0 lead over the apparently overmatched Raptors, who should be bringing whatever passes for their A game tonight as they take the court as a 2-point underdog. Two guys who have been killing it for Philly are Maxey (he is 22-for-32 in the series and has tallied 38 and 23 points in the two games) and Tobias Harris (16-for-25 overall, 6-for-8 from 3-point range in scoring 26 and 20 points in the first two games). The exploits of Maxey and Harris have allowed the Sixers to withstand a pair of sub-par shooting nights from James Harden (6-for-17 and 3-for-9), who nonetheless is going to break out in one of these postseason games because that is what they guy has done throughout his career. Embiid’s point total over/under is high tonight at 32 ½, while Harris (15 ½) and Maxey (18 ½) are relatively low given what they have done in Games 1 and 2.
The Raptors have gotten nothing from anyone of note from anyone other than Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby. Fred Van Vleet is playing on a bum knee, Gary Trent Jr. (illness) is questionable and Scottie Barnes (ankle sprain) is likely a gametime decision, which leaves the Raptors hurting for production. Look for Chris Boucher to step up if called upon, but it is difficult to see an overmatched Toronto team doing much better than they did in Game 2 when instead of losing by 20 as they did in Game 1, they lost by 15. But the line is only 2, so do with that what you wish.
Chicago at Milwaukee, 9:30 p.m. EDT
The Bucks’ 93-86 victory in Game 1 was the lowest scoring game of the first round thus far, falling a mere 51 points short of the over/under line. Undeterred by this apparent hiccup, the oddsmakers have moved the over/under only five points lower to 225. (For what it is worth, the Bucks had gone over in their final six regular-season games, and the Bulls went over in five of their final six). Milwaukee recovered after blowing a 16-point lead in Game 1, in large part because Chicago shot 1-for-12 from deep in the fourth quarter. DeMar DeRozan was just 6-for-25 but guaranteed that himself, Nikola Vucevic and Zach LaVine will not have another off-target night like the one they had Sunday when LaVine was 6-for-19 and Vucevic was 9-for-27. The point total over/unders for those three are 27 ½ for DeRozan, 23 ½ for LaVine and just 17 ½ for Vucevic, whose career playoff history includes him averaging 28.0 points per game in a 4-1 loss to the Bucks in the bubble two seasons ago when he was still a member of the Orlando Magic. The Bucks had their own offensive problems in Game 1 with Khris Middleton missing nine of 13 shots, Jrue Holiday missing 10 of 16 and Pat Connaughton missing six of seven. We have come to expect better from the defending champs, who undoubtedly entered this series with a supreme amount of confidence because they of their recent success over the Bulls. The Game 1 victory made it 17 wins in their last 18 games against Chicago, a stretch so dominant that it may somehow make it into Giannis Antetokounmpo’s next comedy routine, which most definitely needs some work. Milwaukee is favored by 10, and the Greek Freak’s point total over/under is tied for the highest of the night at 32 ½, and it should not go unmentioned that he missed five of 11 free throws in Game 1 after shooting 72.2 percent from the charity stripe (a nearly 4 percent improvement) after NBA fans all re-learned how to count to 10 last season while watching Giannis overthink things from the line. Let’s not go back to that, OK? Can we all agree on that even if we cannot agree on today’s mask policy?