Washington Wizards Over Boston Celtics and Thursday’s NBA Playoff Picks
Isaiah Thomas has been operating in the 2017 NBA Playoffs with a heavy heart. The death of his sister nearly derailed the Celtics in round one, when Boston fell into a 2-0 hole against the Chicago Bulls.
The Celtics were able to rally around their star point guard and rip off four straight wins to advance to round two, and that rally never ceased. Thomas eventually got back to what he does best, of course, and we saw that at a high level on Tuesday night, when Thomas went off for 53 points in a crazy overtime win over the Washington Wizards.
After the game, Thomas suggested he’s “playing for” his deceased sister and that she was “looking down” over him. That emotional edge has lifted his game and Celtics fans will be hoping for an encore as Boston’s round two series with the Wiz shifts to D.C.
Even if it doesn’t, the Celtics are in a far better spot in round two than they started in during round one. Heading into Washington with a 2-0 lead, the Celtics could take a commanding 3-0 lead.
In the Western Conference, we get a less dramatic showdown, as the Warriors try to go up 2-0 at home in their second round series against the Utah Jazz. The Jazz tried to give the Dubs a challenge in game one, but ultimately failed. Going into game two, Vegas isn’t giving them much of a chance to even the series.
NBA bettors will be wondering if Vegas will be wrong in that series or if the Celtics will ease up on the road against the Wiz. Let’s break down both games and see which way you’ll want to be leaning with your NBA bets on Thursday night:
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens suggested his team “got lucky” by winning Tuesday’s OT thriller, and he may have a point. The Wizards have lost the first two games in this series because their defense has been non-existent, but the Celtics haven’t exactly been playing elite defense, either.
That could keep the door cracked open for this to still become a very intense series, especially with the Wiz getting game three and four in their own backyard. Washington was one of the best teams in the league during the second half of the regular season, as they dominated at home (30-11) and maintained that edge in round one (3-0) against the Atlanta Hawks.
A strong record at home in the past doesn’t necessarily mean the Wiz will snag game three and keep this series alive, but it certainly helps their argument. Vegas obviously agrees, as most of the top NBA betting sites are handing Washington a solid 5-point spread as the easy favorites.
The big question is what changes as we enter game three? Washington’s offense has been plenty good in their first two games and if things broke a little differently in game two, we could very well be looking at a 1-1 tie. The defense has to be better, though. The Wizards have given up 123 and 129 points to open up this series, while John Wall allowing Isaiah Thomas to go nuts for 53 points is simply unacceptable.
Washington as a whole has to be better than this defensively and Wall needs to step up on the other end if this is going to remain a series. That’s a tough sell, seeing as the Wiz have done nothing to this point to suggest they can batten down the hatches defensively.
The numbers don’t prop them up on that end of the court, at least, as Washington ranked as the 20th most efficient defense during the regular season and ranked 22nd in points allowed per game, 24th in field goal percentage allowed and just 18th at defending the three ball.
Logically, there isn’t much evidence to support the Wizards shutting the Celtics down and we don’t think they will. But home court edge and pride count for something and in a must-win game, we do think the Wiz can bring just a little more offensively to keep this series from getting away from them.
Things don’t feel nearly as dicey when we shift to this series over in the Western Conference. Utah’s gritty defense did not slow the Warriors down in game one, with Golden State shooting nearly 49% from the floor.
Utah’s strong perimeter defense did play a hand in the Dubs struggling a bit from deep (24%), but the Warriors still connected on seven deep balls and crushed it in the paint and at the free throw line to snag the win to take a 1-0 lead. Considering Utah couldn’t surprise the Dubs with a win despite the strong defense on the outside, it looks unlikely they’ll be able to score a road win if Golden State shoots the lights out like they so often do.
One potential bright spot for the Jazz is Stephen Curry’s ankle injury:
Warriors' Stephen Curry attended to by trainer after coming up gimpy on this lay-up pic.twitter.com/T99RNcW2Fo
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) May 3, 2017
Curry suggested after the game that the injury isn’t a serious concern, but if it turns out it is, a less than 100% Curry could help Utah close the gap in this series.
Even that isn’t a lock to help the Jazz stay in this thing, as Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant could both just shoulder more of the scoring load and get the Dubs past this round. For game two specifically, the Warriors are again at home and Vegas again favors them by over 12 points.
That probably bleeds into Golden State being the obvious straight up pick in this setting, as they have too much talent for even Utah’s defense to track and they also play their best ball at the Oracle Arena (lost just four games there all year).
The big question for Thursday’s game becomes whether or not the Jazz can keep things close and beat this spread. Considering they did it in game one already, they absolutely can. The Jazz didn’t even get a strong effort from star forward Gordon Hayward (4 for 15 shooting), yet they beat the spread, which was 13.5 going into game one.
Utah does have enough defense to potentially give the Warriors trouble inside and out, but they can’t completely stop them. If they can limit their outside success again and slow the pace down some, however, a better showing by Hayward and the rest of the offense could easily keep this a game and help the Jazz beat the spread again. Even Utah slowing things down won’t lead to a game two upset, while the Warriors will do enough on their side alone to top this week Total. Take the Dubs straight up, Utah to beat the spread and shoot for the Over.