NBA Finals, Game 4: Golden St. at Boston

Most books have Boston listed as a four-point home favorite for tonight's Game 4 of the NBA Finals vs. Golden St.

Boston Celtics vs. Golden State Warriors

Line: Boston -4

Total: 214.5

Where: TD Garden

When: Friday, 6/10 at 9:00 p.m. ET

TV: ABC

If Golden State ever needed its NBA Finals experience to mean something, it’s Friday night’s Game 4 against Boston at TD Garden.

The Celtics used their balance, youth and physicality to take a 2-1 series lead on Wednesday night, moving within two games of their first title since 2008. Golden State bounced back from its first loss in the series with a commanding effort in the second half of Game 2, but it will need an even stronger performance on the road in Game 4 if it wants to get back to level footing.

There is certainly a consensus about where the direction of this series is heading in the betting market. Boston opened as a 3.5-point favorite for Game 4, which was the closing spread on Wednesday. However, the early action has been on the Celtics, moving the line to -4 as of Thursday afternoon.

The total has also seen some movement since opening at 212.5—the same over-under as Game 3. Bettors want no part of the ‘under’ following Wednesday’s high-scoring game, causing the line to spike to 214.5. The Celtics are the better defensive team, but the ‘over’ has been correlated with Boston’s wins so far in the series.

Some of the money coming in on the Celtics could be due to the health of Golden State star Steph Curry, who hobbled off the court following a loose ball tumble involving Al Horford. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr did not have an update on his point guard’s health on Thursday.

“I haven’t talked to him,” Kerr said. “We’re expecting him to play.”

Curry told reporters that he was “obviously in some pain” following Game 3, but that he didn’t feel like he would miss a game. Golden State quite simply cannot afford Curry to miss what is virtually a must-win game for the Warriors.

He put together a strong performance amid a disappointing finish for Golden State, scoring a game-high 31 points. Teammate Klay Thompson broke out of his slump with 25 points on 7 of 17 shooting, but it was not enough to overcome Boston’s balance.

The Celtics had three players—Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart—score 24-plus points on Wednesday. They also received meaningful contributions from Al Horford, Robert Williams and Grant Williams, who combined for 29 points and 23 rebounds.

Robert Williams has been battling through a left knee injury throughout the postseason, but he contributed 10 rebounds, four blocked shots and three steals in the win. He only played 14 minutes in Game 2 before helping Boston earn a 47-31 rebounding edge in Game 3.

“It’s been rough,” Williams said. “Throwing everything at it (the injury). Usually it’s more sore the day after the game…I think it’s a matter of playing through pain. Obviously, not getting the time off that I need for this injury. We’ll focus on that after the season.”

Williams contributed to a poor game from Golden State’s Draymond Green, who had just two points and four rebounds. The Warriors scored just 11 points in the fourth quarter, which were the third-fewest in an NBA Finals game in the shot clock era.

Golden State holds the NBA record with at least one road game won in 26 consecutive playoff series, but that record is now in danger. The Warriors have only covered the spread once in their last seven road games, and they are 1-4-1 ATS in their last six trips to TD Garden.

Boston has won nine of its last 10 games against a Western Conference opponent. The ‘under’ has cashed in 12 of the last 16 head-to-head meetings between these teams, but Golden State has gone ‘over’ in four of its last five games this postseason.

The pick: Golden State +4

This is probably the trickiest game to handicap so far this series, as it feels like things are teetering on a bit of a precipice. Boston can completely take over or Golden State could be back in the driver’s seat—such is the nature of a 2-1 series in a best-of-7 format. I’ve been backing the Celtics since the end of the Eastern Conference Finals, but I am going to take Golden State getting four points on Friday night. I am not overly concerned about Curry’s foot. He would have left the game immediately instead of staying in for several more minutes before Kerr called off the dogs if it was *that* serious.

I have bigger concerns about Williams’ knee getting just one day off in between games this time around. Tatum and Brown are great, but Williams is really the one player that Golden State cannot defend. Ime Udoka will not be as motivated to push him past ~15 minutes given the 2-1 cushion, while Kerr will be forced to play his best guys 40-plus minutes. The Warriors have too much experience to fade in this kind of spot, especially getting an extra half-point on the spread. Boston has had multiple letdown performances during this playoff run, so Golden State picking up an outright win would not surprise me. Regardless, I think the value is on the Warriors in what should be the closest game of the series thus far. That’s probably too many words to say that this is a classic NBA zig-zag spot.

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