Monday’s NBA card gives us a pair of crucial Game 4s, as the Celtics and Rockets each find themselves in a 2-1 series hole. Going up against the top seeds in the conference in the Bucks and Warriors, respectively, many will declare the series over if either of these road teams go up 3-1 heading home for Game 5.
Here are some plays I like for Monday (odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook):
Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks: BOS -1 1Q (+100)
It’s a desperate spot for the Celtics at home, particularly after collapsing in the second half of Game 3 in Boston on Friday night. Milwaukee dominated the third and fourth quarters, taking back the home court advantage that Boston stole in Game 1.
The Celtics should come out extra aggressive at home, and should get a spark mid-way through the quarter when Marcus Smart checks into the game. Smart is poised to return after missing more than a month with an oblique injury.
Boston’s already won the first quarter in all three games of this series by at least five points, and an average of 6.3 points per game. I expect the Celtics to also get a slight boost from the officials early in this one. While Milwaukee clearly played like the better team in the second half of Game 3, Boston was undoubtedly called for some really tough fouls that helped break the game open.
A couple of extra early whistles in the Celtics’ favor could make the difference in this one. The game plan should be to establish going to the rim after missing so many jump shots down the stretch on Friday. On the flips side, the Bucks were especially effective getting in the paint and drawing fouls.
I think the Celtics will win this one, but I’m not willing to risk it with their recent struggles. I’m much more confident in them getting out to a quick start.
Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors: HOU ML (-112)
It’s always tough to pass on the Warriors as underdogs, but just look at how Game 3 played out on Saturday. The line closed at GSW +3.5, which was the richest underdog spot the Warriors have had when Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant were all in uniform.
After the Rockets pulled off the overtime win, this spread is much closer to a pick ‘em, leaving the value on Houston’s side. The Rockets did wind up covering in a 126-121 win, leaving arguments to be made for both sides being fortunate.
Houston was extremely fortunate to get one of the worst games of Curry’s career — he shot 7-for-23 and missed a handful of crucial layups, including one in the final seconds.
Even so, Green had a 19-point triple-double, while Durant poured in another 46 points. Andre Iguodala was an X-factor with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting in 41 minutes, which should be very difficult for him to repeat on the road.
Houston rode 71 points from James Harden and Eric Gordon to victory, but Chris Paul only attempted eight field goals and Gerald Green was scoreless off the bench. I don’t think the Warriors lose this series when it comes down to it, but the Rockets should continue to extend it.
The Warriors have been a trendy first-quarter play at 7-2 ATS in their last nine, while Houston has failed to cover a 1Q spread in its past six games. With Golden State averaging almost eight PPG more than the Rockets in the first quarter of playoff games, you could try and wait for a more appealing line on the Rockets if this trend continues (whether you want to ride the GSW 1Q trend or not).
Julian’s picks records at MajorWager:
NFL Draft props: 6-1