NBA playoff action continues Wednesday night with the most-anticipated first-round series tipping off first.
the Nets and Celtics take the floor at TD Garden for the first time since Sunday’s instant classic. All the animosity that led to such a tight game has only intensified after Jayson Tatum’s buzzer beater and Kyrie Irving’s comments about Boston fans.
Later on, the 76ers travel north of the border to take on the Raptors. Philadelphia holds a 2-0 lead and could take hold of the series, especially if Toronto rookie Scottie Barnes misses his second consecutive game.
And in the late spot, the bucks host the Bull’s after their scare Sunday. Chicago came dangerously close to stealing Game 1 from the defending champions before Milwaukee prevailed.
Regular season record: 117-113-2
Play-in/playoff record: 6-11
Check the Latest Odds and Lines at SI Sportsbook
Time: 7 p.m. ET | TNT
Spread: Nets +3.5 (-110) | Celtics -3.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Nets (+138) | Celtics (-163)
Total: Under 226.5 (+105) | Over 226.5 (-125)
The Nets nearly stole Game 1 in a hostile environment despite an uncharacteristic off-shooting night from Kevin Durant. If it weren’t for a defensive lapse that allowed Tatum to spin into a game-winning layup, Brooklyn would be bearing down on Boston. Instead, the Celtics lead the series, 1-0, and are closer to getting defensive anchor Robert Williams III back (though Al Horford held up just fine Sunday).
Steve Nash surprisingly got production from his bench, and the Nets sure needed it. Durant and Kyrie Irving combined for 62 points and no other starter finished with double digits. Bruce Brown played 37 minutes and had as many points (five) and he did fouls. Andre Drummond was limited to just 17 minutes and Seth Curry only got off four three-point attempts and connected on one. Nic Claxton (13 points, eight rebounds, three blocks) and Goran Dragic (14 points) picked up the slack.
Boston didn’t need much from its reserves because its starting five did their job. Tatum led the team with 31 points and eight assists and hit the biggest shot of the game. Jaylen Brown, Al Horford and Marcus Smart all finished with at least 20 points and rebounded well, contributing to the Celtics’ 43-29 edge on the glass.
Brooklyn covered a 4.5-point spread in Game 1 and nothing happened in that contest to dissuade me from picking the Nets to finish within striking distance once again.
The Durant game is coming. The problem for Brooklyn is that beyond a hot shooting night for Curry or Patty Mills, the biggest game-to-game improvement it can hope for (besides the growing possibility of a Ben Simmons return) is Durant or Irving having one of their all- time performances. Irving just had one in a loss—the Nets can’t waste another. I don’t think they will. Tatum has proven he can go toe-to-toe with Durant, but the C’s can’t count on 20-plus from Smart and Horford in every game.
BET: Nets +3.5 (-110)
Time: 8 p.m. ET | NBA-TV
Spread: 76ers -2.5 (-110) | Raptors +2.5 (-110)
Moneyline: 76ers (-133) | Raptors (+110)
Total: Under 216.5 (-110) | Over 216.5 (-110)
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This series is shaping up to be the most likely sweep of the first round. And that’s after the Raptors were dubbed as a semi-popular upset pick. The Pelicans got a game off the Suns already, the Bulls pushed the Bucks in Game 1 and the Hawks showed signs of life Tuesday against the Heat. Toronto can’t say any of those things after losing the first two games in Philadelphia for 20 and 15 points.
Matisse Thybulle won’t be available for the next two games in Toronto due to his vaccination status. However, Doc Rivers’ defensive specialist played just 19 minutes in Game 1 and 10 in Game 2 off the bench—he averaged 25.5 minutes per game in the regular season and started 50 games. It seems Thybulle’s unavailability won’t hurt the 76ers as much as originally thought, especially when Toronto might be without a Rookie of the Year finalist in Barnes (ankle), who missed Monday’s game. Barnes is doubtful and Gary Trent Jr. (non-COVID illness) is questionable.
Philadelphia is not allowing the Raptors to play their transition game by limiting turnovers, winning the rebounding battle and shooting 52/48/86. It’s difficult to run off free throws and the 76ers are averaging the second-most attempts in the playoffs. Of course, Joel Embiid accounts for a large chunk of those—he’s 21-25 so far.
The Raptors didn’t come close to winning Game 1, which was a bad Embiid game. Then Game 2 was a bad game for Harden, but Embiid hit the 30-point mark. And in both games, Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey surpassed 20 points—Maxey went for 38 over the weekend and leads the team in scoring in the postseason.
Philly is imposing its will on Toronto in every facet of the game. Maxey can get out in transition and blow by defenders, Embiid can play bully ball and rack up free throw attempts or Harden can prod the defense in the halfcourt and find his teammates for easy buckets. The Raptors’ length is not bothering the 76ers and it’s hard to count on a shorthanded team that rode its short rotation so often in the regular season.
I’m on Philly to cover and take a commanding 3-0 lead and I’m betting on the two best offensive threats for either team so far—Maxey and Anunoby—to hit the 20-point mark for the third playoff game in a row.
BETS: 76ers -2.5 (-110); Tyrese Maxey Over 18.5 Points (-118); OG Anunoby Over 18.5 Points (-108)
Time: 9:30 p.m. ET | TNT
Spread: Bulls +10.5 (+100) | Bucks -10.5 (-118)
Moneyline: Bulls (+410) | Bucks (-549)
Total: Under 224.5 (+100) | Over 224.5 (-118)
It kind of feels like the Bulls had their shot and blew it.
Chicago held Milwaukee to 93 points on its home court, the Bucks got poor performances from Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday and the defending champions still won. It was closer than expected, 93-86, but a win’s a win for Milwaukee, which will undoubtedly come out better Wednesday than it did Sunday.
It’s a wonder the Bulls were even in the game considering how poorly they shot. DeMar DeRozan connected on 6-25 shots, Nikola Vucevic went 9-27 and Zach LaVine shot 6-19. Overall, Chicago shot 32% from the field and 19% from three. Turning Milwaukee over 21 times and corralling 16 offensive rebounds afforded the Bulls 12 more shots than the Bucks, but they didn’t do much with those extra attempts.
Milwaukee got 27 points and 16 rebounds in 34 minutes from Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was +19. He did participate in the turnover party, giving the ball up five times. The Bucks hadn’t been held under 100 points in months and for their division rival with a putrid defense to do it in the first postseason game is concerning.
I expect both teams to perform much better Wednesday. Chicago simply can’t shoot that poorly again and that near-loss should light a spark for Milwaukee. If a few more outside shots fall for the Bucks and they take better care of the ball, they should win comfortably and calm some of the worries that stemmed from Sunday’s performance.
BET: Bucks -9.5 (-110)
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