Friday, July 1, 2022

Why the Celtics should be the favorites to win it all, plus best bets for Thursday

The NBA Finals start tonight, and while that’s exciting news and I’m looking forward to watching, there’s always one aspect of the Finals that annoys me to no end. The way the NBA schedules it.

Game 1 is tonight, but we’ll have to wait until Sunday for Game 2. Then we’ll have to wait three more days for Game 3. The only time there won’t be a three-day gap between games is between Games 3 and 4. Now, I understand why the NBA does this. It lengthens the series, which helps the league’s broadcast partner fill more time in the summer when programming gets somewhat threadbare (more singing competitions, anyone?). That means more money for the league, and everybody likes more money. 

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Also, more days between games has the added benefit of rest for a bunch of tired players and reduces the risk that a key player will miss a significant portion of the series with an injury. But none of that changes the fact that, as a fan, it’s annoying. I don’t want to watch Game 1 tonight and then have to wait until Sunday night to see Game 2. I am a child raised in the era of television and the internet. I have no patience.

Hopefully, I’ll have more interesting stories like these to read and help pass the time between games.

Now let’s find some winners.

All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook

The Hot Ticket

Celtics at Warriors, 9 p.m. | TV: ABC

Latest Odds: Boston Celtics +145

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  • Key Trend: The Celtics are 7-2 straight up on the road in the NBA Playoffs.
  • The Pick: Celtics (+145)

If you took my advice from late October before the NBA season started, you already have a future on the Celtics to win the title at +5000. I have hedged a little on the Warriors to ensure I get something no matter what, and I would encourage those of you with Boston (+5000) or something similar to do the same.

In a way, I’m doubling down a bit on the Celtics with tonight’s play. Even when the Celtics were floating around .500 halfway through the regular season, the numbers were much higher on them, and the Celtics have caught up to them since. Well, those same numbers suggest Boston should be the favorite in this series, but it isn’t.

It’s not surprising when you consider the Warriors have homecourt, plus there’s that whole dynasty aspect. Their experience will play a role against a young Celtics team under a first-year head coach. But from a statistical standpoint, the Celtics are the better team. Both are outstanding defensively, but the Celtics were the more efficient offense of the two all year long. Also, Golden State ranked 29th in the NBA in turnover rate during the regular season at 15.0%, and the Dubs haven’t taken better care of the ball in the playoffs, as they’re still at 15%. 

We’ve seen Golden State get away with wasted possessions in the playoffs against teams it is much better than. It’s not much better than the Celtics, and unless they clean it up, it will cost them dearly in this series. I think the Celtics send a loud message tonight.

Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: If you’re looking for something different, Zach Cimini has crushed the spread in games involving the Celtics this season, and he has a spread play for Game 1 tonight.

The Picks



Oilers at Avalanche, 8 p.m. | TV: TNT

Latest Odds: Colorado Avalanche -170

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The Pick: Avalanche (-170) — Are you ready for some high-end hockey analysis that will blow your mind and change the way you think? I’m taking the Avalanche tonight because the Avalanche are a much better team than the Oilers. Yes, I know that Edmonton has Connor McDavid, and he’s incredible, and the Oilers are an outstanding team. That’s fine. Colorado is better.

While Game 1 was a festival of goals, I wouldn’t expect the same output tonight. Colorado has been one of the better defensive teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, as it was during the regular season. Edmonton is not. The Oilers win with offense and an outstanding power play. The problem is that Colorado scores more goals and is nearly as good as the Oilers on the power play. And that Colorado offense is even more dangerous at home, where it scored 4.15 goals per game during the regular season and is scoring 4.17 during the playoffs.

Key Trend: Colorado has won four straight against Edmonton, and the favorite has won each of the last seven meetings.


Mets at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m. | TV: MLB.TV

Latest Odds: Under 8.5

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The Pick: Under 8.5 (-105) — This matchup has many of the things you’ve seen me look for when betting baseball unders — especially the pitching matchup. Tony Gonsolin brings more strikeout power, while Taijuan Walker offers a better command of the strike zone. Both induce groundballs well above the league average for starters, and both rank among the very best at keeping the ball in the park this season.

Behind both are strong bullpens that have done an excellent job of avoiding hard contact. The Mets bullpen ranks third in the league in hard contact allowed, while the Dodgers are 11th. The Dodgers bullpen ranks first in K/BB ratio. In other words, you can be confident that neither team will fall apart once their starters leave.

Key Trend: The under is 4-1 in LA’s last five games as a favorite.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: Want more NBA Finals action? Sportsline prop guru Alex Selesnick has released his favorite props for Game 1.

HR Stack Attack

We’re betting on each of these Atlanta Braves to hit a dinger tonight.

  • Ronald Acuna (+255)
  • Marcell Ozuna (+330)
  • Ozzie Albies (+470)

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