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It’s been nearly a month since the Boston Celtics had Kyrie Irving on the court. Turns out that they won’t have him back until next season at the earliest. The mercurial point guard will miss the remainder of the season, including playoffs, due to a knee operation. After an rip roaring start to the season for the Boston Celtics, things are ending with the toot of a bad fart.

This is an absolutely fatal wound to the Boston Celtics and their championship aspirations. Over the past ten games without Kyrie, they’ve managed to go a very respectable 7-3 SU and ATS but the most recent two games are very important. Boston lost to Milwaukee before being buried by the Raptors. While those were both road games, they very much typify what we can expect in a playoff series from this team.

Sadly, it’s not much. I wouldn’t suggest that this is all doom and gloom. Keeping Kyrie healthy is the absolute priority and with Gordon Hayward coming back next year, Boston should be a top-three team in the east without question. Who knows if LeBron stays? What happens if (or when) the Toronto Raptors combust in these upcoming playoffs?

Right now it’s as dark as it could be for Boston, but the truth is that they’re going to be fine long term and winning a title without Gordon Hayward was going to be tough enough. The 2018-19 season will be a redemption song for the clover boys and it’s going to be great.

Currently, the Boston Celtics have +375 odds to win the Eastern Conference, and nobody should be touching those right now. Here’s what that board looks like at…

NBA – Odds to Win Eastern Conference - per
Cleveland Cavaliers +100
Toronto Raptors +150
Boston Celtics +375
Philadelphia 76ers +600
Washington Wizards +2500
Miami Heat +3300
Indiana Pacers +4000

All season long we’ve been talking a bout the Toronto Raptors and the Cleveland Cavaliers as the true threats to win the conference. Boston has been the other top-three team in this discussion all season long, but now somebody else has to take that spot. Who’s it going to be and which teams are you going to bet on?

More importantly, which team should you bet on?

Cleveland Cavaliers Defence Remains A Problem
The defence of the Cavaliers has been embarrassing, but their track meet mentality of trying to outscore opponents continues to be somewhat effective (if not completely hard to rely on in a playoff series). If you like ‘em, go for it. LeBron James is the best player in the league and he has absolutely no equal in this conference. That’s more than enough to go for the even money Cleveland represents.

Raptors Have Been Imploding Lately
Toronto represents a tougher sell from a lot of angles. Their recent skid of 5-5 SU and 1-9 ATS has had people running for the goddamn hills up north. They’ve unraveled in all the worst ways but have thankfully staved off the full threat of potential extinction by keeping everyone on board mentally. That’s a very hard thing to do in a roller coaster-type losing skid that this team is not used to.

Galvanized and rejuvenated, the Raptors have always had to figure out what their rotation is going to look like in the playoffs. DeRozan, Lowry and Ibaka are all basically guaranteed but the other 4 or 5 spots were up for grabs. Jakob Poeltl and Jonas Valanciunas are both vital. Delon Writght and Fred Vanvleet have made themselves inexpendable. That last spot goes to either OG Anunoby (who has been outright average on both ends) or CJ Miles, who has been frighteningly inconsistent.

No matter which way you package this playoff roster heading in to the post season, it doesn’t light my senses on fire. I want the Raptors to do well – the franchise deserves it after masterfully building a championship contender out of scraps, and the fans have been amongst the best in the league for a long time.

With Cleveland questionable and Boston hurting, this is the year to do it. If they can’t, then whatever comes after an early playoff exit is going to be very troubling and a vibrant dose of reality that they can’t win with what they’ve got…and there’s no real help on the horizon.

Everybody Else In Philadelphia Is Winning Titles
Taking over Boston’s spot in the Eastern Conference is – you guessed it – the Sixers. I know that they have all of the elements of a team you don’t traditionally bet on to win a conference but this has been an ultimately strange year. So let’s get those negative factors out of the way.

Are they really too young and too inexperienced not to understand the magnitude of the playoffs? Where Philadelphia often gets ignored is on their defensive side, where they own the rights to the most valuable kitchen sink commodity in stats: they’re the best defensive team in terms of opposing field goal percentage. That simply means that they are very good at forcing bad shots that their opponents don’t want to take.

The bad news is that they’re 1-3 SU and ATS against Toronto this season, and are 1-2 SU and ATS against the Cavaliers. Most importantly, they play Cleveland on Friday in what could very well determine how we perceive them from a betting perspective overall.

Let’s put one thing in to perspective with Philadelphia and make it crystal clear – they’re 12-0 SU and 10-2 ATS in their last dozen games, and that includes being perfect against the spread in their last 10 consecutive games. It’s been a slightly easily schedule, but they’ve averaged a 116.7 points per game while only surrendering 102.7 points against. That’s not a great output defensively, but it just goes to show how dominant the Sixers have been.

Simmons is the Rookie of the Year and Embiid has become a force of nature. With any other young team that lacks hard boiled experience, I’d say stay away. But these guys? I love the odds, especially when they’re paying out +600.

Milwaukee Is Staggeringly Average
The Bucks ranks 14th in points for and 16th in points against. Add to that their 6-4 SU and 5-5 ATS record and it’s easy to see what they are: canon fodder. I want to like this team more than I do. Giannis is awesome, but aside from a 37 points barrage against Cleveland, he’s been relatively mortal for a superstar. I don’t even know what Joe Prutny’s impact on this team has been. He hasn’t fixed their defence, hasn’t taken the offence to another level and hasn’t really made the team any better.

Washington Still Stinks With John Wall
We can categorically say that John Wall is not worth the $800 billion gadrillion that Washington has, and is going to pay, him. One of the reasons is that the leaks about his sordid form of leadership and team divisiveness have surfaced far too often. It’s like Kawhi and the Spurs – it’s not really a story until it lasts for a curiously long time. Wall hasn’t been able to nip this idea that he’s not a great leader in the butt for the past few years, and he hasn’t put a dent in his team’s fortunes since returning.

Granted, it’s going to take time for a guy like Wall to get to full speed after recovering from a serious knee injury. But even at +2500, Washington doesn’t propose any serious value. Like the Bucks, they don’t do anything exceptionally well and the supporting cast is non-existent.

Miami Heat Have Upstart Ingredients
This is a longshot that we can actually talk ourselves in to using all of the known tropes for NBA playoffs. Here’s a go at it: Spoelstra knows how to get it done…their roster is full of try-hards that can totally blow up a series…they’re a strong defensive team that is groomed by a championship winning coach…Dragic is a dangerously effective point guard who too many people overlook…so many nice pieces like Tyler Johnson and Justice Winslow…are we done yet?

Listen, Miami is +3300. That’s a stretch, even for my longshot tastes. I think they can spoil a favorite in the early rounds but they’re not totally designed for a younger, better version of what they are like Cleveland, nor a team like Toronto that is fully capable of dismantling them. Miaim could and will give Boston a serious run in the first round, but they also match up horribly with Philadelphia.

The problem with Miami overall is scoring. They just can’t generate a comfortable amount of points. They’re averaging 103.5 on the season and have only recently scored a highs of 115 and 119 against Atlanta and New York.

Indiana Is Probably The Best Longshot Bet
You know why? Because I can throw $20 around like a idiot anytime I want. Tossing some paper at the Pacers to scorch the east in the playoffs isn’t out of the question. You know why? Because all Indiana has done this season is outperform expectations. They’re a dazzling 45-33 ATS on the year.

I’d never thought that I’d say this but Victor Oladipo is a superstar, and he’s maintained a playing standard that is so high up there that it’s hard not to believe in this team. I love getting viciously nerdy about the Indiana Pacers. Myles Turner? Yes please! The Spawn of Sabonis? Can I have seconds? Thad Young and Bojan Bogdanovic?!?!? I can’t contain myself here!

Indiana has some effectiveness at throwing monkey wrenches in opposing offences because of the effort level on defence, which ranks them 7th overall. They’re also an outstanding perimeter defence that is great at forcing bad threes. Where they really lack is on the inside and teams like Toronto can really take advantage of their stripped down post presence.

But overall Indiana has a lot of versatility that I really like and Nate McMillan has somehow juiced this lemon really well all year long. Can they really beat Toronto in a seven game series? Probably not. Are they truly a threat to beat Cleveland? Listen, a lot of good teams are a threat to beat Cleveland. Can they hang with an injury riddled Celtics team or the surging Sixers? I’d bet money on it.

This market is Toronto, Cleveland and then Philadelphia in that order but if you’re looking to turn a tiny bit of loose change in to a heaping load of beer money, then by god go for the Pacers.

Please note that the last five paragraphs you read were engineered for people (like me) who want to bet on Indiana long term and just needed some encouragement.

The final week of the NBA season is coming full force at us! Bet on the games at and groom yourself for the playoffs!

· Mejia: Thursday's Essentials
· News: Win Total Betting Update
· Raptors stave off Thunder in OT
· Blazers win, but Mavs cash late
· Grizzlies edge Harden, Rockets in OT
· Bulls hold off Wizards in OT, 126-120
· Heat snap Spurs' 9-game hot streak
· Embiid lifts 76ers past Celtics, 118-115
· Jazz pound Knicks, 'over' hits
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