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Game 1 - 76ers at Celtics
Eastern Conference – Game 1
Philadelphia at Boston (TNT, 8:05 p.m. ET)

2017-18 Regular Season (Celtics 3-1)
Jan. 18 76ers (+3) at Celtics 89-80 (Under 203)
Jan. 11 Celtics (-2) vs. 76ers 114-103 (Over 212) - in London, England
Nov. 30 Celtics (-8) vs. 76ers 108-97 (Under 210.5)
Oct. 20 Celtics (+3) at 76ers 102-92 (Under 216.5)

Boston (56-31 straight up, 51-34-2 against the spread) wrapped up its opening-round series with Milwaukee by capturing a 112-96 win as a 4.5-point home ‘chalk’ in Friday night’s Game 7 at TD Garden. The 208 combined points elevated ‘over’ the 196-point total.

The Celtics raced out to a 30-17 lead in the game’s first 12 minutes, easily covering the number for first-quarter wagers (-1.5 or 2). Milwaukee trimmed the deficit to eight by intermission, but Boston still hooked up its backers on first-half bets (-3 at most spots). The Bucks pulled to within three at 54-51 early in the third quarter, but the Celtics extended the lead back into double digits by the midway mark of the stanza.

From there, Milwaukee didn’t get any closer than seven points. Al Horford was the catalyst with 26 points, eight rebounds, three assists, one steal and one blocked shot. The former Atlanta Hawks All-Star made 13-of-17 field-goal attempts. For the series, Horford averaged 18.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.4 blocked shots per game. The 10-year veteran shot at a 58.8 percent clip from the field, made 43.8 percent of treys and buried 76.5 percent of his free throws.

Terry Rozier was Horford’s co-star in Game 7, finishing with 26 points, six rebounds, one steal, one blocked shots and nine assists compared to only two turnovers. Jayson Tatum added 20 points, six boards and five assists compared to just one turnover. Marcus Morris was also in double figures with 10 points and five rebounds.

Jaylen Brown, who set career playoff highs with 20, 30 and 34 points in Games 1, 2 and 4, respectively, left Game 7 with a hamstring injury and didn’t return. He is listed as ‘questionable’ for Monday’s Game 1 vs. Philadelphia.

As of early Sunday afternoon, most betting shops had Philadelphia (56-31 SU, 51-34-2 ATS) installed as a two-point favorite for Game 1 of the East semifinals at Boston. The total was 210 points and the Celtics were +115 on the money line (risk $100 to win $115).

Sportsbook.ag has the 76ers as -400 ‘chalk’ to win the series and advance to the Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics are the +300 underdogs (risk $100 to win $300).

These storied franchises would determine who would win the East back in the early 1980s. However, this is just the third time they have collided in the playoffs since 1985.

Brad Stevens’s club has produced a 31-14 SU record and a 26-17-2 ATS mark in its home games this season. Meanwhile, Philadelphia owns a 24-19 SU record and a 22-19-2 ATS ledger in its road assignments.

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Boston has won five in a row at home both SU and ATS. Going back further, the Celtics are 8-1 both SU and ATS in their past nine home contests. They’ve been home underdogs eight times this year, producing an 8-0 spread record with seven outright victories. Boston’s only outright defeat as a home underdog was a 125-124 overtime loss to Washington as a four-point home underdog.

Philadelphia advanced past Miami in five games, clinching the series with a 104-91 win as a 10-point home favorite on April 24. Therefore, Brett Brown’s team is well rested opening the series six days later in Boston.

In the Game 5 triumph over the Heat, J.J. Redick scored 27 points by draining 5-of-10 attempts from 3-point land and all 10 of his free throws. Joel Embiid added 19 points, 12 rebounds, two steals and one blocked shot, making 8-of-14 FGAs. Ben Simmons finished with 14 points, 10 boards, six assists, two steals and one rejection.

Embiid missed 10 games with an orbital fracture that required surgery, but he returned in Game 3 at Miami and the 76ers went 3-0 both SU and ATS with him back in the lineup. Embiid averaged 18.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.0 blocked shots and 1.3 steals per game versus Miami. Redick averaged 20.0 PPG in the opening round while posting a 13/5 assist-to-turnover ratio. Simmons averaged 18.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, 9.0 assists and 2.4 SPG vs. Miami.

Boston went 3-1 both SU and ATS in the head-to-head rivalry during the regular season. However, we should note that Kyrie Irving scored 20, 36 and 21 points in the Celtics’ wins, and he didn’t play in the lone defeat.

The first regular-season encounter went down at Wells Fargo Center on Oct. 20, with Boston winning a 102-92 decision as a three-point road underdog. The 194 combined points dropped ‘under’ the 216.5-point total. Irving led six Celtics in double figures with a game-high 21 points. Redick had a team-best 19 points and four assists without a turnover in the losing effort.

Boston beat Philadelphia by a 108-97 count on Nov. 30 to take the money as an eight-point home ‘chalk.’ The 205 combined points stayed ‘under’ the 211.5-point tally. Irving scored 36 points while Al Horford contributed 21 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two blocked shots. The two-time national-title winner at the University of Florida hit 9-of-12 FGAs, including 2-of-3 launches from downtown.

On Jan. 11, Boston won 114-103 over Philadelphia in London as a 1.5-point favorite. The 217 combined points jumped ‘over’ the 212-point total. Brown and Morris scored 21 and 19 points, respectively, for the winners. Redick had a team-best 22 points on 5-of-9 shooting from long distance for the 76ers.

One week later on Jan. 18, Embiid scored 26 points, grabbed 16 rebounds, dished out six assists and blocked two shots in the 76ers’ 89-80 victory at Boston as three-point underdogs. Dario Saric added 16 points, six boards and three steals, while T.J. McConnell finished with 15 points and three steals. Horford and Morris shared team-high scoring honors for the Celtics with 14 points apiece.

Chris David of VegasInsider.com believes Boston will win this series but is hesitant to step up the betting counter for Game 1. He explained his lean on the Celtics and his trepidation for the opener.

“Taking Boston at 3/1 odds on the series provides a lot of value, especially with homecourt advantage. Even though the 76ers boast the two best players on the court, both Simmons and Embiid have struggled against the Celtics defense this season. That’s not a surprise, considering Boston plays arguably the best team defense in the league. Philadelphia has turned into a jump-shooting team and if it often puts up crooked numbers but it’s hard to ignore the fact that they also turn the ball over more than anybody in the league and they struggle from the free-throw line,” he said.

“I’m expecting a hard-fought series that will likely go seven games but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it end sooner if Philadelphia can’t connect from 3-point land. For Monday, the let-down factor for Boston could be in play but it’s hard to ignore how good Boston has been as a home ‘dog (7-1 SU, 8-0 ATS) this season. At the same time the 76ers have dominated as road favorites (15-6 SU, 12-9 ATS) and they enter this game with 10 straight wins in that role as visitors, which includes a pair of wins over Miami in the first round.”

The total for Game 1 opened 210 and was pushed down to 208 ½ as of Sunday. David agrees with the move but did bring up a great ‘over’ angle for the opener.

He said, “Both teams play great defense and I would expect these totals to drop as the series continue barring a lights-out shooting display. If you enjoy seasonal angles and factor them into your handicapping then make a note that Philadelphia has watched the ’over’ go 15-4 (79%) when listed as a road favorite. The 76ers haven’t been held under triple digits in any of those games and while a lot of the results came against losing clubs, the offense posted 113.5 PPG versus playoff teams. I respect Boston’s defense but Philadelphia’s team total ‘over’ might be worth a look.”

Totals have been an overall wash for the 76ers (43-43-1), but they’ve seen the ‘over’ cash at a 23-20 clip in their road assignments. The ‘under’ was a winner in three of Philadelphia’s last four games against Miami.

The ‘over’ is 48-40-1 overall for Boston, 26-19 in its home outings. The Celtics have seen the ‘over’ go 11-3 in its past 14 contests.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

-- Philadelphia is 20-1 SU since March 15, producing a 15-4 spread record in its past 19 contests.

-- If you somehow missed it on Saturday, Utah took a crushing blow with the loss of starting point guard Ricky Rubio to a hamstring injury sustained in the first quarter of the Jazz’s close-out win over Oklahoma City in Friday’s Game 6 in Salt Lake City. Rubio is expected to be out for 1-2 weeks. In his postseason debut vs. the Thunder, the veteran point guard averaged 14.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 1.3 SPG. And those numbers are dragged down by him leaving Game 6 after seven minutes in which he was scoreless with three assists, one rebounds and zero steals.

-- Boston is 9-1 ATS in its past 10 home games.

-- We noted how Irving played in all three Boston wins and didn't play in its lone loss to the 76ers during the regular season. We should also mention how veteran late-season acquisitions Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova didn't play in any of the four games against Boston. Belinelli averaged 16.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game against Miami in the first round. Ilyasova averaged 10.0 points and 9.2 RPG versus the Heat.

-- Sportsbook.ag now has the 76ers as +120 favorites to win the East. The top-seeded Raptors have the next-shortest odds at +160. I filed this preview before the Game 7 conclusion of Indiana-Cleveland, so odds for both teams are listed. The Cavs are at +425, while the Celtics have 20/1 odds. The Pacers are at 40/1 to make the NBA Finals.

-- After coasting to a blowout win Saturday in Game 1 without Steph Curry, Golden St. is a -3000 ‘chalk’ to advance past New Orleans. The Pelicans are at +1100 odds to defeat the Warriors in this series (risk $100 to win $1,100). Curry is listed as ‘probable’ for Tuesday’s Game 2. The Warriors were 10.5-point favorites at most spots early Sunday, while the total was 226.5 or 227. Alvin Gentry’s squad was +600 on the money line (risk $100 to win $600).

-- Sportsbook.ag has the Warriors as the -120 ‘chalk’ to repeat as NBA champs. The Rockets have the second-shortest odds (+200), followed by the 76ers (+800), Raptors (12/1), Cavs (25/1), Jazz (50/1), Celtics (100/1), Pelicans (100/1) and Pacers (200/1).

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.

  
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