Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:04 AM

Saturday's Playoff Tips

Eastern Conference – Game 7 (Series Tied 3-3)
Milwaukee at Boston (TNT, 8:05 p.m. ET)

The Celtics and Bucks will square off in a decisive Game 7 on Saturday night with the winner advancing the second round of the NBA Playoffs. The home team has won all of the first six encounters, which includes Milwaukee’s 97-86 victory over Boston in Game 6 on Thursday as a 4 ½-point favorite.

Even though the final margin was 11 points, this was a two-point game midway through the fourth quarter. The Celtics (37%) struggled again from the field and taking 36 shots from 3-point land was outside of their norm and certainly doomed them in the loss.

Giannis Antetokounmpo filled up the box score with 31 points and 14 rebounds for the Bucks and it was the first game in this series that Milwaukee won when he scored 30-plus points.

Another stat that could have you scratching your head is that the Bucks have shot better (50.4% to 42.7%) in five of the first six games in this series yet they’ve been beat on the glass and that’s led to more attempts for Boston. Another factor hurting Milwaukee is that the Celtics have shot much better at the free-throw stripe (77%) than the Bucks (67%) and that’s translated into a 115-81 edge in points.

Oddsmakers opened Boston as a 4 ½-point favorite for Game 7 and the number has held steady as of Friday evening. Including this series, the Celtics have gone 8-3 both straight up and against the spread in their last 11 home playoff games and the three losses were expected as they were ‘dogs to LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

Outside of Game 2 when the Celtics drilled 13 bombs from 3-point land, the other two games at TD Garden were close and the cover in Game 1’s overtime win was more than fortunate for Boston backers.

Numbers don’t lie and it’s hard to dismiss what the Bucks have done on the road this season and in their recent playoff matchups outside of the Bradley Center. As a road underdog this season, the club went 9-19 SU and they only managed to save face with just three covers in those losses (12-15-1 ATS).  Also, Milwaukee has lost five straight playoff games on the road going back to 2017.

One of our NBA contributors believes that "Star Players" wins series and their Best Bet is on the underdog for Game 7.

The total for Game 7 opened at 197 and has dropped to 195, which is the lowest ‘over/under’ that we’ve seen posted in this year’s NBA Playoffs. Tony Mejia of offered his thoughts on the low total.

He explained, “After the first four games in the series all soared over the posted total, the last two have been grinders that have seen neither team reach the century mark. Books have adjusted in providing the lowest opening number of the series at 197, which still seems a bit high given that Game 7s are typically played even closer to the vest. The return of Marcus Smart and inclusion of Semi Ojeleye into the starting lineup have taken the bigs largely out of the equation, especially since Milwaukee has countered with perimeter-based 7-footer Thon Baker instead of more conventional centers John Henson and Tyler Zeller. I’d imagine this deciding game will also be a race to 95 or so.”

Mejia’s opinion is right on target as the last nine Game 7’s played saw an averaged combined score of 196.7 points per game with the ‘under’ going 5-4 in those contests.

Milwaukee hasn’t been to the second round of the playoffs since 2001 and a win on Saturday would end the NBA’s longest drought without a series win.

If you look at the history of Game 7’s in the NBA Playoffs, it’s understandable why Boston is favored on Saturday. The home team has gone 102-26 (80%) all-time and that includes a 19-4 record by the Celtics in games played in their venue. However, make a note that a road team has won at least one Game 7 in five of the last six postseasons.

The Bucks are just 2-7 all-time in Game 7’s and they haven’t played on this stage since 2010. Milwaukee veteran Jason Terry is one of the few Bucks with Game 7 experience, playing in three and his teams have come out on top in all of those games.

The winner of this game will face the 76ers in the second round and that series will begin Monday or Tuesday in either Boston or Philadelphia.

Western Conference – Game 1
New Orleans at Golden State (TNT, 10:35 p.m. ET)

2017-18 Regular Season (Warriors 3-1)
Apr. 7 Pelicans (+6) at Warriors 126-120 (Over 226)
Dec. 4 Warriors (-9) at Pelicans 125-115 (Over 228)
Nov. 25 Warriors (-10.5) vs. Pelicans 110-95 (Under 228)
Oct. 20 Warriors (-9) at Pelicans 128-120 (Over 221)

The second round of the NBA Playoffs will tip Saturday night when the Warriors and Pelicans begin their best-of-seven series from Oracle Arena. Oddsmakers at [...] opened the defending champions as eight-point home favorites and the number has jumped to - 9 ½ as of Friday evening.

Mejia offered his best guess on why the line jumped two points and why he believes the value could be with the underdog based on the inflated speculation.

“Stephen Curry could make it back, but counting on him to be the difference maker when he has suited up once since leaving a March 8 win over San Antonio with an ankle injury wouldn’t be smart. He hurt his knee most recently, so look for the Warriors to be cautious with him for as long as possible in this series, making him more of an x-factor than primary catalyst,” said Mejia.

“Whatever he gives the Warriors is gravy, which means Andre Iguodala and Quinn Cook must continue to make valuable contributions against a Pelicans backcourt featuring guys that are all playing their best ball at the ideal time. With Draymond Green and Kevin Durant also forced to decipher how best to stop Anthony Davis, Game 1 might be a wake-up call. If Curry is cleared to play after being regarded as questionable, it seems inevitable that the spread could climb even closer to double-digits, making a lean towards New Orleans irresistible.”

Curry was upgraded from ‘doubtful’ to ‘questionable’ on Thursday afternoon and if he goes, it will be his first action since Mar. 23. The Warriors did struggle in the regular season without Curry, finishing 7-10 down the stretch but his absence wasn’t missing in the first round against San Antonio.

Golden State defeated San Antonio in five games and three of the four wins came by double digits. The Warriors went 3-2 ATS and it could’ve easily been 4-1 versus the number but they pumped the breaks in the fourth quarter of Game 5.

As Mejia mentioned the Warriors will be facing a much better offensive team in New Orleans, who embarrassed Portland in the first round with a four-game sweep. The Pelicans covered every matchup behind an offense that averaged 114.5 PPG while shooting 52 percent from the field, which included an eye-opening 40 percent from 3-point land.

Davis (33 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 2.8 BPG) couldn’t be stopped against Portland but Green and Golden State’s team defense won’t be as vulnerable. Along with Davis, guards Jrue Holiday (27.8 PPG) and Rajon Rondo (13.3 APG) surprised bettors and dominated the more heralded backcourt of the Trail Blazers.

Producing the same results against Golden State won’t be as easy, especially when Curry is 100 percent. Curry played in three games against the Pelicans this season and he averaged 28.7 PPG and 8.7 assists, which tells you how much of a boost he could be for this series.

The one player that could trouble Curry is Rondo, who has the most playoff experience on the Pelicans roster. People forget that while he was with Chicago last season, the Bulls led Boston 2-0 in the first round with Rondo before he went down with an injury. The result was a 4-2 series win for the Celtics.

Fast forward to this season and the Pelicans are unbeaten with Rondo in the playoffs and his numbers have been even better. Including the wins over Portland, the Pelicans winning streak is up to nine games entering Saturday. Even more impressive, five of those wins have come on the road and that’s not a fluke either. Going back to mid-February, New Orleans has gone 12-3 both SU and ATS in its last 15 road games and the three losses came to the Cavs (5), Rockets (23) and Spurs (5).

While New Orleans is definitely the hotter of the two teams, the ‘rust’ factor could come into play for Game 1 knowing the club hasn't played in over a week.

Plus, looking above you can see that the Warriors got the better of the Pelicans in the regular season and that’s been a constant trend in this series. Golden State has gone 26-4 SU and 17-12-1 ATS against New Orleans dating back to 2011 and that includes the first round sweep in the 2015 playoffs.

At Oakland, the Warriors have won 12 of the last 13 with the lone loss coming this past April in a game that Curry sat out.

VI NBA expert Kevin Rogers pointed out a solid playoff angle on the Warriors. He said, “Golden State owns a 13-1 record in its last 14 playoff series openers since 2014, but the Warriors have covered only eight times in this stretch.”

An 8-6 ATS mark isn’t great but it’s certainly not bad when you’re laying heavy numbers.

The total is hovering between 223 and 224 for Game and the ‘over’ has gone 8-2 in the last 10 meetings between the pair. The Pelicans kept the Trail Blazers below their scoring (105.5 PPG) and shooting (45.8%) averages but will they be able to do the same against Golden State?

Golden State (-850) has been installed as a heavy series favorite while the takeback on New Orleans (+600) is generous. While those may seem high, make a note that the Warriors (-6000) were much higher when they met in the 2015 playoffs.

Game 2 is expected to take place either or Monday or Tuesday from Oracle Arena in Oakland.

Chris David can be reached at [email protected]

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