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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:58 PM

Monday's Tip Sheet

Playoff Results | 2nd Round Odds | Expert Picks

Eastern Conference Semifinals – Game 4 (Bucks lead 2-1)
Milwaukee at Boston (TNT, 7:05 p.m. ET)

The Celtics surprised the team with the best record in the NBA in the Eastern Conference semifinals opener by routing the Bucks, 112-90. However, it’s Boston now sitting in a 2-1 hole against Milwaukee after dropping consecutive games to the Bucks, while losing a rare home game in the playoffs.

When these teams hooked up in the first round last season, the home squad posted a perfect 7-0 record, capped off by Boston winning Game 7 at TD Garden. Through three games in the second round, the home team has lost two of three times, as Boston fell to Milwaukee on Friday, 123-116 to suffer its playoff defeat in Beantown since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals last season to Cleveland.

The Celtics lost for the second time in the previous 14 home playoff contests in Game 3 in spite of holding a 12-point first half advantage. The Bucks overcame a 46-34 deficit to cut the Boston lead to 56-55 at halftime, while using their trademark third quarter run (40-31) to lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Giannis Antetokounmpo put together his best game of the series for Milwaukee with 32 points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists. The last time the Celtics lost a home playoff game, George Hill was on the opposing side with the Cavaliers. In Game 3, Hill posted a 21-point effort off the bench, which is two points more than he produced in the first two games combined.

Kyrie Irving struggled from the floor for Boston by hitting 8-of-22 shots, but the All-Star guard knocked down 11 free throws to lead the Celtics with 29 points. Jayson Tatum added 20 points for the Celtics, although he misfired on all five of his three-point attempts. The two teams combined to attempt 68 free throws as the Bucks won in spite of missing 12 shots at the charity stripe.

Chris David of VegasInsider.com was impressed with Milwaukee’s win on Friday and he believes the Bucks can go up 3-1 on Monday.

He explained his handicap, “It’s apparent that defense doesn’t win championships in the NBA these days, rather shooting and the Bucks firepower has been on display in each of the last two games in this series. They’ve hit 35 bombs from 3-point land in the wins and that’s led to a pair of 123-point performances. Milwaukee shooting guard Khris Middleton has connected on 65 percent (13-of-20) shots from distance and it’s become apparent that the absence of Marcus Smart for the Celtics has been felt on the defensive side of the ball in this matchup.”

David added, “The betting public is expecting Boston to earn the win in Game 4 and make it a best-of-three series headed back to Milwaukee at 2-2. While that lean could be argued based on the Celtics strong record at home, a couple trends has me pumping the breaks. For starters, Boston is just 19-16 off a loss this season. Second, how do you go against the Bucks as underdogs? Milwaukee is 7-3 SU and 8-2 ATS when catching points and Giannis sat out one of those losses. In the other two defeats, both came by exactly four points. If you’re looking for other trends to back the visitor in Game 4, make a note that Milwaukee went 11-2 on Monday this season while Boston struggled to a 6-7 mark in that spot.”

The ”halftime adjustments” are certainly working for Milwaukee, according to VegasInsider.com NBA expert Tony Mejia, “The Celtics face a must-win given the circumstances, but have to solve the third-quarter spell the Bucks have cast over them the past two games, outscoring them 79-49. Perhaps getting Smart back will help set a better tone coming out of the break, but Milwaukee outscored Detroit in every one of its first-round games and ended up with a combined margin of 134-73. The Celtics won the series opener by dominating the third quarter but it’s hard to imagine that getting another 3-point barrage from Al Horford, Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown is sustainable. Riding Milwaukee for the quarter and the second-half is highly recommended.”

Boston has won six consecutive playoff games under Brad Stevens when coming off back-to-back losses since getting swept by Cleveland in the opening round back in 2015. Milwaukee has won and covered in all seven playoff victories, as the last time the Bucks lost as a road underdog and failed to cover came at Boston back on November 1 in a 117-113 defeat as 2 ½-point ‘dogs.

Western Conference Semifinals – Game 4 (Warriors lead 2-1)
Golden State at Houston (TNT, 9:35 p.m. ET)

The home team has won each of the first three games between the Warriors and Rockets as Houston finally broke through on Saturday night. The Rockets staved off the two-time defending champions, 126-121 in overtime to cash as 3 ½-point favorites and improve to 4-0 at the Toyota Center in the playoffs.

Houston built a 13-point third quarter advantage before Golden State posted a 15-2 run to grab a 94-93 edge only two minutes into the fourth quarter. The two Western powers went back and forth until Andre Iguodala’s three-pointer put Golden State in front, 112-110 with 45 seconds remaining. James Harden knocked down a pair of free throws on the following possession to force overtime as the Rockets outscored the Warriors, 14-9 in the extra five minute session to grab their second cover in the series.

Harden led the Rockets with 41 points, but his former Thunder teammate Kevin Durant put together a 46-point night for his third 40+ point performance of the postseason. Durant has been fantastic during the postseason but the same can’t be said for his superstar teammate Stephen Curry, who has not scored more than 20 points in a game against Houston. Curry was limited to 17 points on 7-of-23 shooting, including 2-of-9 from three-point range, but Draymond Green stepped up with 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists for his second triple-double of the playoffs.

The Warriors have bounced back nicely off a loss during this postseason by picking up victories of 27 and 19 points (both on the road) against the Clippers. Dating back to the 2017 playoffs, Golden State has won seven of eight games off a defeat, with all three victories on the road coming by double-digits.

Mejia says that Golden State needs to figure out the Curry situation to be successful in this series, “It will be interesting to see how Steve Kerr approaches getting Curry off after his lack of rhythm ultimately helped cost the Warriors Game 3, but with the Rockets certain to sell out and run extra bodies at him, it’s going to be important that Iguodala and Green take advantage of open looks. Both did their part in helping put Golden State in position to claim Game 3, while Eric Gordon and Iman Shumpert stepped up similarly for the Rockets.”

“If those four can continue efficiently punishing the opposing defense for trying to take away more accomplished scorers, the pace is likely to be similar to Game 3, which produced an ‘over’ in regulation. If you’re of the opinion that can’t continue, there’s a chance this game gets bogged down multiple times to allow the low-side to thrive,” Mejia notes.

The last time Golden State dropped consecutive road playoff games occurred in the 2016 Western Conference Finals against Oklahoma City in Games 3 and 4 of that series, while Houston defeated Golden State in back-to-back contests in last season’s Western Conference Finals before losing the final two games of the series.

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at [email protected]

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.

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