Boston Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls
NBA Playoffs Betting Pick: Boston -2.5 points (April 28th 2017)
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Even after the line move towards the Celtics in early betting action, I’m still expecting Boston to close out this series with a Game 6 victory tonight. The results don’t lie. The Bulls covered the spread in Games 1 & 2 by 10.5 points and 21.5 points, winning outright as underdogs both times.
Then point guard Rajon Rondo broke his thumb, forced to sit out. The Bulls hung 106 and 111 points in the first two games with Rondo distributing the basketball extremely effectively, as Chicago notched 50 assists in those two ballgames. They notched only 31 combined assists in Games 3 and 4 with Jerian Grant, then Isaiah Canaan starting at point guard.
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Grant was benched completely by Game 5, getting a ‘DNP coaches decision’. Canaan got ‘DNP-coaches decision’ 29 times in the regular season, and he played more than 20 minutes of gametime only once since December. Yet the last two games, Canaan has played more than 70 minutes of floor time. He has a grand total of three assists in those 70+ minutes.
Weak point guard play is a problem at any time of the year. When it comes to close-out game in a playoff series, weak point guard play is, quite frankly, an insurmountable obstacle. It’s not like the Bulls consistently dug deep at home, enjoying a strong home court edge at the United Center this year. We saw them lose their only two home playoff games this year in non-competitive fashion.
To make matters even worse for the Bulls, their lone superstar (sorry, Dwayne Wade is no superstar at this stage of his career), Jimmy Butler, is dealing with an ankle injury. Butler took 23 free throw attempts in Game 4, consistently and aggressively taking the ball to the hole. In Game 5 , he couldn’t drive, settling for just a single free throw attempt. That’s yet another problem for Chicago moving forward.
With Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart, Brad Stevens has three solid defensive options at the wing to keep Butler in check tonight, just as they did in Game 5. And there’s no questioning Boston’s closeout mentality for Game 6. Bradley’s quote speaks volumes: “We believe in one another. We went to Chicago knowing we were going to win those games, not hoping. Now it’s our job to continue. Play the same way and finish the series in Chicago.” Take the Celtics.