NBA: First of two chances for road dog Celtics to close series

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NBA: First of two chances for road dog Celtics to close series


2010-06-15

After winning Game 2 of the NBA Finals series between his Celtics and the Lakers, Paul Pierce claimed that his team would not be coming back to Los Angeles. Well, they got 2/3 of the way there by taking two games at home. Now with the first of two chances to close out a second NBA title in three years, the C’s face a hefty 6.5-point underdog line in Tuesday’s Game 6, according to Sportsbook.com. Let’s take a look at the game.

When the Celtics wrapped up Game 5 and moved one win away from an unprecedented 18th championship, the jubilant Boston crowd sent them off to the West Coast for the final time this season with one last chorus of that age-old “Beat L-A!” chant.

The Celtics will have to overcome their unimpressive record in closeout playoff games away from Boston to finish off the Lakers in Game 6 of the NBA finals on Tuesday night. For all their remarkable success over the past three seasons, including the 2008 title and another finals run this year, the Celtics have converted just one of their eight chances to finish a playoff series away from home.

They’ve got two opportunities at Staples Center, however, oddsmakers are still of the belief that the Lakers are the superior team in this series, assigning them as 6.5-point favorites as hosts, when the Celtics were giving just 3-points on their own home court.

Even after winning three of the series’ last four games, and compiling the NBA’s second-best road record in the regular season (26-15), the Celtics can’t be lulled into thinking they’ve got the Lakers on the run.

The Lakers are 9-1 at home in the postseason, and by no means is Boston taking its task lightly.

“The Lakers … got homecourt advantage, but we’ve played the best all year on the road,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “We’re going to have to beat them at their best, because they’re going to be great there, and we can’t expect anything else.”

For the Celtics, this will be the 23rd playoff game of the season, and they are 6-5 SU & ATS on the road, as part of an overall 15-7 SU & ATS mark. The recipe for bettors has been simple for Boston though, win and cover, lose and don’t. The straight up winner of the Celtics’ 2010 playoff games is an incredible 22-0 ATS.

Boston has also been strong versus its best opponents on the road:

• BOSTON is 32-20 ATS (+10.0 Units) in road games when playing against a team with a winning record over the last 2 seasons. The average score was BOSTON 94.8, OPPONENT 92.7 - (Rating = 1*)

While the Celtics have ample reason to be confident, Lakers coach Phil Jackson and Bryant also didn’t seem particularly worried before the grand finale. “We have a challenge, obviously, down 3-2,” said Bryant, who scored 38 points in Game 5 while his struggling teammates only managed 48. “We let a couple opportunities slip away, but it is what it is. Now you go home, you’ve got two games at home that you need to win, and you pull your boots up and get to work.”

Heading into the finals, the Celtics believed they could beat the Lakers by shutting down Bryant’s teammates, even if Kobe went crazy on them. After all, that’s what Boston did two years ago in the finals—and so far, it’s working splendidly again.

Bryant is averaging 30.2 points per game, while Pau Gasol averages 18.8 points and 10 rebounds despite glaring inconsistency in his game in Boston. That’s just about it: Nobody else in purple and gold is averaging more than Andrew Bynum’s 9.6 points per game.

While Jackson likely senses the biggest danger yet to his streak of 47 straight playoff series victories after winning Game 1, the Celtics sense a golden opportunity to join the Boston greats who won multiple titles while repeatedly denying the Lakers nine previous times in the NBA finals.

They’ve just got to finish a playoff series on the road, something they failed to do in Miami and Orlando earlier this season. While Boston’s current starters have never lost a playoff series, they also haven’t finished one away from TD Garden since the 2008 Eastern Conference finals against Detroit.

The Lakers have to be hoping for a shift in tempo after going under the total in all three games at Boston, following back-to-back over’s in the first two L.A. contests. An up-tempo, higher scoring tilt would seemingly favor the hosts:

• BOSTON is 9-20 ATS (-13.0 Units) versus up-tempo teams averaging 83 or more shots/game this season. The average score was BOSTON 97.3, OPPONENT 96.7 - (Rating = 1*)

With the spread wins in Games 4 & 5, Boston is now on a 12-4 ATS run overall versus Los Angeles. The StatFox Power Line for Tuesday night’s 9:00 PM ET tip-off on ABC shows Los Angeles by 2, but a margin small enough to grant Boston a GREEN STAR edge against the number.


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