Celtics overcome Sixers, fool betting market to make NBA Final Four

By Jeff Fogle  (VSiN City newsletter) 

May 10, 2018 05:16 AM

Boston fills out the NBA’s final four by beating Philadelphia in Game 5 Wednesday night. Numbers and notes, plus a Game 7 hockey preview and bonus baseball coverage right now in VSiN City.

NBA Playoffs: Boston wins physical battle vs. Philadelphia to advance to East Finals

Sometimes the refs swallow their whistles. Sometimes, they blow them all night! Philadelphia and Boston combined to shoot 72 free throws (the series high by a mile) in a wild rollercoaster ride of a game that would ultimately launch the Celtics into the Eastern Conference finals. 

Boston (-1.5) 114, Philadelphia 112

2-point Pct: Philadelphia 53%, Boston 48%

3-pointers: Philadelphia 8/21, Boston 7/20

Free Throws: Philadelphia 24/31, Boston 31/41

Rebounds: Philadelphia 48, Boston 39

Turnovers: Philadelphia 16, Boston 10

Pace: 98.1 (for the series, 96.1, 93.4, 91.9, 95.1, 98.1)

That’s 72 combined free throws…after 54, 38, 32, and 52 in the prior four games. That “32” happened in the overtime game! You just never know how aggressive players will get…or how closely officials will call a game. Both offenses decided it was best to eschew 3-pointers and attack inside because points were coming relatively easy thanks to all the earned free throw attempts. 

Combined trey attempts by game were 62, 69, 68, 58, and 41. So, huge drop in trey attempts Wednesday, huge increase in free throw attempts. 

That’s part of the reason pace rose to 98.1. Whistles end possessions quicker than they normally would have ended. The teams weren’t necessarily running more. The ball was changing hands quicker off free throw attempts. 

A note on treys…the TNT announcing team mentioned often during the series that Philadelphia was either a “great” 3-point shooting team, or one that “relied” on treys for its scoring. During the regular season, the Sixers ranked #13 in the league (out of 30 teams) in 3-point emphasis, #12 in makes-per-game, and #10 in shooting percentage. They did have those two lights out performances in the Miami series. You can’t judge a team only by its extreme outlier performances. Philadelphia’s headed home with a made trey line of 5-13-9-7-8, with 19 fewer makes in this series than the Celtics. 

What did Boston do right to advance? You could probably sum it up this way. On offense, it attacked the weakest spots defensively on the floor at any given moment with energy and enthusiasm. On defense, it forced the inexperienced Sixers into bad passes and ill-advised shots. Philadelphia fans spent a lot more time yelling “What the bleep are you doing” at Sixers players than Celtics fans did at their team. 

Why did quants and other important market forces misread this series by so much? Boston beat the market at the end of regulation by a combined 35 points over five games. Looks like too much emphasis was placed on the positive factors of Philadelphia’s play late in the season and vs. Miami, without the realization that its stars lacked the poise needed to thrive at this stage of the playoffs. Throw in a lack of energy guarding the arc against Boston’s shooters in the first two games, and that combo would seem to capture it. 

Philadelphia “gave away” the arc in the first two games, allowing Boston to shoot 17 of 36 and 15 of 36 (Boston beat the market by 29 points in those two games). Once Philadelphia cut that out, we had two nail biters won by Boston, plus the 11-point victory for the Sixers in Game 4. 

Boston advances to face Cleveland. The East Finals begin Sunday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. ET (12:30 p.m. in Las Vegas) on ABC. Jeff Sherman of the Westgate tweeted out an opening series price Thursday night of Cleveland -250, Boston plus 200. The West Finals featuring Golden State and Houston begins Monday at 9 p.m. ET (6 p.m. in Las Vegas) on TNT. Golden State is currently -195, Houston plus 165 at the Westgate. Tune in to VSiN Thursday for the latest lines from the South Point and other Las Vegas locales.  Here in VSiN City, we’ll preview Cleveland/Boston for you Friday, Houston/Golden State Monday. 

NHL Game 7 Preview: Nashville hosts Winnipeg for right to play the Vegas Golden Knights

Both the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators have garnered serious respect from the most important betting market influences this postseason. Oddly, home ice for both teams has also garnered respect that doesn’t look like it was deserved. 

We’ll start by running our usual listing…then adjust to showcase home prices. 

Nashville at Winnipeg (9:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports, series tied 3-3)

Game 1: Winnipeg (plus 150) 4, Nashville 1 (Shots: Nashville 48-19)

Game 2: Nashville (-175) 4, Winnipeg 3 in OT (Shots: Winnipeg 50-41)

Game 3: Winnipeg (-130) 7, Nashville 4 (Shots: Winnipeg 45-30)

Game 4: Nashville (plus 130) 2, Winnipeg 1 (Shots: Winnipeg 33-29)

Game 5: Winnipeg (plus 140) 6, Nashville 2 (Shots: Nashville 40-32)

Game 6: Nashville (plus 140) 4, Winnipeg 0 (Shots: Winnipeg 34-29)

Game 7: Nashville -155, total of 5.5 (Under -130)

In Nashville…

The Predators were -165 and lost

The Predators were -175 and won

The Predators were -155 and lost

In Winnipeg…

The Jets were -155 and won

The Jets were -145 and lost

The Jets were -155 and lost

Road underdogs have won four of the six games played so far. That despite the fact that we were seeing HUGE credit given to home ice. This wasn’t a case of two even teams both being about -120 or -130 at home over the other. More like -165 at one place, -155 at the other.

That obviously suggests another competitively played game Thursday in the decider. But, history has smiled on hosts in Game 7s in hockey and basketball. The only Game 7 played this season was won by Boston, 7-4 over Toronto. 

Whoever wins will have a very quick turnaround, hosting the very well-rested Vegas Golden Knights Saturday evening. It’s expected that this Game 7 winner will be the series favorite over VGK…with respected guesses ranging from the -140 to -165 range. 

MLB: Yankees now 17-1 their last 18 games as rampage continues with 9-6 win over Red Sox

We talked at length last time about the possibility that the 2018 New York Yankees are going to be this year’s version of the 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers in terms of in-season dominance. Nothing happened in Wednesday’s wild win over Boston to change that perception. The Yankees didn’t get a great performance from their starting pitcher, nor perfection from the bullpen. It was still a three-run victory. 

NY Yankees (-140) 9, Boston 6

Total Bases Plus Walks: Boston 28, NY Yankees 25

Starting Pitchers: Porcello 5.1 IP, 5 ER, Tanaka 5.1 IP, 4 ER

Bullpen: Boston 2.2 IP, 4 ER, NY Yankees 3.2 IP, 2 ER

Boston at least got the best of offensive bases, but left two extra runners on base and hit into an extra double play. The Red Sox had rallied from down 4-2 and 5-3 to carry a 6-5 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning. Brett Gardner hit a two-run triple, followed by Aaron Judge’s two-run homer to set up Aroldis Chapman for his ninth save of the season. 

That 17-1 run for NYY includes an 11-1 record against Boston, Houston, Cleveland, and the Los Angeles Angels. The past few weeks, the Bronx Bombers have been bullying the most talented teams in the American League. You can’t really “fluke” your way to a 17-1 record in professional sports anyway. But, dominating your top competition to that level is really something. 

These two ancient rivals finish this three-game series Thursday evening. C.C. Sabathia is -135 over Eduardo Rodriguez on the early line. 

MLB: Houston Astros still a beast on the road 

All last season, we talked on these pages about how impressive the Houston Astros offense was when not “held down” by the run suppression characteristics of Minute Maid Park. Though, offensive measures may be trickier this season if there really has been a change in baseball construction, it’s still clear that Houston can crush people away from home. 

Covers tweeted a stat yesterday pointing out that all of Houston’s road victories have been by more than 1.5 runs this season…meaning the Astros have covered the run line in every single victory. That tweet was prior to Houston’s series-ender Wednesday afternoon at Oakland. Let’s see what happened there. 

Houston (-175) 4, Oakland 1

Total Bases Plus Walks: Houston 19, Oakland 9

Starting Pitchers: Cole 6 IP, 1 ER, Mengden 6.2 IP, 2 ER

Bullpen: Houston 3 IP, 0 ER, Oakland 2.1 IP, 2 ER

Another dominant performance, with a big edge in “offensive bases” for the team that would score 80% of the game’s runs. And, another win by more than 1.5 runs. Houston is now 14-6 on the road this season (70% winners), and 14-6 on the run line (70% at great returns!). If you have access to additional options, Houston still has a winning road record of 12-8 at lines of -2.5 runs. 

The offense? Only four runs Wednesday, but still a very impressive average of 5.85 runs per game away from home. 

Houston’s overall record is 24-15, a half-game ahead of the Los Angeles Angels…who are 22-14 after winning Wednesday afternoon at Colorado. Seattle’s still in the mix as well. But, a loss Wednesday night at Toronto dropped the Mariners to 19-15. The Wildcard race could grow intense because the Yankees/Red Sox runner-up is going to be one of the Wildcards. Only one spot left for all the other contenders. 

Oh, Houston/Oakland was a “double get away” game with both teams leaving town before they next take the field. Though, both have off-days Thursday. So, there wasn’t exactly “having a plane to catch” urgency. Reader David C. wrote in to ask if there was any difference in performance for road teams who had a day off before their next outing. The best answer is to study teams individually to see if you can spot specific tendencies for each team. Sometimes a “sport-wide” study won’t show an edge because the teams that play the game straight cancel out the teams who just go through the motions. Ideally, you can separate the dirt from the water in a muddy big study. 

Again, we don’t want to suggest that ALL games involving get away teams will go Under. Just be aware that there’s a tide toward lower scoring output because of a tendency for less patience involving sequential offense, and the fact that many teams will rest key offensive players in a day game after a night game. If a starting pitcher doesn’t have his stuff, he can still get rocked. If game conditions (temperature, wind direction) help home run hitters, the scoreboard can still light up. 

Wednesday afternoon’s “double get away” games (both teams leaving town)

NY Mets/Cincinnati Under (with Mets hurting “sequential” offense with a lineup miscue)

Detroit/Texas Push

Houston/Oakland Under

Cleveland/Milwaukee Push

Pittsburgh/Chicago White Sox Over (with 4 runs in the ninth)

Wednesday night’s “double get away” games

Arizona/LA Dodgers (late finisher)

Atlanta/Tampa Bay Under

Golf: Final look at “exchange” prices for the Players Championship that begins Thursday at TPC Sawgrass

One last glance at offshore exchange numbers for golf’s “fifth major” that begins Thursday morning. Since our last look, Rory McIlroy fell from 17/1 down to 19/1. Jason Day and Jordan Spieth were co-favorites as we went to press at 17/1. Also, Masters winner Patrick Reed dropped from 39/1 down to 43/1. 

Here’s a link to the live numbers you can check right now if you wish, and all through the weekend. Remember to subtract one from the number you see in blue because that total includes your 1-unit risk (if you see an 18 in blue, that means the golfer is 17/1). And, subtract one from the number in pink that represents that golfer NOT to win (if you see a 20 in pink, that means you have to lay 19 to win 1 that he WON’T win the event). 

Jason Day: bet one to win $17, risk $17.50 to win $1 that he won’t win

Jordan Spieth: bet one to win $17, risk $17.50 to win $1 that he won’t win

Justin Thomas: bet one to win $18, risk $18.50 to win $1 that he won’t win

Rory McIlroy: bet one to win $19, risk $20 to win $1 that he won’t win

Dustin Johnson: bet one to win $21, risk $22 to win $1 that he won’t win 

Rickie Fowler: bet one to win $22, risk $23 to win $1 that he won’t win

Jon Rahm: bet one to win $26, risk $27 to win $1 that he won’t win

Henrick Stenson: bet one to win $28, risk $29 to win $1 that he won’t win

Justin Rose: bet one to win $33, risk $35 to win $1 that he won’t win

Other Notables:

Tiger Woods: bet one to win $41, risk $43 to win $1 that he won’t win

Patrick Reed: bet one to win $43, risk $45 to win $1 that he won’t win

Sergio Garcia: bet one to win $45, risk $47 to win $1 that he won’t win

Phil Mickelson: bet one to win $47, risk $49 to win $1 that he won’t win

We’ll check in on prices after the first round in our final report of the week tomorrow. Note that the mega-marquee trio of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Rickie Fowler is scheduled to tee off Thursday at 1:52 p.m. ET (10:52 a.m. Las Vegas time). That’s followed by an early time Friday of 8:27 a.m. on the tenth tee (5:27 a.m. Las Vegas time). 

Another must-see grouping: Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, and Justin Thomas tee off Thursday at 8:27 a.m. on the tenth tee, then pick up the 1:52 p.m. spot Friday. The Golf Channel will televise the first and second round from 1-7 p.m. ET each day. It will be guaranteed an afternoon showcase for both telecasts. NBC has Saturday and Sunday coverage from 2-7 p.m. ET. 

Back tomorrow to finish out the week. Thanks for visiting VSiN City.

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