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Up next for the Celtics: LeBron and the rested Cavs

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

May 16, 2017 05:01 AM
Boston hero Kelly Olynyk blocks John Wall and the Wizards in Game 7.
© USA Today Sports Images

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Boston fills out the Final Four in the NBA’s championship brackets. Plus more from the NHL, Interleague MLB, and our prelude to the Preakness.

NBA: Boston bench keys Game 7 victory over Washington

A series that has been a showcase of superstar guards was ultimately decided by Boston’s big advantage on the bench. Let’s look at the full game numbers, then break things down. 

Boston (-5) 115, Washington 105

  • Two-Point Pct: Washington 51%, Boston 58%
  • Turnovers: Washington 15, Boston 8
  • Bench Scoring: Washington 5, Boston 48

That’s right…48-5 in bench scoring! Yes, Isaiah Thomas outplayed John Wall (29 points and 12 assists on 9 of 21 shooting, compared to 18 points and 11 assists on 8 of 23 shooting). But, Bradley Beal of the Wiz more than made up for that with 38 points. Boston’s other starters besides Isaiah only totaled 38 points between them!

Boston’s Bench (mostly Olynyk, Smart, Brown)

48 points on 17 of 26 shooting, which was 12 of 15 on two-point shots (80%!) and 5 of 11 on treys (almost 50%). The bench contributed 82 combined minutes to the cause, which helped keep starters fresh when it was time to win the game in the fourth quarter. 

Washington’s Bench (mostly Bogdanovic, Mahinmi, and Jennings)

5 points on 1 of 5 shooting, in only 36 combined minutes. 

So Boston’s bench played more than twice as many minutes, but almost scored 10 TIMES more points. Most important, John Wall (44 minutes), and Bradley Beal (46 minutes) were given virtually no time to rest. That helped wear down Washington’s already shaky defense. Boston would score 62 points in the second half to erase a halftime deficit. An exhausted Wall was 0 for 11 shooting in the last 19 minutes (hat tip ESPN Stats and Info by way of VSiN host Pauly Howard on Twitter).

Other notes:

  • This was the second slowest game of the series (tied with Game 1), with a pace factor of 93 estimated possessions. Half-court play was even slower than that would make it seem. But the refs ended a lot more possessions with foul calls than you would expect in a Game 7. There were 54 combined free throws, up from 39 in Game 6, and the highest count since way back in Game 3. Pace counts by game for those of you keeping track were 93-97-96-99-98-91-93.
  • Boston only had one more trey, which is way out of character for this series (11 of 26 versus 10 of 29). The Celtics covered Game 7 inside the arc, using back cuts and smart passing to exploit a tiring Wizards defense. Remember, the bench was 12 of 15 on deuces.
  • Boston’s rebounding continues to be horrible, which is likely to be a bigger problem against an elite team like Cleveland in the Eastern Finals. The Celtics were out-rebounded 43-31 in Game 7, and lost the category by 47 in the series.
  • Boston’s inside defense could look like matadors vs. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. The Celtics let Washington shoot 53%, 55%, 52%, 56%, 45%, 52%, and 51% on two-point shots on a game-by-game basis.  

We’ll spend more time previewing Cleveland/Boston tomorrow to get you ready for Wednesday’s Game 1 of the Eastern Finals.

Tuesday’s point spread (Golden State leads 1-0, Kawhi Leonard is out for SA)

San Antonio at Golden State (-14, total of 208): 9 p.m. ET on TNT

NBA: Updated Power Ratings

With the early line up for Game 1 in the Eastern Finals, we can now update our estimated “market” Power Ratings...

East: Cleveland 86, Boston 81

West: Golden State 93, SA 87 with a healthy Kawhi Leonard, 82 if Leonard can’t play.

Generally speaking, home court is valued at 3 points in the NBA…though we have seen larger than that in some of these playoff rounds.

We’re going to assume Golden State was given an extra point in the opener to account for its long rest advantage. So, what would have been -9 vs. a healthy Kawhi Leonard became -10. Of course, Kawhi is on the shelf again. So Golden State jumps to -14 in Game 2. The first number we saw up late Monday from a respected offshore site was Cleveland -3 on the road at Boston in Game 1 (Pinnacle). We’re going to assume the Cavs are getting an extra point of credit for their extended rest break. We’ll adjust if needed after the most respected market influences have had a chance to shape the lines in Games 1 and 2 at Las Vegas sportsbooks. 

NHL: Stagnant Pittsburgh scores late to even series with Ottawa

Of all the ways to visualize what was likely to happen in Game 2 of the NHL’s Eastern Conference Finals featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators, nobody was expecting a scoreless tie deep into the third period!

Pittsburgh (-210) 1, Ottawa 0

  • Shots: Ottawa 23, Pittsburgh 29

The second straight poor offensive game for the Penguins. To show you how out of character this is for Pittsburgh (one goal in each game, a 2-1 loss and a 1-0 victory), let’s review the prior scoring marks for its offense and Ottawa’s defense. We’ll stick that 1-1 at the end of what had happened prior.

Pittsburgh regulation scoring: 3-4-4-4-5-3-6-2-3-2-2-2-1-1

Ottawa regulation defense: 2-3-3-0-2-2-1-5-4-4-4-2-1-1

Pittsburgh had scored at least two goals in every game vs. Columbus and Washington. Ottawa had only allowed less than two goals just twice in 12 prior outings vs. Boston and the NY Rangers. This isn’t an inconsistent offense running into a great defense. This is an offense that had averaged 3.33 goals per playoff game in regulation struggling vs. a defense that had allowed 2.67 goals per game in regulation. 

Pittsburgh's potent offense suddenly can’t score?! They at least forced a home split in their post-Washington hangover. And, they’re still favored in the series, as they’ll be the betting favorite in every game going forward barring injuries. 

NHL: Fleshing out an odds quirk from Nashville/Anaheim

Now that we’ve seen settled moneylines from both sites in the Nashville/Anaheim NHL playoff series that resumes Tuesday, we can flesh out our point last week about an odds quirk for you. 

Anaheim owned home-ice advantage entering the series, meaning the Ducks would get four home games as short favorites if necessary. Yet Nashville was the series favorite. How could that happen? 

Well, it’s a basic math. Using “no-vigorish” moneylines, we can turn those into a decimal representation of likely victory in each game. In the series opener, Anaheim was a favorite of -115, while Nashville was -105. The midpoint of those (which we use to estimate the no-vig line) was Anaheim -105. That equates to Anaheim winning 51% of the time, Nashville 49% of the time. Game 2 scooted up to a no-vig line of Anaheim -120 because the Ducks were in a must-win situation (betting odds were Anaheim -130, Nashville plus 100). That’s 55% to 45% for the Ducks. In Game 3, Nashville is currently -145, setting up a no-vig line of -135. That’s 57% to 43% for the Predators.

Let’s write it out…using what we know…then projecting the rest for Games 4-7. 

  • Nashville 0.49 wins, Anaheim 0.51 wins
  • Nashville 0.45 wins, Anaheim 0.55 wins
  • Nashville 0.57 wins, Anaheim 0.43 wins
  • Nashville 0.57 wins, Anaheim 0.43 wins (projected line)
  • Nashville 0.48 wins, Anaheim 0.52 wins (projected line)
  • Nashville 0.57 wins, Anaheim 0.43 wins (projected line)
  • Nashville 0.48 wins, Anaheim 0.52 wins (projected line)
  • Total: Nashville 3.61 wins, Anaheim 3.39 wins

So…even though Anaheim is favored in four games because it has home ice…Nashville is the series favorite because of a higher win projection in the race to four victories. 

Obviously, those projected lines will change based on “need” and possibly other developments if one team or the other establishes dominance. 

Longtime bettors have run into this in all sports that play multi-game series. You’ll sometimes see it in baseball in a best-of-five or a best-of-seven where the superior team doesn’t have home field. Maybe it’s a great Wildcard playing a mediocre divisional winner. Maybe the All-Star game result gave home field to the lesser World Series representative. It’s also happened in the NBA, but that’s harder for casual fans to see because point spreads are more commonly used than money lines. It might have happened this year if Cleveland hadn’t lifted its game so much in the playoffs. The Cavs might have been a #2 seed getting plus 1-2 points on the road, but laying 6-8 points at home vs. #1 seed Boston. Instead they’ll be a rare #2 seed that’s a favorite in all seven games vs. a #1 seed. 

MLB: Updating the Interleague ledger

We started following this story for you early last week. The American League has owned the National League for more than a decade in Interleague play. Results to date in 2017 have continued that theme. Let’s update the record based on the Chicago White Sox 2-1 series win over San Diego this weekend, and Monday night’s split (Houston beat Miami for the AL, but Atlanta beat Toronto for the NL). 

Interleague records (through Monday) 

  • American League 35, National League 22
  • Adjusted for money lines: American League plus 11.3 units
  • American League at home: 19-8 (plus 9.7 units)
  • American League on the road: 16-14 (plus 1.6 units)

This past weekend, published a lengthy article going into much more depth on the betting unit ramifications of this very long AL advantage. We encourage you to read that by clicking here

Five games on the IL slate Tuesday and Wednesday: Atlanta at Toronto, Houston at Miami, Philadelphia at Texas, Colorado at Minnesota, and Boston at St. Louis. 

Preakness: Continuing our workouts for the second jewel

Have you been working hard on your preparation? Get off your hind quarters!

Start by watching Gill Alexander interview Peter Fornatale of the Daily Racing Form in the first segment today on “A Number’s Game.” A lot of food for thought for serious handicappers in that discussion.

Then, plenty of reading for you as we gear up for the big race:

The Los Angeles Times outlines various storylines, with from a California perspective

Bleacher Report looks at favorites and darkhorses

Bloodhorse looks at training for Lookin at Lee and Hence

ESPN Chalk runs Monday’s odds from the Westgate

Bonus reading: A great historical retrospective on the career of Brent Musburger

Our own Brent Musburger is still going strong in his 50-year (plus) sports journalism career. Click here for a great article reflecting on highlights in the afterglow of Brent’s lifetime achievement Sports Emmy.

That’s it for Tuesday. If you have any comments or questions about VSiN City, please send us an email. It’s easy to subscribe for free morning email delivery. You can take care of that by clicking here. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter for breaking news throughout the day regarding sports betting and VSiN programming. Timing is everything when it comes to sports wagering!

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