Moore: What Kyrie Irving’s Masterpiece Game 1 Means for Future Betting Value

Moore: What Kyrie Irving’s Masterpiece Game 1 Means for Future Betting Value article feature image

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving (11).

  • Kyrie Irving torched the Milwaukee Bucks offensively in Game 1.
  • Matt Moore discusses whether that's likely to continue and what it means for the betting market.

The most infuriating thing about the playoffs is the same thing that makes them spectacular. It is the one place in basketball where often doing the right thing will cost you.

The Milwaukee Bucks have a pretty simple strategy defensively. They want to cave in on key players and prevent layups, while running off shooters and trying to funnel shots to the jumpshooters they want to shoot. Make you into a mid-range to off-the-dribble 3-pointer team.

Unfortunately for them, they have run up against the Boston Celtics, and the Boston Celtics were built around a contrary premise offensively.

Their strategy: We are not going to create much driving, and we’re not going to have the most efficient offense, but when it gets to the playoffs, we’re going to have guys who can make tough shots — particularly jump shots — from all over the floor, and with our defense, we’re going to win by controlling the tight possessions needed to win a playoff game.

See: Game 1, where they did that but did not need tight possessions because their defense swallowed Milwaukee alive.

But let’s talk about the Celtics offense.


Let’s start here:

If you ask the Bucks, “What kind of shot do you want the ball-handler out of the pick-and-roll to take?” … this is their answer. An off-the-dribble, stop-on-a-dime, fadeaway contested shot from 18 feet.

If you ask Kyrie Irving what shot he wants to take here, it’s this one. Because, along with an array of options, this is extremely makeable. This doesn’t rattle around the rim like a junky DeMar DeRozan pull-up. It’s not a straight line, “try and leave no room for error” pull-up from LeBron. It’s perfect, in every way. This is a completely makeable shot for Kyrie Irving.

The Bucks count on that rim protection to at least keep guys away from the rim. But here Irving sees Brook Lopez, showing against the drive but having to stay at least a step close to Al Horford, and challenges him anyway. No problem.

Irving’s ability to shoot high helps him so much against the Bucks. When he gets separation from the defender here, he knows Lopez is waiting behind, so he actually shoots a fadeaway floater… off one leg.

This thing doesn’t even consider the possibility of the rim. This is tremendous defense. He doesn’t even spin baseline to where there’s more room. He just gets into his shooting motion.

Here, Khris Middleton makes a phenomenal effort to block this shot. Irving shoots it almost straight up at an angle that hits top of the square — not even high off glass — and all momentum stops and it drops. Good luck.

And what happens after this? The defense starts to collapse. So then Irving, who has been a better playmaker than ever this year, finds a cutting Jaylen Brown:


Irving’s over/under points prop for Game 2 is 23.5. Even if he’s not as locked in, the Bucks have shown no signs in media availability of throwing a different look at him. That’s going to mean he will continue to get to his spots.

Until Milwaukee elects to throw the bus at him to get the ball out of his hands (at which point his over assists prop is valuable), I would bank on him continuing to produce value on the over.

Irving’s going to play the most or second-most minutes for Boston this series. In Game 1, he had a 120 Offensive Rating. The Celtics’ over/under point total is 106.5. The Bucks were the No. 1 defense in the league this season because they forced teams to take shots like Boston took in Game 1.

But even with an average Offensive Rating, those other teams didn’t have the kinds of shotmakers in playoff environments that Boston does. The over is the play until Milwaukee shows an adjustment.

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