NBA Finals Betting Odds, Predictions: Angles and Analysis for Warriors vs. Celtics Game 3
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images. Pictured: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics, Draymond Green #23 of of the Golden State Warriors.
The Golden State Warriors were never going to lose Game 2.
Oftentimes, matchups can decide a series, but the difference in quality of the teams can decide how long it goes. These two teams are even enough that the Boston Celtics weren’t going to go up 2-0, and indeed, behind another third quarter bludgeoning, Golden State tied the series 1-1.
So what cashed in Game 2, what do we learn from it, and how do we carry it forward? Let’s take a look at three areas — sides, totals and props — to see what betting adjustments we need to make going into Game 3.
Game 2 Spread: Warriors -5 ✅
Here’s the quick version of Game 2:
- Boston mucked up its spacing.
- The Warriors countered with Draymond Green on Jaylen Brown and using Gary Payton II to slow down the Celtics on the perimeter.
- Turnovers once again sunk Boston, not only on offense but helping out the Warriors’ offense.
- Golden State did a much better job closing out with a hand-up to deter 3-point attempts.
- The Warriors spammed pick-and-roll in the third to get just enough success to create separation.
- Boston couldn’t effectively target Stephen Curry on switches, Golden State went after Horford.
The Celtics’ Poor Spacing
This is a good example of Boston’s trouble with spacing. Golden State switches on the perimeter so Kevon Looney is playing up on Jaylen Brown. Brown beats him off the dribble.
But Robert Williams can’t space the floor so he’s heading to the weak side dunker spot. But that allows Klay Thompson, who is guarding Williams, to come over and help on the drive.
With Williams on the floor in this series, Boston has its worst Offensive Rating as with any rotation player. Williams’ presence on the defensive end may not be worth allowing Golden State to clog the inside when the Celtics are on offense. The Celtics shot 15-of-43 (35%) from 2 in Game 2.
Steve Kerr used Nemanja Bjelica in Game 2, a bold gambit. If Bjelica couldn’t guard on the perimeter he’d get targeted and abused. But he held up well and gave them good minutes. Sometimes getting an opponent to overly target weak points works to your favor.
But on this play, Tatum beats Bjelica despite pretty good defense. Except, Brown, with Green defending him … is in the dunker spot.
You’re literally bringing the best defensive player in the NBA to a spot where he can ably help on drives instead of spacing him out.
Boston won Game 1 with 3-point shooting. The Warriors definitely paid more attention to them on the edge, but Boston did them the favor of compacting everything.
The Warriors blinked first. After Game 1, facing a desperation game to avoid going down 0-2 at home, Kerr changed up several things. He inserted Bjelica and moved Green on Brown, which slowed down Brown (5-of-17 shooting).
He also used Payton in the first action since his injury against Memphis. Payton helped cut off Derrick White’s offense, especially from behind the arc where he’s been shooting well:
Coaches are more reluctant to make adjustments first. You want to get as far as possible with your intended approach. Now that Kerr has adjusted, Udoka will look to find those counters.
You can get in trouble betting on what those will be, but spacing Green out to clear the lane and looking more for chances to create room on the perimeter again should be priority.
Too Many Turnovers
This isn’t rocket science and you don’t need the film to break this down.
When the Celtics allow 20 or more points off turnovers in the playoffs, they are 1-4 straight up. When they allow fewer than 20 points off turnovers, they are 12-3.
The Miami Heat forced a lot of Celtics turnovers in the Conference finals, because that’s part of their identity. They finished with the second-highest Opponent Turnover Rate of any playoff team — the Warriors are 12th in that category.
When the Warriors create live-ball turnovers, it means the Celtics’ defense isn’t set, which allows for missed communication, bad matchups and Curry pull-up 3s.
Curry had 14 points off Celtics turnovers in a game in which he scored 29 points and the Warriors as a team scored 33 points off turnovers. That’s an absurd amount. It shows you how well the Celtics played when they weren’t, you know, giving the Warriors the ball.
Guarding The 3-Point Line
The Warriors made a priority to close out with a hand up after getting torched in Game 1. Most of that is a matter of discipline and will, but the results were good.
The Celtics had 40 shots that were uncontested or lightly contested in Game 1. In Game 2, that number dropped to just 23.
Boston’s priority has to be getting back to open 3-point looks in Game 3, even if it requires attacking the rim more to open things up.
More Warriors Pick-and-Roll
The Warriors don’t use a lot of pick-and-roll in their offense. But they started spamming it in the third quarter.
Now, it needs to be mentioned again how the Celtics played into it. How about this, Al Horford guarding Curry on an inbounds when Williams is on the floor, forcing two bigs to guard a Curry pick and roll?
Or here, where Horford tries to drop vs. Curry with Grant Williams helping over, allowing the Warriors to get easy trigger actions to find a corner 3.
The Celtics are fighting like hell to avoid blitzing Curry in pick-and-rolls; it is fundamentally against their system. But the Warriors started picking on Horford a ton in Game 2.
The results weren’t great, however. Golden State scored 14 points on 19 possessions with Horford as the screener defender. That’s a 0.74 points per possession mark. By comparison, for the series they’re averaging 1.0 points per possession against Robert Williams.
Targeting Curry Isn’t Working
With Curry guarding the screener and switching, the Celtics have scored just 15 points on 22 possessions. They want to make Curry work on defense to wear him out, but they’re just not having enough success against him.
How I’m Betting the Game 3 Spread
- Celtics after 14+ turnovers in the playoffs: 8-3 SU, 8-3 ATS
- Celtics after losses in the playoffs: 6-0 SU, 6-0 ATS, margin of victory +15.5
- Warriors after a win this postseason: 6-7 ATS
The hidden takeaway of the first two games is that Boston hasn’t played well yet. They shot well in Game 1, but they haven’t had a game where they put together good offensive process and good offensive performance.
Jayson Tatum put up points in Game 2, but hasn’t had a great scoring game yet. That’s likely to happen at some point.
I’m expecting some of the adjustments hinted at above: less Robert Williams, better spacing, better finishing as a result of that spacing, fewer minutes for Daniel Theis, fewer turnovers, better floor balance, and better shooting. Even some of those should go a long way.
I bet Celtics to win the series in less than seven at +200 before the series began and nothing from the first two games has me off that. If that still holds true, they’re likely to win Game 3. The better team, favored, coming off a loss, at home.
For Boston to lose, it would be the first time in the postseason they have thrown up two bad games in a row, and it would come at a point where Ime Udoka has three full days to make adjustments.
The Bet: Celtics -3
Game 2 Total: Under 213.5 ✅
I was leaning over until the day of, when I went for Celtics under 104.5 based on how much sharp action had come in on the under. If the total was going under and I thought Golden State won, then naturally Boston would have a bad scoring game, and lo and behold.
It should be noted that Boston didn’t have a wildly poor shooting game relative to expected eFG% numbers in Game 2, nor did Golden State have a great one.
The total for Game 2 was 214.5 two hours before tipoff, and moved all the way to 213 at several points in that two hour window. Bettors came in late and hammered the under. There was no movement towards the over.
Similarly, if I think the Celtics win this game, then I think the Celtics don’t provide turnovers for oxygen to the Warriors’ offensive fire. Otherwise, Boston’s defense has been good enough to hold them under this number, and the pace in this series has been slower than I expected. Boston has shooters, but doesn’t want a shootout.
Klay Thompson continues to struggle, and despite his highlight buzzer beater, so does Jordan Poole. Draymond Green is an offensive non-entity.
The Warriors just don’t have a lot of shot creation with their personnel right now, especially against this defense.
I don’t want to bet the combined under because it has moved three full points from open. So I’ll take Warriors team total and go with that.
The Bet: Warriors Under 104.5
Halves and Quarters
Game 2 Winners:
- Celtics 1H +3 ✅
- Celtics 1Q +2 ✅
- Celtics 2Q +1.5 ✅
- Warriors 3Q -1.5 ✅
- Celtics 4Q +1.5 ✅
The Celtics continue to roll in second and fourth quarters. They barely lost (but covered the pre-game and live line) in the second. For the playoffs they have won 12-of-16 second quarters and 13-of-16 fourth quarters.
Their rotations tend to wreak havoc with an early quarter lineup that features Tatum, Horford, and either Marcus Smart or White.
Notably, however, they haven’t been as good at home, especially in the first quarter. The Celtics are just 3-6 straight up in home first quarters in the playoffs, 4-4-1 in first halves.
I lean towards the Warriors first quarter –the Celtics struggled in that spot — but I’m not sure if I’ll bet it. If the Warriors lead at the end of the first, I’ll look to live-bet the Celtics in the second quarter as long as it’s less than -2, which it should be given the full-game line.
The Warriors are dynamite in the third quarter at home, but mediocre on the road. The Celtics have been bad in the third overall, so I’m staying away there.
Once again, if Warriors lead or if the game is closing going into the fourth, I’ll be looking for Celtics fourth quarter live lines.
My props for Game 2 was painful:
- Curry Over 10.5 Rebounds + Assists: ❌ (finished with 10 in just 32 minutes)
- Andrew Wiggins Over 22.5 Points + Rebounds: ❌ (finished with 17 in just 30 minutes played)
- Otto Porter Over 1.5 3s: ❌ (finished with one in less than 15 minutes despite a team-high +24)
- Jayson Tatum Over 5.5 Assists: ❌ (tailed Chris Raybon, finished with just three on four potential assists)
- Grant Williams Under 8.5 Points + Assists: ✅
The Curry and Wiggins ones I don’t mind; I chalk those up to the blowout nature of the game. Porter’s frustrating because he’s been a good shooter and the Warriors have dominated in his minutes and yet … Kerr went to Bjelica. As always, trying to get ahead of coach rotations is a bad look.
We’re going back to the well on Wiggins. He’s simply the logical beneficiary of how the Celtics are choosing to defend the Warriors. They should do a better job on Curry, but containing Wiggins will continue to prove a struggle.
I’m backing off Porter, but don’t be shocked if he goes way over on his points and hits several 3s.
Grant Williams is similarly finding it hard to get minutes and/or contribute, so I’ll play that again.
Tatum assists over should be a quality play. That way you don’t have to figure out who will be the one on the receiving end.
Horford is averaging 3.6 assists at home this postseason. That’s enough to get me to be both his rebounds + assists over 12.5 (+104) and Points + Rebounds + Assists over 23.5 (-122).
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