NBA playoffs, betting odds, picks, schedule: Celtics, Clippers advance to conference finals


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With two neutral-court Game 7s in the rearview mirror, what did we learn ahead of Friday’s winner-take-all matchup between the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors? Well… not much. It’s tempting to say that the higher seeds advanced and that the better team should still win, but the two first-round Game 7s were decided by a total of four points. It was a toss-up, as most Game 7s are. 

So how should you approach it? The way you would a normal late-series playoff game. If one team has a substantial edge over the other, as Boston has over Toronto in this series, they should be the pick. However, as we’ll get to in today’s best bets, there is a far more tempting option on the table. 

The Nuggets had their chance to make this a series in Game 3. The Clippers dispatched them, and for all of the matchup advantages they theoretically have, a 4-for-18 performance from Kawhi Leonard was needed for their lone victory in this series. As long as Jamal Murray continues shooting 38.2 percent from the field in this series, a strong possibility given his potential thigh injury and Patrick Beverley’s defense, the Nuggets simply don’t have the firepower to keep up with the Clippers. 

The series is tied three games apiece, but the Celtics are winning the overall scoring margin by 32 points. Toronto needed a buzzer-beater to win Game 3 and double-overtime to win Game 6. They still don’t have a consistent method of scoring points in half-court settings. Pascal Siakam has been off throughout the entire series thanks to Boston’s incredible defense. The variance might favor Toronto one more time, and Game 7s have an inherent sort of randomness that makes them risky plays in general, but Boston is better. Plus, if you believe in any sort of universal balance, this is the exact moment in the 2019 playoffs in which Kawhi Leonard hit his four-bounce buzzer-beater to beat the Philadelphia 76ers. The Raptors have used up their luck. 

The first five games of this series topped out at 207 points, and Game 6 only hit the over because it went to two overtimes. Both first-round Game 7s finished under the projection as well, and that is the norm for Game 7s. Players tense up. Defenses completely lock-in. Teams know each other so well that there are no surprises left in the series. Expect a defensive struggle in Game 7. 

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