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Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors moved closer to capturing the NBA title with a 104-94 win in Game 5. With a commanding 3-2 series lead, the Warriors are now -400 favorites to win the series, and Steph Curry finally securing a Finals MVP feels like a formality.
But overcoming long odds has been a trademark of Ime Udoka's squad all season. I analyzed the Celtics' chances in February when they were +1200 to reach the NBA Finals. It's easy for us to forget how far they have come. They are a team that got to this point by embracing the pressure of playing without a margin for error. Tomorrow night in Game 6, they find themselves again in a familiar position.
Admittedly, my confidence has waned in the Celtics being able to beat the odds and rip off consecutive wins against Golden State despite witnessing them perform a similar feat against the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. In addition, fatigue appears to have settled in, leaving me wondering if coming off consecutive seven-game series is catching up with Boston. However, despite my fading hopes regarding my futures bets with Boston, I believe they have enough in the tank to avoid getting closed out in front of their fans. The Celtics are -3.5 point favorites, and while I will be laying the points with the home team, there are a few other bets I punched in that correlate with a Celtics victory.
Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics (Over 210.5)
The Celtics' defense dominated the betting conversation heading into the NBA Finals, but the other side of the floor has been more impactful in determining the results so far.
In Boston's two wins, it averaged 25 more points per game (118-93) and shot 10% better from the field (49.4% - 39.5%). So not only does the series go the way the Celtics' offense goes, but so do the totals. The over is 2-0 in both Celtics victories, while the Warriors' three wins all finished under the total. This is because so much of Boston's success relies on ball movement and making the Warriors' defense close out after stringing together multiple rotations. It also explains why you see a significantly higher shooting percentage in their wins.
If Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum settle for matchups in isolation, Golden State can collapse the lane and force low-percentage shots and turnovers. Since I am banking on Boston to win Game 6, it only makes sense to back the over. I don't see them winning without the offensive success to drive this total over 210.5.
Jayson Tatum Over 6.5 assists (+120)
Jayson Tatum has been one of the most polarizing players in the series. Positioned early as the Celtics' best bet to win Finals MVP, Tatum has failed to live up to those expectations. Instead, poor shooting and turnovers have made us doubt whether he can deliver the signature game his MVP backers have been waiting on. His most impressive performance was in the first game when he dished out 13 dimes as Boston drew first blood in the series.
Tatum is at his best when playing within Udoka's system and creating scoring opportunities for his teammates to complement his game. However, he is still the catalyst of the Celtics' offense. When the ball moves and the Celtics' drive and kick game is effective, it shows up in his assist totals. Tatum has averaged 11 assists in Boston's two victories compared to 4.3 in their three losses. We only need him to get to seven to cash this bet. Boston bettors should be all over this plus-money prop. From my perspective, there is too wide of a gap in price between the Celtics' moneyline (-165) and Tatum going over 6.5 assists (+120). The current odds reflect more than a 16% difference in the implied probabilities of each.
Celtics ML -165 (62.2% implied probability)
Tatum Over 6.5 assists +120 (45.5% implied probability)
This bet is another way we can bet on Boston getting its offense out of the mud and grab additional value in derivative markets when there's more correlation than what's reflected in the odds. It's a solid approach that hinges on a Celtics win and an excellent way to target more favorable odds. Let's hope it plays out, and we can do it again for Game 7.