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Deceiving, but all Celts

Jun 10, 2008 7:01 PM

Bettin’ on B’ball by Andy Iskoe |

PLAYOFFS
NBA
PCT
20-23
53-57
48.2

The NBA Finals head west to Los Angeles with Boston having held serve by winning the first two games on its home court.

The results are a bit deceiving. Boston’s 10-point win in Game 1 was much closer than the score might suggest. And Boston’s 6-point win in Game 2 was, for the most part, not nearly as close. A furious fourth-quarter rally by the Lakers cut a 24-point Celtics lead to a mere bucket before Boston extended in the final minute.

Still, the Celtics are now 4-0 this season against the Lakers with Game 3 virtually a "must win" for Los Angeles. The teams meet for the next two (and perhaps three) games at the Staples Center.

The "must win" scenario has not been lost on the linesmaker. The Lakers opened as 9½-to 10-point favorites around town. There has been some early movement towards the underdog Celtics with several 9’s showing up and the move certainly makes sense.

At nearly double digits, there is plenty of room for the Lakers to win but not cover.

The call last week was for Boston to win the NBA Finals in likely 6 or 7. The current expectation is LA to win 2-of-3 at home. The teams would return to Boston with the Celtics holding a 3-2 lead and having two shots at winning the NBA Title on their homecourt.

Note that Boston has not fared well on the road in the playoffs and this will be the first road game in nearly two weeks. Boston lost three games in the opening round in Atlanta with all three losses by single digits.

In the next round, the Celts lost Games 3 and 4 in Cleveland by double digits and Game 6 by 5. They did win two of three road games in Detroit, but the Game 4 loss was by 19.

From a handicapping standpoint, the Lakers would normally be the play in Game 3. However, it’s hard to justify laying nearly 10 in a game between the top two teams in the league. To expect the Celtics to just concede Game 3 would seem to be a mistake. The Lakers might win, but the Celtics clearly have the talent to be competitive in defeat.

Boston would be a play in Game 4 if getting at least 8. In a possible fifth game next Sunday, the play would be on Boston plus the points if the series is tied 2-2. If the Celtics are up 3-1, the play would be on the Lakers.

If the series returns to Boston for a Game 6 or 7, the selections will be revisited next week