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We’ve got another day of NBA playoff basketball on tap on Sunday. The action gets underway at 1 p.m. ET with the Raptors vs. the Celtics, which is the first game of the second round. The Clippers and Jazz will also try to punch their tickets for the second round, while the Mavericks and Nuggets will try to force decisive Game 7s.
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These teams have both been excellent during the regular season. The Raptors posted the second-best record in basketball, while the Celtics ranked fifth. The Celtics ranked third in Net Rating, while the Raptors ranked fourth. Both of these teams also carried their elite play into the bubble and both dispatched their first-round opponents via sweeps.
The Celtics have been a defensive juggernaut. Boston suffocated the 76ers’ offense during the first round, holding Philadelphia to the lowest effective FG% (eFG%) and expected effective FG%. The 76ers attempted the lowest percentage of shots from behind the arc and fourth-lowest percentage of shots at the rim, so they were forced to try and live in the midrange. That’s not an efficient way to build an offense.
Conversely, the Raptors have been elite on the offensive end of the court. They rank fourth in eFG% and expected eFG% during the playoffs, so this is a matchup of strength vs. strength.
Ultimately, the Celtics have the best player in this series in Jayson Tatum, so I like the idea of grabbing Boston as an underdog for Game 1 and for the series.
The Mavericks have their backs against the wall in this contest and things certainly aren’t looking optimistic for them at the moment. Kristaps Porzingis will miss the rest of the first round and Luka Doncic is questionable with an ankle injury. It sounds like Doncic will be able to suit up in this contest but it’s possible that his body might not be able to stand up to an increased workload.
Dallas is coming off a blowout loss in their last outing and it’s only natural for the point spread to become inflated in those situations. Teams that are coming off a loss of at least 25 points in the playoffs have historically gone 60-45 against the spread in their following contest. As long as Doncic is active, I have no problem grabbing the points here.
This series has been full of offense so far, with the over coming through in four of the first five games. Overall, these teams have combined to score an average of 236 points per 100 possessions. The Jazz rank first in the playoffs in eFG%, while the Nuggets rank third.
However, both teams can’t continue to score like that moving forward. The Jazz have outperformed their expected eFG% by more than 8%, while the Nuggets have outperformed theirs by +4.5%
The defense did ratchet up a bit in their last game, and the pace was also down to just 94.3. That’s a snail’s pace, and I would expect that to continue in a crucial game.
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