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Pacers Go Level, Celtics Bounce Back & Timberwolves Shorten For Championship

The NBA Playoffs are in full swing with each series looking set to go down to the wire as underdogs step up against the favourites.

Pacers Level It Up

The New York Knicks v Indiana Pacers series is living up to the hype.

Now tied at 2-2, the Pacers just rattled off their second-biggest playoff victory ever in beating the Knicks 121-89 in Game 4.

Their ability with the ball is rarely questioned. Even with Tyrese Haliburton down on form, the Pacers can still pile up points. But Haliburton scored 20 in this one while T.J. McConnell continued his impressive run of form with 15 points and 10 assists. The Pacers led by 43 points at one stage as Jalen Brunson finally had an off night.

It’s slightly concerning that nobody else on the Knicks roster could step up as Brunson stumbled. He scored only 18 points – his lowest mark of the postseason. Injuries to OG Anunoby, Bojan Bogdanovic, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson may have caught up to the Knicks, who struggled with the short turnaround.

The Knicks may benefit somewhat from the big loss. Tom Thibedeau runs his starters into the ground at any opportunity but kept them all to less than 32 minutes in this one. The game was almost over after the first quarter with the Pacers holding a 20-point lead.

Back to New York, the Knicks are $1.72 and -1.5 favourites to win Game 5.

Celtics Bounce Back

It’s not uncommon for the Boston Celtics to struggle at home. They’re 14-14 in home playoff games in the last three seasons. It’s the most played over a three-year span without a winning record in NBA history. But their 118-94 defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers is an embarrassing result. One they needed to respond to in Game 3.

Enter Jayson Tatum.

Tatum didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, connecting on only 11 of his 25 attempts. However, he came up good in the biggest moments and combined for 61 points alongside Jaylen Brown.

The Celtics flew out of the blocks after halftime with a 14-0 run to blow the game open. Donovan Mitchell also finished with 33 points but couldn’t rally his Cavaliers back to within striking distance. Boston made Mitchell a target defensively. He’s scoring at will and doing so exceptionally efficiently. To counter, the Celtics are trying to wear him out by sending traffic his way defensively. It’s likely to be a ploy they continue to adopt for the remainder of the series.

While the series score is 2-1, the Celtics are unbackable $1.01 favourites to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. The expectation is for them to win it 4-1 from here ($1.33) as the Cavaliers head into Game 4 as $3.60 and +8.5 underdogs.

Wemby Wins It

No surprises here…

Victor Wembanyama became only the sixth unanimous Rookie of the Year winner in NBA history.

The result was never in doubt as the 20-year-old averaged 21.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.6 blocks per game.

There is always one rouge voter, though… Somehow, Brandon Miller picked up a second-place vote ahead of Chet Holmgren.

Jokic, Too

Vogel Sacked

Mat Ishbia made big claims no other NBA executive wanted to back up last week. This week he fired Frank Vogel after just one year of his five-year contract and replaced him with Mike Budenholzer, also on a five-year deal.

It seems like a sideways move on the surface. Vogel has been scapegoated after the Suns failed to meet their preseason expectations. He’s a championship-winning coach, and it was hoped his defensive prowess could balance the roster’s offensive firepower. Budenholzer is a championship-winning coach who will bring a defensive mindset to the team.

The Suns didn’t give Vogel enough time, and the players didn’t play well enough to make that transition any easier. So the Suns are back to square one and at risk of doing it all over again next season.

NBA Draft Lottery

Those poor Detroit Pistons.

Although they won only 14 games throughout the season, they’ve earned the 5th pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.

Despite just a 3% chance, the Atlanta Hawks hit the jackpot and landed the first pick. It doesn’t seem right that a team that made the Play-in Tournament can then pick first in the draft, but that’s the luck of the draw. In fact, it’s the sixth straight year that the team with the worst record in the league isn’t picking first in the draft.

There isn’t the bonafide superstar in this draft. It’s not as simple as winning the lottery and planning to select Victor Wembanyama from the outset.

The Hawks already have decisions to make regarding Trae Young. They have not won a post-season series since making the Eastern Conference Finals in 2021. Two first-round defeats preceded their Play-in Tournament defeat this year as the Hawks continue to move on a treadmill of mediocrity. Perhaps this pick will lead them towards a larger-scale rebuild and trading of Young, or they will use it to add a player who can contribute from the start.

NBA Championship Odds

There has been plenty of movement in the NBA championship odds market throughout the week.

The Boston Celtics have shortened further at the top to be $1.72 favourites. It’s the Minnesota Timberwolves on the second line of betting at $5 now, though.

Now $1.44 favourites to win the series 2-1 in front, the Timberwolves stunned the Nuggets in Game 1 and 2. Anthony Edwards is a killer, and the defence held up while Rudy Gobert missed Game 2 for the birth of his child. While Denver bounced back to win Game 3, they’re struggling against this high-octane Timberwolves defence and will need to make further adjustments if they’re to kick on and win the championship from here ($8).

At $1.40 to win their series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Dallas Mavericks are into $8.50 to win the championship. Even as Luka Doncic battled a knee injury, Kyrie Irving stepped up late to close out the Game 3 win with the Mavericks $1.84 favourites to do it again in Game 4.

The injuries have become too much for the Knicks. Brunson can only do so much on his own, and it’s not enough to beat the best four times in a series as they drift from $17 to $31.

TOP 6 NBA CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS

TEAMCURRENT PRICELAST WEEK’S PRICE
Boston Celtics$1.72$2
Minnesota Timberwolves$5$7
Denver Nuggets$8$5
Dallas Mavericks$8.50$10
Oklahoma City Thunder$14$9
New York Knicks$31$17
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