TOP TIPS FOR 2017 NBA PLAY-OFFS
The best-of seven series for the NBA play-offs has games coming thick and fast. This Thursday (4 May) evening, another two games take place.
BOSTON CELTICS v WASHINGTON WIZARDS
The Celtics have taken an early 2-0 lead in this best of seven, and the Wizards will need to pull some magic out of the hat if the lead is not to become unassailable. Their downfall thus far has been the ability to shut out games; in the first match over the weekend, their insipid showing in the third quarter allowed Boston to take the game beyond their reach.
The contest was a close call with the exception of that third quarter and, admittedly, Washington could have made more of the foul shots awarded to them. In addition, the Celtics were clinical in netting three-pointers.
The Wizards staged some excellent comebacks during the normal season, and came back almost 20 times when they were down by 10 points or more. They once again came close over the weekend, but it ultimately seemed like a lack of stamina ended up costing them when it mattered most and the game neared its end. Despite the best efforts of Bradley Beal, they could not open a telling advantage over the Celtics.
Boston won that third quarter by a score line of 36-16 and, having been trailing at the half-way stage by a meagre five points, managed to surge into a 15-point lead with just one quarter remaining in the contest. Jae Crowder played a major part in the turnaround with a series of crucial three-pointers.
The second meeting between the two last Tuesday was a closer run game, albeit with the same end result. Boston emerged victorious with a 126-119 overtime triumph, and there was only ever going to be one man of the match. Isaiah Thomas scored an incredible 53 points – the second highest number in Celtics play-off history – and if he can manage to find something in the locker even remotely close to that form, the Wizards could be in for a long night.
Thomas seemed to get better as the game wore on, scoring 20 of his points in the fourth quarter, followed by another nine in overtime, as that trend of the Wizards falling away as the tie neared the death appeared to continue. The Wizards have managed to match Boston for the most part, but it seems that the Celtics always manage to find an extra gear when it is truly necessary.
With a 2-0 lead, the Celtics have a clear advantage and the Wizards need to dig deep if they are not to fall further behind. This could very well be their night, with home advantage and the absolute necessity of a win.
Odds: Washington Wizards (1.426), Boston Celtics (2.95)
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS v UTAH JAZZ
True to form, the Warriors won the opening match of this best-of-seven series with a 106-94 score line last Tuesday night. Prior to the play-offs, the two teams met three times during the normal season, with the Warriors winning two of those meetings. Add to that their opening play-off victory and they look to be the clear favourites in this clash.
But Utah cannot be written off completely. Their win over Golden State during the season put an end to the Warrior’s 14-game winning streak, proving that the Jazz have the talent to stop the more fancied side. In addition, Utah will be able to count on the return of one of their key players, swingman Gordon Hayward, meaning that this series could well be closer than many people initially believe.
It must be said, however, that the Warriors have form, as they come from successive final runs. In 2016, they blew a 3-1 lead against the Cleveland Cavaliers, to miss out on the crown, and they will do everything within their power to ensure the same does not happen again.
Within their ranks, Golden State of course have two-time MVP Stephen Curry, but will not be able to rest easy. The Warriors like to play a quick tempo and, should they be able to impose themselves here, are overwhelming favourites to navigate a safe passage through the play-offs. The Warriors are the top seed in the western conference. Curry was on top of his game last Tuesday night, scoring 22 points for his side as they got off to a winning start.
For their part, Utah are making their first play-off appearance in five years, and they have not turned up just to make up the numbers. Their tempo is slower than their opponents and their game plan will likely be to try and stifle the Warriors, a feat which is admittedly easier said than done. The Warriors are likely to further their advantage over the Jazz.
Odds: Golden State Warriors (1.071), Utah Jazz (8.50)