If I'm being completely honest, I have absolutely no idea how the Bulls managed to sneak into the postseason. Sure, they won seven of their last 10 games to finish with a 41-41 record, but from an eye-test perspective this team is severely flawed and has no real identity. The only thing Bulls' fans can hang there hat on is that in the playoffs, anything can happen. Game 1 is scheduled to tip off at 6:30 p.m. EST on Sunday, and the Celtics are tabbed as eight-point favorites.
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On the futures board, the Celtics are the second choice to win the Eastern Conference at +425 despite finishing as the East's No.1 seed. They are the fifth betting favorite at +1600 to win the team's 18th NBA Championship. With the Cavaliers backing into the postseason and not playing their best basketball, many think this could be the year the Celtics keep LeBron out of his seventh straight NBA Finals. On the other hand, the Bulls sit at much longer odds to make any noise in this year's postseason. They are +6660 to win the East and +25000 to win the team's first title since 1998. Neither of those odds are worth betting.All odds are courtesy of Bovada .
The Boston Celtics have come a long way. Just four seasons ago, the Celtics finished with a record of 25-57, which was good enough to put them in 12 th spot in the Eastern Conference. It wasn't until a very meticulous rebuild plan was put in place through trades and the rewards that came with the Brooklyn Nets being terrible at basketball. Over the last three years, the Celtics have increased their win total from 40 to 48 to 53 wins this season. The team finally has players that are buying into their role on the team, and it also helps to have a superstar like Isaiah Thomas pulling the strings at point guard. Thomas is coming off a superb regular season and will continue to be looked upon to lead the Celtics back to the promised land.
The Bulls, on the other hand, are reliant upon Jimmy Butler and a very old Dwyane Wade. While Butler is young and a great scorer of the basketball, having to rely upon a 35-year-old as a second option won't get them very far. As I mentioned earlier, this is a team that finished with a .500 record. Had a few shots rimmed out instead of dropped in during the regular season, I'd be writing about the Miami Heat as the eighth seed instead.
The Boston Celtics' offense is among the best in the league in terms of points per game as they average 108 a night. That has them ranked eighth overall, several spots ahead of their first-round opponent. The Celtics are also one of the best teams in The Association in getting assists, ranking fourth and averaging over 25 dimes. They also knock down the three-ball well (12 makes per game, third overall).The only real knock on this Celtics team is that they aren't too solid in the paint, both on the offensive and defensive glass, hauling in just 42 boards on average, which ranks them 27 th overall. Individually, the Celtics are led by their all-star, Isaiah Thomas. The diminutive point-guard averaged 28.9 points and 5.9 assists per game over the regular season. He shot 46 percent from the floor, which puts him up there among the leagues elite scorers. Four other Celtics averaged in double-figures, with Avery Bradley averaging 16.3, Al Horford 14.1, Jae Crowder 13.9 and Marcus Smart 10.6.
The Bulls' offense is nothing to hang your hat on. They average just 102 points per game, which puts them in the latter third of the NBA. The only legitimate thing they do well is rebound the basketball as they average 46.4 boards a game, which puts them third overall. If you run down the roster, you won't find many guys that can strike fear into the eyes of their opponent. Butler is good but still raw. D-Wade is not the Flash we've grown accustomed to watching. Nikola Mirotic and Robin Lopez are severely overrated (if that's even possible) and Bobby Portis is still learning his way around an NBA season. The first four players mentioned average in double-figures, with Butler leading the way at 23.9. Wade adds 18.3 a night, while Mirotic and Lopez chip in with 10.6 and 10.4 points a game, respectively.
Surprisingly, the Bulls have the advantage (according to the stats) on the defensive end of the court. They give up an average of 102.4 points per game, which has them ranked sixth in the NBA. The Celtics are not too far behind, however, giving up just 105.4, which has them ranked 15 th. This series could very well come down to who can get the key stop at a critical part of the game, whether that be in the fourth quarter of a tight game or early in the first half to stop a run. If there is one thing I've learned about betting on a team with a good defense, it's to make sure that their offense is up to the task because if they can't score then all that great defense is worthless. The Bulls fit that script, and anyone relying on Portis and Lopez to offer up solid contributions in a close game are sure to be burned.
There is no better season than this one for the Celtics to take that giant step forward and win the Eastern Conference. Every team from two through eight is severely flawed and is ripe for the picking - including the reigning champions. For the Celtics' goals to come to fruition, they must first dispatch of this bad Bulls squad. Isaiah Thomas is going to be the difference maker in this series, and nobody on the Bulls roster will be able to shut him down. Add in Horford and Bradley and the Celtics will look unstoppable in this first round. I wouldn't recommend laying the -900 s eries price, so I would look to take a shot at a correct series score - Boston 4-1.
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