NBA Betting: Thursday Playoffs Preview
by Matt Severance - 05/14/2009
It's back to ESPN for your NBA fix tonight, betting fans. And both road teams can close it out, although only the Lakers are favored to do so.
Boston Celtics at Orlando Magic, Game 6 (ESPN)
How painful was that Game 5 choke job for Orlando, when it held a late 10-point lead only to give away its second game this series?
Boston is 32-0 when it takes a 3-2 lead in a best-of-seven series, so the Magic are up against some serious history now. But they are 6.5-point favorites for Game 6 so maybe it will get to a Game 7 back in Beantown, where the C's are 17-3 all-time.
Of course the big news in Game 5, other than Orlando's inability to hit a basket from the field in the final 5:39 of the game, was how Dwight Howard blasted Magic coach Stan Van Gundy afterward for Howard not getting the ball enough down the stretch.
Howard had a solid 12 points and 17 rebounds, but had just 10 shots and none with less than six minutes to go in the game. He's still a bit offensively challenged and a bad free-throw shooter, but there's no question there is some validity to Howard's argument.
The Magic were going to take Wednesday off but instead held a team meeting in Orlando to clear the air. Howard backed off his criticisms and apologized, but Van Gundy got in a little zinger of his own, saying: "I didn't think [Howard's] energy level was as high [Tuesday night]. The only game in this series where he's played with great, great energy throughout was Game 3 in Orlando."
So either the Magic will collapse upon their bickering selves tonight or come out roaring. I think that makes any individual prop bets on Howard fascinating tonight. BetED lists Howard's over/under of rebounds + points at 37 for Game 6. For the record, he has only exceeded that total in two games this series, the opener and Game 4.
Will Orlando change its offense just to make the franchise happy? Howard is averaging 16.4 rebounds in the series, so that means he would have to get 21 points to go over the number. With his poor free throw shooting (just over 55 percent), take the under.
There is one prop bet that feels like stealing here. That's Rajon Rondo's total points and assists against Orlando counterpart Rafer Alston. Rondo is -6 ½ on BetED, but Alston has been simply terrible this series and may begin to lose playing time. He did have 16 points and six assists the other night, but Alston's average of those two totals in this series is 14. Rondo's is 22.2.
Los Angeles Lakers at Houston Rockets, Game 6 (ESPN)
Speaking of easy money, the Lakers showed that their Game 4 indifference was just that, covering by 28 points back in L.A. for Game 5 despite being a double-digit favorite.
The Rockets got their one-game "we can win without Yao" boost back in Game 4, but talent wins out, and it should again tonight. The Lakers are nine-point road favorites on BetED and have won their last four close-out games.
In addition, Los Angeles knows that Denver is already into the West Finals, so the Lakers won't want to give the Nuggets extra rest. But the home crowd should energize Houston at the start, and the Rockets get +125 on BetED to score the first 10 points, which is a way better option that the -160 the Lakers are getting.
Here's another trend to keep in mind: In Houston's two playoff series, the team that has led after the first quarter has won all 11 games.
Look for a bust-out game by Kobe Bryant tonight. BetED lists his totals for assists and rebounds at 10 ½, with that seemingly a lock to go over, which is +140. I would take that despite Bryant's combined average of assists and rebounds this series being 8.8. He will want to do everything tonight to close this out, and the fact that Lamar Odom is still hampered by that bad back (he played just 19 minutes in Game 5), should improve Kobe's assists and rebounds.
I would also take the BetED over of 14 ½ on the total three-point shots made in this game. In Game 4 at home, Houston shot 34 percent from the three-point line and made 10 of them (L.A. made eight). In Game 5, Houston was a terrible 5-for-29, while the Lakers made just six three-pointers, but the Lakers didn't need to be shooting from downtown with that huge lead.
Houston's Shane Battier told reporters his team's strategy, which bodes well for that over: "You may as well get three points for every shot instead of two. That's my motto. … We have to make threes to beat this team. We did it in Game 4, so we know we can do it. But that's got to be our formula."