NBA Betting: Wednesday Playoffs Preview
by Matt Severance - 05/06/2009
Orlando Magic at Boston Celtics, Game 2 (TNT)
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that if Orlando's J.J. Redick once again outscores Celtics star and likely future Hall of Famer Ray Allen in the shooting guard matchup on Wednesday night, then the Magic will head back to central Florida with a 2-0 lead in this series.
I wondered in this space how much the Celtics would have left in the tank on Monday, and the answer for most of Game 1 was: Not much. Orlando led by as many as 28 points before holding off a furious fourth-quarter rally. It was just Boston's fourth loss in its past 27 Game 1s but also its second straight.
Allen was downright bad on Monday night, shooting 2-for-12 and 1-for-7 from behind the 3-point line on the way to nine points in 40 minutes; by comparison, the formerly seldom-used Redick had 12 points and hit 3-for-5 from the field.
At least Allen has an excuse in that he's 33 years old. Boston point guard Rajon Rondo is 10 years younger, but he looked just as tired Monday, shooting 2-for-12 from the field and turning the ball over eight times. Rondo had just nine turnovers total in the final four games against the Chicago Bulls in Round 1.
Allen said he thought all the Celtics were afraid to drive the line in fear of Orlando big man Dwight Howard.
"Yeah, because he's down there and we know he blocks shots," Allen said. "But you've got to put pressure on him. You got to jump and get him in foul trouble."
As for Orlando, it has now won three straight road playoff games. The lone concern from Game 1, other than blowing that lead, would be the lack of a bench. Only Mickael Pietrus played more than 11 minutes among reserves, and only three reserves played. There's little doubt that Boston will come back with more energy tonight, so Orlando might need some bench help.
The Celtics are four-point Bodog favorites tonight, but they have covered just once at home in these playoffs.
The Magic won't have starting guard Courtney Lee back quite yet, with Redick starting again. But reports are that Lee should be able to return from his injury for Game 3 on Friday.
Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers, Game 2 (TNT)
No question the most surprising result so far in all of the conference semifinals was the Houston upset of the Lakers in Game 1 on Monday night after being swept during the regular season by L.A.
"I don't think we underestimated them or felt like they weren't a good team coming in," Lakers guard Derek Fisher said to reporters. "They beat us, and that's all you can say."
Credit Houston's defense, which e held the Lakers 15 points shy of their regular-season average in the 100-92 victory. Especially credit Shane Battier, who hounded Kobe Bryant all night with some help from Ron Artest. Sure Kobe scored 32 points, but it took him 31 shots to do so (missing 17). Houston will take that ratio every time.
The Lakers also had no answer for Yao Ming, who finished with 28 points and 10 boards. L.A. center Andrew Bynum continued his poor playoffs with 10 points and three rebounds in 15 minutes as Yao got him in foul trouble.
Still, Kobe wasn't 100 percent Monday night while dealing with some flu-like symptoms, and it's hard to imagine the Lakers going just 2-for-18 from three-point range again as in Game 1 or for them to get just 19 free-throw attempts as they did in the opener. Thus, oddsmakers on Bodog still list the Lakers as 10-point favorites for Game 2.
The team that has won Game 1 of an NBA playoff series has won the series 78.5 percent of the time. And Lakers coach Phil Jackson is 42-for-42 when his team wins Game 1 of a series - so that Houston upset can't be overstated.
But the last time the Lakers lost Game 1 of a best-of-seven playoff series was in 2004 at San Antonio. L.A. won that series in six. The last time the Lakers lost a Game 1 at home was in the 2001 NBA Finals against Philly. Los Angeles won that one in five.
"We'll be fine," Kobe said after Game 1. "Me and Derek [Fisher] have been in this situation before."