Boston Celtics at Atlanta Hawks -4 (Total: 172)
It’s been an exciting and amazing opening weekend of NBA Playoff action. You’re forgiven if you missed the most improbable finish late Sunday night, because it is quite likely that you, like nearly everyone else in America, had left the Clippers for dead in Game One when they trailed by 24 points with just nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter. As a matter of fact, I nearly had my “2-0, Here we go!” column written, gloating over my easy cover in the nightcap. Then, the wheels came off in Memphis.
A 28-3 run later, and when Rudy Gay’s game winning attempt bounded harmlessly off the rim (shades of UConn losing the 2006 regional final to George Mason, anyone??) the Clippers had completed one of the biggest comebacks in NBA Playoff history.
The playoffs have been so intriguing so far, that the largest comeback in fifteen years wasn’t even the biggest story. Neither was the somewhat quiet buzzer beater authored by Kevin Durant against the defending champs. Instead the topic dominating sports talk shows and radio today was the “ref-bump” from Rajon Rondo and the ensuing suspension.
Rondo will miss tonight’s game against the Hawks, but he will return for Game Three in Boston. That leaves the Celtics missing their entire backcourt for tonight’s pivotal Game Two. Ray Allen’s loss offensively is at least somewhat mitigated by the quickness and defense Avery Bradley brings in his place. There is no one who can bring enough to the table to make up for what Rajon Rondo provides his team. He has been their best player all season, and nearly recorded yet another playoff triple-double before being tossed in Saturday’s game.
The Hawks have won their past two home games against Boston by more than tonight’s four-point line… and that was WITH Rondo. I am honestly very surprised the line remained as close as it did, but am not complaining about an opportunity to pick up what seems like a relatively safe wager. Playoff series are tough from a Vegas standpoint, as so much is radically different from one game to the next; largely swinging on how well coaches adjust and, frankly, if shots are falling that night for a particular team. It isn’t often you get a chance to take a home team who is the lower seed facing an opponent without their best player, and only have to lay four points for the privilege.
Give me the Hawks pushing the series to a commanding 2-0 lead and covering the four point line.
Free Pick: Atlanta Hawks -4