The second round of the Eastern Conference is now set after both Washington and Boston went on the road and ended their series in Six Games. Now things get real. Both Boston and Washington had some massive roster and matchup advantages in their opening series. Those should be neutralized in Round Two with a pair of opponents with similar strengths and weaknesses.
Boston is the #1 seed in the East, but the #4 seeded Wizards were only four games worse in the regular season and their respective point differentials were within a point of one another. ESPN’s BPI Index has the Celtics as 66% favorites to win the series. Vegas has Boston as the favorite in the series, but barely. Just a note – ESPN’s BPI also has the Cavaliers as just 53% favorites over Toronto, so I am not sure I am fully onboard with the analytics guys in this instance. Cleveland is winning that series. Absolutely winning that series.
Let’s take a look at the Celtics and Wizards matchup and see who has the edge in Game One
Today’s NBA Pick:
Washington Wizards at Boston Celtics -5
Any discussion in this series starts with the backcourts. Isaiah Thomas vaulted himself into MVP conversations with a career-year, averaging a whopping 28.9 points per game on a fantastically efficient 46.3% from the floor and even better 90.9% from the line. Those numbers outpace his counterpart, John Wall who tallied 23.1ppg on 45% and 80%. But pure numbers don’t tell the whole story. Wall is a more physically-imposing point guard and I think he will prove a tough matchup for I.T.
The off guard spot is similar; Bradley Beal’s counting stats (23.1 ppg) put Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart to shame (16.3 ppg , 10.6 ppg respectively) but that isn’t the whole story. Bradley and Smart are physical, tenacious defenders, especially Marcus Smart, and will prove a tough matchup for Beal who is prone to inefficient nights and some offensive frustrations.
The front court matchups are pretty even as well. Washington’s Morris, Gortat and Porter and better scorers. Boston’s Horford and Crowder are better defenders and Boston’s rotation is a little deeper and less vulnerable to foul trouble.
All in all, this series is very evenly matched. Both teams had identical home records this season, Boston was slightly better on the road to earn the #1 seed while Washington lagged four games behind. Both teams just finished six games series in which they were pushed early, but clinched series wins on the road in convincing fashion.
My Game One pick relies on emotion more than data. The five-point line is about right. The home team will be favored in every game this series barring some injury or suspension or random extreme variable. I do not think, however, that either team is invincible at home.
What makes this series even more fun is the bad blood between these two teams. They flat-out do NOT like each other, so don’t be surprised to see some technicals and tough officiating decisions on Sunday. I think the Wiz has a slight emotional edge in this game. It is going to be really tough for Isaiah to cope with his sister’s funeral, and I think there is also a little sense of RELIEF after finally dispatching the Chicago Bulls – it opens the door for a Game One upset.
I’m not saying take Washington on the moneyline, but I will take them with the five point cushion to put on a good effort and a competitive and feisty Game One.
For the record, I like the Wizards in this series as well. They have more offensive weapons than Boston and more guys who can make a shot. If the Wizards guards can defend Thomas, and I think they can at least contain him, Boston’s offensive options become dangerously limited.
Today’s NBA Pick: WASHINGTON WIZARDS -5