Fri, Apr 21, 10:02am by Staff Writer
The playoffs heat up this weekend with James Harden and Russell Westbrook resuming their dual for the end of season MVP honours. Don’t expect either man to take a backward step. The Celtics will be looking to keep their series alive as they battle the Bulls in Chicago. Strap yourself in for the best bets on the playoff action.
Celtics @ Bulls
United Centre, Chicago – Saturday 22 April 9.00am
TV: Live on ESPN
The Bulls host game three of the series, knowing that they could take firm grip on their playoff destiny, with a win over the Celtics. A win for the Bulls would leave the Celtics with a mountain to climb. While the odds are not insurmountable the Celtics will be looking to turn things around in game three.
The Celtics will take heart knowing it has been done before. The Bulls win is the second time in league history a number one seed has been behind 2-0. The Phoenix Suns came back to defeat the Lakers in the first round in 1993.
The Bulls scraped into the playoffs as eighth seed, and so have been able to punch above their weight in the series to date. With the drama of the regular season firmly in the rear-view mirror, the side has found their mojo and come together as a team. Jimmy Butler dominated for the Bulls in game two, hitting 22 points, and had plenty of help from teammates as they physically dominated the Celtics.
The Bulls are a team playing with confidence. Look for Dwyane Wade and Butler to take advantage of this new found belief in game three.
But we expect the Celtics to bounce bac. Any team with Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford will always be a threat. The Celtics need to work harder at both ends of the court, and start playing their brand of basketball.
Don’t be surprised to see Thomas have a big game. The Celtics guard has played on despite the drama off the court this week. With so much on the line, I’m tipping the Celtics to get back in the series with a comeback win.
BEST BET: Celtics to win at $2.06
Rockets @ Thunder
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City – Saturday 22 April 11.30pm
TV: Live on ESPN
The current season for the Thunder can be summed up as the ‘Russell Westbrook Revenge Tour’. Westbrook has been a one-man wrecking ball this season as his averaged a triple-double, and proven to the Thunder fans there is life beyond Kevin Durant. If anyone can breathe life into the series, it would be Westbrook. Westbrook’s duel with fellow MVP candidate James Harden will go a long way to deciding this match-up.
The Rockets have developed a system to take the edge off the Westbrook effect. In game two the Rockets rotated defensive duties on Westbrook between seven different players to great effect. James Harden was able to win the key moments that have so far given the Rockets a 2-0 series lead. Harden scored 35 points, while Westbrook led the line for the Thunder with 51 points, but his just 4-18 in the final quarter.
The Rockets will be looking to grind down the Thunder in game three and will double-team Westbrook with Patrick Beverley and Trevor Ariza.
To get back in this game expect the Thunder to improve on their shooting percentage. Game two saw the Thunder lead by as much as 15-points, but they fell away when Westbrook took his customary rest late in the third quarter,
The Rockets have had the wood on the Thunder all season, winning all five matches. The Thunder will be tough at home, but the Rockets go deeper off the bench. Look for Lou Williams to come off the bench in the clutch. I’m tipping the Rockets for the win.
BEST BET: Rockets to win at $2.27
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