No. 1 Boston Celtics at No. 8 Chicago Bulls
The Bulls have a shocking 2-0 series lead as Boston became only the second No. 1 seed to lose its first two games of a series to a No. 8. The other was the 1993 Phoenix Suns, but they were able to rally for a 3-2 series win. Thus the Celtics are the first No. 1 to lose the first two at home in a best-of-7 series. There are many factors why the Bulls are in command. Former Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo is one of them. He has been brilliant for Chicago, looking like the Rondo who led Boston to its most recent title. He’s averaging nearly a triple-double in the two games and has more steals (seven) than turnovers (four) in more than 67 minutes of action. Rebounding was always going to be a key factor in this series as it was a strength for Chicago and weakness for Boston. The Bulls are +22 on the boards thus far. Boston is just 2-10 all-time in the playoffs under Brad Stevens and 0-5 on the road. Chicago is -1.5 on SBR NBA odds.
No. 3 Houston Rockets at No. 6 Oklahoma City Thunder
While the Rockets blew out the Thunder in Game 1, Oklahoma City played great team basketball for three-quarters in Game 2. The Thunder led 89-86 entering the third, with Russell Westbrook shooting 13-for-25 from the field for 36 points to go with 11 assists. However, in the fourth quarter Westbrook resorted to “hero ball” in shooting 4-for-18 with just two assists and OKC lost 115-111. Westbrook took a whopping 43 shots on the night. The rest of the team had 54. Steven Adams, a breakout star in the 2016 playoffs, had three shot attempts and fouled out. The Thunder were plus-18 with Adams on the floor. James Harden had 35 points for OKC and got plenty of help from reserves Lou Williams and Eric Gordon, who combined for 43 points. The Thunder are -2.5 for this one.
No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers at No. 5 Utah Jazz
The big story here: Utah center Rudy Gobert, one of the biggest defensive and rebounding forces in the NBA, will miss another game with his hyperextended knee suffered early in Game 1. The Clippers weren’t able to take advantage in Game 1 of Gobert’s absence but did in Game 2 in a 99-91 win. L.A. pounded Utah in the paint with a scoring advantage of 60-38. The Clippers averaged 40 points in the paint per game in the regular season. Chris Paul (21 points, 10 assists), Blake Griffin (24 points; 10 of his 11 baskets came within three feet) and DeAndre Jordan (18 points, 15 rebounds) all delivered standout performances. Yet the Clippers still won by just eight points. Utah will be hosting a playoff game for the first time since 2012 and seeking its first playoff victory since 2010. It’s one of the best home-court advantages in the NBA with a raucous crowd and the altitude in Salt Lake City. Utah is a 1-point favorite.