Focus On The Total When Making NBA Picks On Hawks vs. Celtics Game 4

Jason Lake

Saturday, April 23, 2016 6:00 PM GMT

Saturday, Apr. 23, 2016 6:00 PM GMT

After a bruising Game 3 at the Garden, the Boston Celtics are small favorites on Sunday's NBA odds board for Game 4. Do they have enough warm bodies to get the job done?

Record as of April 22: 36-38-1 ATS, 6-3-1 Total
 

Never doubt the resiliency of the Boston Celtics. Despite losing Avery Bradley to a hamstring injury, and despite the absence of Kelly Olynyk (shoulder), the Celtics came out strong Friday night and held on for a 111-103 win over the Atlanta Hawks in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal. The Hawks still lead the series 2-1, but Boston has been the profitable NBA pick thus far at 2-1 ATS.

The Celtics almost lost another player for Game 4 on Sunday (6:00 p.m. ET, TNT). Isaiah Thomas, who dumped 42 points on the Hawks in Game 3, managed to avoid suspension after the league front office handed him a flagrant-1 for taking a swipe at Dennis Schroder. But nearly all the early action for Sunday's matchup is on Atlanta as a 1.5-point road dog on our NBA odds board, down from +2 at the open.


 

Project This
Since this is our first opportunity here at the ranch to work on this series, let's get scientific with our usual gang of hoopheads:
FiveThirtyEight (CARM-Elo): Boston –2
Basketball-Reference (SRS): Boston –2.85

Pretty close. Judging by these projections, the Celtics might have a smidge of betting value in this situation, but these projections don't take into account Boston's missing persons, Bradley (13.2 PER, +0.2 BPM) and Olynyk (16.3 PER, +1.2 BPM). For that matter, Atlanta has been without Tiago Splitter (13.7 PER, –0.8 BPM) since the beginning of February. Splitter's defense would be useful in this series, but he had the worst offensive season of his career after coming over from the San Antonio Spurs during the summer.

 

I Went to a Basketball Game and a Hockey Game Broke Out
Given how close this matchup looks on paper, and given how the NBA seems content to let these guys play Australian rules basketball, let's change tack and consider betting on the UNDER. Heading into Saturday's action, the UNDER was 16-6 in first-round play across the league. It's hard to put the ball in the basket with someone's elbow in your ear.

We also expect the UNDER to gain betting value as more recreational bettors enter the marketplace. It's one of the cornerstones of exploitative handicapping: Casual fans bet on the outcomes they want to see, and they want to see offense, not defense. The first two games of this series in Atlanta went UNDER before Thomas went supernova Friday night. He's probably not going to score 42 points on Sunday.

We're also curious to see how much lift these guys will have after beating each other to a soft pulp in Game 3. Marcus Smart (11.3 PER, +0.7 BPM) is considered day-to-day for Boston with sore ribs. Schroder (15.5 PER, –1.4 BPM) is playing on a tender ankle for the Hawks. Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?

[/]{"component":"oddswidget", "eventId":3011052, "sportsbooksIds":[93,1096,169,999996,180,139], "LineTypeId":3, "PeriodTypeId":1}[/]
Free NBA Pick: Hawks Under 204½ -105
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

comment here