Faster than you can say Drew Bledsoe, the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks rolled into the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs to renew their rivalry in the NBA postseason.
An epic seven-game series went to the Celtics in 2018, with a superhuman effort from backup point guard Terry Rozier and even better play from Jayson Tatum helping Boston move on while Kyrie Irving watched from the sideline.
With Irving healthy and Gordon Hayward hitting his stride, the Celtics have depth, experience and chess pieces to match up with almost any lineup Coach of the Year Mike Budenholzer can roll out.
The other quarterfinal matchup in the Eastern Conference pits the Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors. Personnel makes this one equally intriguing.
While odds and official prop bets are to be determined, here are the betting angles we like in what should be a set of highly entertaining second-round NBA playoff series.
Greek Guard: Take the Antetokounmpo PPG over.
Marcus Morris and Al Horford are reasonable options in the Brad Stevens arsenal as the Celtics build a game plan to stop Giannis Antetokounmpo. Morris is feisty and physical. Stevens last postseason also used Semi Ojeleye on Giannis. He didn’t play in the first round series against the Pacers but is a wildcard in this chess match. One option Boston won’t have — potentially for the entire series — is Marcus Smart (oblique).
Boston’s strategy is likely to include sending Antetokounmpo to the line. Antetokounmpo averaged 31 points in three games against Boston this season.
Celtics lock up Lopez: Steer clear of Bucks’ big man in DFS games.
Brook Lopez is part of a Bucks team that morphed into a bomb squad this season, firing 38.2 3-pointers per game, which was second in the NBA. The Celtics historically do a number on Lopez, taking him out of his comfort zone with quickness and limiting his open looks.
Boston’s 3-point defense was excellent in the playoffs last season and that trend continued in the opening round against Indiana. Budenholzer is likely to go to other matchups — and limit Lopez himself — to make sure Milwaukee can hang at the other end of the court.
One option to consider sans Lopez is Thon Maker, who could pay off big if you’re willing to roll the dice early in the series.
Kawhi owns Ben Simmons: Don’t bet on Ben.
The numbers to watch here are Simmons’ turnovers and shot attempts. Kawhi Leonard is the modern day glove, and his suffocating defense gave Simmons fits in the regular season. Simmons had 22.5 turnovers per 100 possessions against Toronto in 2018-19. That’s easily his worst performance against any opponent this season.
In two meetings, 17 turnovers from the All-Star Simmons were the telling takeaway. Philadelphia went 1-3 against Toronto — in the 76ers’ lone win, Simmons had one turnover — but none of those matchups came after the trade deadline, meaning the remade rosters on either side haven’t been stacked up against one another.
No matter the novelty of the new faces — Marc Gasol for Toronto, Tobias Harris for Philly — the constant for the Raptors will be backing off Simmons and daring him to pull the trigger. History says he won’t, and that has led to many self-inflicted wounds for the 76ers.
–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)