The second-seeded Boston Celtics passed their NBA playoff first-round test with flying colors and now have a date with the third-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The C’s, after a four-game sweep of the No. 7 Brooklyn Nets, opened as both the Game 1 and series favorite ahead of their showdown with the Bucks. Milwaukee reached the second round after besting the No. 6 Chicago Bulls in five games.
The Celtics covered in three of their four games during the first-round series. The Bucks, who will be without star Khris Middleton against the Celtics, covered in three of five contests.
Here are three betting trends to know before the best-of-seven series kicks off Sunday:
Fade Milwaukee against the spread at home
The home team was favored in each of Boston’s four first-round games, the Nets being a slight 1-point favorite in Game 4 at Barclays Center despite the Celtics’ 3-0 lead. It very well could play out the same way in this series, with the home team the favorite in each game. With that, though, it may not be worth betting Milwaukee to cover the spread at home given the fact it hasn?t been profitable when tasked to do so. The Bucks were 17-27 against the spread at home during the regular season, covering just 38.6% of the time, which was fourth-worst rate in the NBA. And that clip was even worse when Milwaukee was the home favorite (15-25 ATS, 37.5%). The only team worse than the Bucks as the home favorite during the extended regular season was the Nets, and we know how that went. There were not many times when Milwaukee was a home underdog, but the Bucks did go 1-2 ATS in those games, too.
Road dogs likely in semifinal series
On the flip side of that, though, Milwaukee wasn’t exactly anything to write home about on the road either. The Bucks were 4-9 ATS as a road underdog (30.8%), which was the third-worst in the league in front of only Utah Jazz (2-6-1, 25%) and the Atlanta Hawks (7-20-0, 25.9%). The Celtics, on the other hand, finished the regular season 11-8-1 ATS (57.9%) as a road dog, which was eighth-best in the NBA. On the flip side of that, however, both teams have been very good as a road favorite with Boston covering in 70% of games (16-7 ATS) and Milwaukee covering in 69% (20-9 ATS). It’s probably unlikely we’ll see many of those situations, though.
Will pre-series and in-series rest help either team?
Both teams made relatively quick work of their first-round opponents, giving them some extra rest ahead of the second round. The Celtics, of note, enter Sunday’s Game 1, having not played since their Game 4 win over the Nets six days earlier. Meanwhile the Bucks have three days in between ending their first-round series and beginning their second-round matchup. There also is a three-day break between Game 2 (Tuesday) and Game 3 (Saturday), which you may have heard about given it’s a bit unique. Well, those breaks don’t always help teams on the court or against the spread. While the Celtics are 10-6-2 ATS with two or three days rest, Boston is 1-2 ATS while having four or more days in between games, as will be the case for Game 1. Milwaukee was 7-9 ATS when working on two or three days rest and an identical 1-2 ATS with four days off.
The Celtics, who now are a 4.5-point favorite, will host the Bucks in Game 1 on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.