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This year's NBA Finals are exactly what they are supposed to be. The Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics are two evenly matched teams, swinging the leverage in the series by trading wins in the first two games. So now we get the first of the three most pivotal games in the series. In a best-of-seven format, the most influential games in deciding the outcome are Games 3, 5 and 7. With Wednesday night's contest being the first and only game of those three in Boston, the pressure is amplified for the home team to deliver.
The Celtics are only 4-5 ATS at home during this year's playoff run, but, more impressively, they have not dropped two consecutive games in the postseason. They are also 24-13 ATS this season off a loss, the third-best mark in the NBA. The Celtics opened as 3.5-point favorites and -160 on the moneyline at BetMGM, and the odds haven't budged off the opening numbers. Both teams have won by wide margins to start the series, and here is why I expect the home team to cover the small number in Boston.
Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics (-3.5)
There were a few key takeaways from Sunday night's Game 2, but none was more significant than the Warriors' ability to produce 33 points off 19 Boston turnovers. It's an area the Celtics will undoubtedly have to clean up. The turnovers hurt the Celtics in several different ways. Along with allowing Golden State to bypass Boston's half-court defense and rack up easy buckets, they also led to some bad fouls in transition and early foul trouble. The Warriors set the tone with their physical play on defense, an area the Celtics should have no problem matching In Game 3 with an electrifying crowd backing them.
Boston has been able to bounce back so often this season mainly due to coach Ime Udoka's ability to make adjustments and reinforce the importance of ball movement within the offense. The most significant difference between the two teams is Golden State's lack of two-way players. Boston's desire to exploit certain mismatches lured the Celtics back into playing isolation instead of driving, kicking and utilizing all five players on the floor. As a result, the off-ball movement decreased dramatically, causing the Celtics' ball-handlers (mostly Jayson Tatum) to get trapped and settle for poor shots in the paint. Eliminating turnovers isn't just a matter of discipline for the Celtics. It's a natural byproduct of doing the little things that made them the best team in the NBA during the second half of the season.
If Golden State commits to having Draymond Green bottle up Jaylen Brown, I am confident that we see Marcus Smart play a larger role in driving to the paint and initiating the ball movement that will be key to getting the offense back on track. The driving forces behind Boston's blowout loss Sunday night are correctable, and I am confident in Udoka getting his team prepared to take back the series. On Monday, I detailed why I was surprised to see the Celtics move to the underdog role despite earning home court in Golden State. I am betting the better team stops beating itself, and Boston covers with a big win to take a 2-1 series lead.