There's a long-held theory that certain teams can turn it on for the playoffs. Usually that's just a common way to excuse the mediocrity of a talented team.
Still, it happens. The NBA regular season is long and no matter what we think, it doesn't make a ton of sense for a team to kill itself when its seed is mostly not moving anywhere.
That's what makes Tuesday's Boston Celtics-Washington Wizards NBA play-in tournament game a tricky one for handicapping. The Celtics are 2-point favorites at BetMGM, though it's hard to see how that's justified.
There's not much good to say about the Celtics. The Celtics went 1-5 down the stretch. They went 2-9 against the spread before covering in their final two (meaningless) regular-season games. Boston lost Jaylen Brown to a wrist injury and a disappointing season got worse. They're 36-36, which was rather shocking given the preseason expectations.
The point spread has mostly been moving. The Celtics opened as 1.5-point favorites, it dipped briefly to 1, then it has moved to Boston -2.5 before settling back to -2. But the Celtics have always been the favorite.
That's not a lot of respect for Washington, which was a betting dream the final weeks of the season. Not counting a meaningless regular-season finale, the Wizards had a 18-4-1 mark against the spread streak, according to Covers.com. Russell Westbrook has been amazing lately. Bradley Beal says his injured hamstring isn't 100 percent, but he's still going to play.
The No. 7 vs. No. 8 play-in game Tuesday is a reflection of how you feel about momentum. Washington has it all. Boston hasn't played well in a few weeks. The Wizards getting points seems to be the right side, unless you think the Celtics are one of the rare teams that can just turn it on when needed.
The other play-in game
Let's be real, there's an undercard in the NBA on Tuesday. The Charlotte Hornets and Indiana Pacers aren't the ones getting the attention. The Pacers were 3-point favorites at BetMGM on Tuesday morning.
Yet, it's still an interesting game, with the loser of the No. 9 vs. No. 10 game going home and the winner advancing to face that Wizards-Celtics loser. The Pacers are 3-point favorites, and one trend from our breakdown of the play-in games stands out: The Hornets are 3-11 ATS as a road underdog since March 1. The Pacers are just 6-14 against the spread as a home favorite so either way, you're fighting a bad trend.
Both teams have been up and down for weeks. It'll just be nice to bet an NBA game that has some urgency.
Who cashed tickets last night?
The Mets did get back on track, as we discussed in Monday's Dog of the Day, so chalk that one up. They held on 3-1 against a surprisingly average Braves team.
The Boston Bruins rebounded in Game 2, winning in overtime over the Capitals, and the Carolina Hurricanes and Colorado Avalanche each won Game 1 of their series. The Avs looked fantastic; a series against the Vegas Golden Knights out West would be the highlight of the NHL playoffs. Also, as mentioned in The Sweat yesterday, the Bruins-Caps game went to overtime and that was worth a +280 cash on BetMGM's "yes, overtime" prop.
Elsewhere in baseball, the Twins lost 16-4 to the White Sox and continue to be the worst team in baseball to bet on (or the best to fade, if we're keeping it optimistic this morning), and the Dodgers are showing more signs of getting hot again after their weird slump. They won 3-1 over the Diamondbacks.
What are we betting on today, other than the NBA?
There are a trio of Game 2s in the NHL, which means zig-zag betting (basically blindly betting on the loser of the previous game in a series) will lead you to the Penguins (-135), Panthers (+110) and Golden Knights (-170). The Penguins in particular look like a very good value to rebound; it's hard to imagine them going down 0-2 to the Islanders.
There's a full baseball slate and the first game offers a nice opportunity. The Giants, with red-hot Anthony DeSclafani on the mound, take on the Reds and Luis Castillo, who has a 7.71 ERA and has been perhaps the most disappointing pitcher in baseball this season. The Giants are slight -105 underdogs at BetMGM. You know what to do.
Don't forget about Lakers-Warriors on Wednesday
The line moves on the Lakers-Warriors play-in game for Wednesday night have been interesting. The Lakers opened briefly as a 6.5-point favorite, went to 5.5 and then 4.5. Given the Lakers' popularity and the fact they've hardly budged on their odds to win the NBA title, the move to Golden State is a bit surprising. Keep the line move in mind if you want to bet tomorrow's game, especially if you prefer the Warriors.
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