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The Philadelphia 76ers did exactly what they needed to do in Game 4, evening the series with the Boston Celtics. The Celtics are still heavy favorites to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, as they control the home court. Boston is the better team, but they’ve had the issue of playing down to their opponent consistently. We saw it in the first series of the playoffs against the Hawks, and it has been on full display against Philadelphia. The opening tip from TD Garden in Boston is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET and Boston is currently a 7.5-point favorite. Let’s look at the best ways to make money on the action.
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Joe Mazzulla has a timeout problem, and this is what led to the Celtics' demise in Game 4 of the series. Boston faced a double-digit deficit and crawled their way back into the game. They had a lead in the final minutes, but couldn’t convert on multiple opportunities to finish the job. The contest went to overtime and the Sixers took over the matchup. They put the pressure on Boston, who was down one on the final possession of the game but didn’t get a shot off before time expired.
This error was on Joe Mazzulla, who didn’t take a timeout before the Celtics' final possession. He let the team play, and Philadelphia stoned Jayson Tatum at halfcourt, which ruined their chance before the play truly started. Mazzulla had two timeouts left and admitted it was a mistake after the game.
Even though the game came down to the final possession, Boston didn’t play well enough to win over four quarters. They had spurts of greatness, but for the most part, they looked uninterested in the game. The Celtics are 2-2 with a team they’re clearly better than, as they were in the first round of the playoffs. Look for Boston to come out on fire in Game 5, as this is a must-win for the Celtics. They cannot go back to Philadelphia with their season hanging in the balance because Philadelphia has proven they can win on any given night.
The Celtics were relatively efficient on offense in Game 4, but they didn’t play well for the entire contest. The team shot a combined 47.1% from the field, but they were outscored by nine in the first half. This was due to poor shot selection, and countless turnovers. Boston gave the Sixers 12 points off turnovers and fell behind by 16. The Celtics' largest lead of the night was a meager five points.
Boston has strength in numbers and multiple players that can score. Although, the offense begins and ends with one man…Jayson Tatum. As good as Jaylen Brown is, he isn’t the scorer that sets the tone for Boston. Tatum hasn’t been a star in the playoffs. The majority of his buckets come because of bulk. He hasn’t been an effective shooter consistently, and this isn’t the way to win.
Tatum was 9 of 20 in the game, but these numbers don’t tell the story. Tatum was effective in driving to the basket, but he was 1 of 6 from beyond the arch. This has been a struggle for the All-NBA player, and it’s the sword the Celtics live and die by on a nightly basis. When Boston is making threes, it’s contagious and every player gets involved. Tatum is the player we expect to shine, and he must improve for Boston to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Harden showed up in Game 4, and it was the reason the Sixers won. Their two wins in the series have come when Houston Harden is reborn, but he hasn’t been able to do it 100% of the time. In Boston’s two wins, they have looked much better than the Sixers, and Harden hasn’t done anything. He doesn’t need to drop 40 points to win, but he must score the basketball. Joel Embiid had a big game and is starting to look healthy on the floor. However, he has been a timider in the big spots, electing to pass instead of take the contested shots.
If Philadelphia can marry a perfect game from both players, they’re a hard team to beat. The likelihood of this happening two more times isn’t high, as Harden is traditionally a choke artist in the playoffs. Yet, this is how the Sixers will advance to the next round.
The team around Harden and Embiid is nowhere close to the Celtics, but these two can change a series together. We will see if this occurs in Game 5 in Boston.
The Celtics are favored by 7.5 points, and this line will likely creep upward as the game approaches. Boston is the better team, and when they’ve lost, Harden has been massive. We can’t count on Harden to be the 40+ point hero we’ve seen in past games.
Tatum finally starts to make his threes, and Brown also puts together a big performance. The Celtics perform best when their backs are against the wall, and that wall is approaching.
PICK: Celtics -7.5 (-110)
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Tanner Kern has been working in the betting industry since 2020. He currently is a social media content creator at DraftKings and contributes to multiple sites in addition to WSN, including Forbes and VSiN. He is also the cohost of the podcast Ride the Line at WSN.More info on Tanner Kern
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