Two of the supposed Beasts of the East have looked a little tame so far in the NBA Playoffs. And the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors need to channel their inner animal on Friday to get their hopes back on track.
The top-seeded Celtics are in a stunning 2-0 deficit after the opening two games of their first round series with the Chicago Bulls with Game 2’s 111-97 reverse on their own court all the more shocking for a second half meltdown.
The distraction of Isaiah Thomas’ family tragedy has been a contribution but it has been the Boston bigs who have gone AWOL with Brad Stevens hinting at line-up changes, never a good sign in the midst of a post-season.
The Bulls bench has been big in their averaging 108.5 points so far in becoming only the second eighth seed to win its first two games on the road and it’s seen Chicago slashed to a mere 3.50 to sweep the series with the next two at home.
The Cs have shown their resilience all season but it will be tough to rebound from this – with 7.00 for a 4-1 Bulls win offering terrific value. Thomas will be an unpredictable factor and if he catches fire, it’s worth a look at going over 210.5 total points at 2.23. But more of the same from Chicago could keep the chase for an upset on track.
The same applies for the Milwaukee Bucks who crushed the Raptors 104-77 on Thursday and now have a shot at a 3-1 series lead at home on Friday.
It was a playoff coming-out party for the Bucks’ young talents but also deflation for an experienced Raps roster that couldn’t buy a three-pointer with no player able to score more than 13. Even when winning Game 2, Toronto needed a late run and it has left Milwaukee with a spring in their collective step.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have an opportunity to close out on Sunday against the Indiana Pacers after erasing the biggest half-time deficit in Game 3.
From 26 down, LeBron James notched 41 points in one of his greatest showings. But it also saw the Pacers unravel which suggests there won’t be a fifth game in this one with the Cavs looking even more unstoppable in the East.