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Washington Wizards Face Must-Win Game 3 and Other NBA Playoff Bets
By Dan Favale
Can the Washington Wizards find a way to stop Isaiah Thomas?
Thomas hung 53 points on the Wizards in Game 2, 29 of which came in the fourth quarter and overtime, leading the Boston Celtics to another come-from-behind victory and a commanding 2-0 series lead. Washington tried everything to stop him, to slow him, to impede him. There were possessions where he would scoot through the paint untouched, but for the most part, the defense scrapped and clawed and trapped and tried to fight over screens, doing anything and everything to throw him off his game.
It didn't work. And afterward, when asked about what the Wizards could do differently against him, head coach Scott Brooks jokingly, yet seriously, said they've already tried everything except triple-teaming him. That's probably next.
Teams that fall into 2-0 holes don't often dig their way out. The Wizards are unique because they've been so dominant at home for basically four-plus months. They are 23-5 in front of the Washington crowd over their last eight games. Plus, John Wall is still finding ways to detonate nightly, including Game 2, despite a relative lack of help from his supporting cast.
And it's here the Celtics begin to pull away—with their supporting cast. Thomas is dotted by Al Horford, Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk and even Terry Rozier. The Celtics have so many ancillary devices, they're bound to hit on two or more of them every game.
The Wizards don't have that luxury, which is why they've faded down the stretch of these first two games. Their starters are exhausted and they cannot count on anyone from their bench to carry any sort of consistent load.
Any game they're favored in, then, figures to be closely contested—assuming the Wizards are able to steal a game at all.
The Pick: Boston Celtics (+5.5)
The outlook is bleak for the Utah Jazz.
If you had said before Game 1 that they would make two more three-pointers than the Golden State Warriors, you'd hope that they had won or at least went down in a blaze of tightly contested glory. But they didn't. The Warriors toyed with them. They lost by 12 points, and in reality, the game wasn't even that close. The Warriors led by as many as 21 points, but took their foot off the gas by the end of the third quarter.
Game 2 should be no different—except for the fact it might get worse for the Jazz.
The Warriors beat them by 12 points even though Stephen Curry only shot 1-of-4 from downtown and Andre Iguodala went 0-for-6 on threes. Curry is guaranteed to have a more efficient outing in Game 2. That's just how these things work. Golden State had a fairly long reprieve following its first-round sweep over the Portland Trail Blazers, and any player will tell you it takes a little while to get back into a groove.
The Jazz, for their part, should get better performances from Gordon Hayward and Joe Johnson. The two combined to shoot 8-of-25 from floor, a real problem given they're Utah's two leading scorers. A more typical night for them should help the Jazz keep things closer for longer.
But better nights aren't guaranteed. The Warriors' defense is suffocating, and Rudy Gobert is struggling to remain as effective against Golden State's smaller switch-heavy lineups.
A 12.5-point spread is pretty big, and we were burned on a backdoor cover in Game 1. But until the Jazz prove they can finish a game within 10 points of postseason-mode Warriors, we can't bet in their favor.
The Pick: Golden State Warriors (-12.5)
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