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Wednesday NBA Playoff Over Unders
By Dan Favale
This Atlanta Hawks-Washington Wizards series is drunk. If you watched the Hawks at all during the regular season, you know this. They wrapped the schedule posting the NBA's worst offensive rating over the final 31 games. Their defense has been touted. This best-of-seven set had the makings of a gritty, grind-it-out, under-bet affair.
Alas, it has been everything no one expected. And more.
The average score through the first four games checks in, remarkably, at 214.3. And the reasons why vary.
First off, the Wizards' defense has not been great. John Wall is zooming in and out on the less glamorous end, essentially picking when and where he'll defend Dennis Schroder. Paul Millsap is also getting the best of Markieff Morris. The latter cannot stop the former's face-up game, and it's led to a ton of trips to the free-throw line.
And that's the other part of all this: Fouls.
The Hawks have the highest free-throw rate in the playoffs. The Wizards keep letting them reach the rim, where they're drawing contact, or fouling them on drives. All those extra points come when the clock stops, which inherently drives up the final tally.
Two of the previous four games have cleared the provided over/under, including the last one. This late into the series, though, coaches and teams make the most adjustments. So this, in turn, is the point when most defenses shine.
It makes sense that this game would once again clear the 200-point benchmark, but investing in a 212-point or greater affair feels a little steep when the chess-match aspect of this series is reaching its peak.
The Pick: Under 211.5
This over/under is on par with the rest of the series. The Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics are combining to average 201.5 points per game over their first four meetings—within a half-point of the listed odds.
Picking a side comes entirely back to the Bulls. We know the Celtics are going to score. Head coach Brad Stevens has unlocked some truly terrifying offensive combinations by going small full-time. The team is more athletic and the offense is able to do a better job spacing the floor since subbing Gerald Green into the starting lineup for Amir Johnson. Boston is essentially playing with five shooters at all times, which is super tough to defend.
The Bulls, however, are laboring through an offensive slump. They lost Rajon Rondo after Game 2 to a fractured right thumb, and they haven't been able to generate points in his absence.
In the 67 minutes he has played this series, the Bulls are scoring 114 points per 100 possessions. In the 125 minutes they've played without him, they're putting up 100.1 points per 100 possessions. During the regular season, this 13.9-point swing is the difference between ranking first and dead last in offensive efficiency. True story.
Multiple reports state that Rondo will try returning for Game 5. He practiced on Tuesday in a limited capacity, and though the fractured thumb is on his shooting hand, Rondo has been lauded for his toughness in the past.
Even if he doesn't play, the way the Celtics have been scoring should drag this score past the over—particularly if Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg opts to let Jimmy Butler run the show should Rondo be unable to go.
The Pick: Over 202
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