NBA Finals Pick 'Em: Celtics and Warriors keep it close going into Game 5

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) puts up a shot against Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) during the first quarter of Game 4 of basketball's NBA Finals. (Steven Senne/AP)

In terms of trends, Game 5 of the NBA Finals is a classic “unstoppable force versus immovable object” matchup. Boston is 7-0 after a loss these playoffs. Golden State is 10-1 at home and is winning those games by an average of 12.5 points.

So far, the Finals have gone more or less exactly as I had it scripted in my head. 2-2 headed back to San Francisco for Game 5. And after four games, I think we have enough information about how these two teams matchup to make some pretty specific judgements.

For starters, the impact Robert “Time Lord” Williams has for the Celtics. Anyone who’s been following them closely knows: Boston turned their season around when they landed on the way they use Williams on defence. Stick him on a lesser shooter in the corner, and let him roam as one of the most devastating help defenders in the league.

When he’s played well, Boston has controlled the game (I’m including Game 4, because he played well and they were in control until clutch time). When he’s looked dinged up (Game 2) the Dubs ran away with it. Williams asked to come out of the end of Game 4, looking a little hobbled.

Second, and I can’t believe I’m actually saying this about an NBA team with a smart coach, letting Steph Curry shoot seems to be Boston’s actual strategy. I thought Game 1 was a fluke. Their bigs were dropping on the pick and roll and Steph was walking into threes. “That’s probably just bad execution, not the actual gameplan,” I thought.

Boston seems content to shut down Curry’s teammates and force him into a spot where he needs to put up 35 points or more for Golden State to win. It’s a tactic they have used against star perimeter players for years.

But over the course of seven games, do you really want to bet your season on Steph Curry missing shots?

Overall record against the spread: 34-27-1

Boston Celtics (+4, +150) at Golden State Warriors (-4, -170)– 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m.

Here’s the script I had in mind going into the series: 2-2 after four games, the home team wins Games 5 and 6, and then Boston’s athleticism carries the day in a grindhouse of a Game 7. And I’m not deviating from that. I like Golden State in Game 5.

However, I bet this line when it was Warriors -3.5 and for some reason the spread moving (it was -4.5 for a while) worries me. I’m not sure if I’d bet it at -4. NBA Finals games have a tendency to get tighter as the series wears on, so I’m wondering if we may have seen our last 10+ point win. If the line dips back to -3.5, grab the Dubs.

With that late series tightness in mind, it’s time to start hammering game unders. I like the UNDER 211 here, and I loved it at 212 which is where I bet it. Golden State has had torrid shooting from Curry and hasn’t topped 108 points. If he comes even slightly back down to Earth without his teammates picking up the scoring slack, the under becomes an easy win.

Remember, despite all the offensive firepower on both sides, Boston and Golden State boast the two best defences in the league. Neither team has an offensive rating higher than 90 on half court possessions.

Outside of transition opportunities, it’s been a grind for both squads.

Given that Boston appears to be content with Curry gunning away, I’m finally switching up my betting approach on the Greatest Shooter Of All Time. There’s not a ton of value in it unless you’re throwing it into a parlay, but I like Steph Curry to put up 25 or more points (-390), and I think he keeps doing good work on the glass, so give me Curry OVER 5.5 rebounds.

At this point, Jayson Tatum just feels due, so I’m taking Tatum 25 points or more (-175). Add to all of that my favourite player prop of the year, Marcus Smart OVER 1.5 steals and blocks, and you’ve got a Same Game Parlay I’m pretty happy with.

And a quick futures pick: There’s a narrative building that Jaylen Brown has been Boston’s best player. At this point, I’d call it a coin flip whether Brown or Tatum wins Finals MVP if the Celtics win the series, which makes Brown (+700) solid value.

Tonight’s Sicko Same Game Parlay pays off at +1200

· Game score UNDER 212.5

· Stephen Curry 25 points or more

· Jayson Tatum 25 points or more

· Marcus Smart OVER 1.5 steals and blocks

· Stephen Curry OVER 5.5 rebounds.

As always, play safe and don’t chase.

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