HALF way to oblivion.
That’s the fate facing Boston, Milwaukee and New Orleans as they head home to try and dig themselves out of 2-0 holes in their respective first round NBA playoff series.
All three teams, heavy underdogs before the start of each series, have succumbed to the favourites away from home.
Now, back on their home courts, can they make any noise? Can they fight against the tide?
Or, will the punter’s favourites continue to roll on?
Read on for a look at each of their games against Cleveland, Chicago and Golden State, respectively, and see if we can’t give you a good tip or two.
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Cleveland Cavaliers @ Boston Celtics, Friday, April 24, 9am AEST
Cleveland leads the series 2-0
Boston keeps nagging, but Cleveland has all the answers. Can the seventh seeded Celtics turn it around at home?
After dropping game one in Cleveland, the Celtics ran into the Mack truck that is Lebron James, The King dropping 15 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter to extinguish any hope Boston had of tying the series.
Point guard Kyrie Irving backed up his fine performance in game one with 26 in the 99-91 victory.
Unbelievably, Cleveland only had two scorers in the final term – you guessed it, James and Irving.
“I’ve been in this moment before, and a lot of our guys haven’t,” James said.
“I thought it was important for me to put a stamp on this game.
“(But) the mistakes you make at home, you cannot make those on the road.”
“It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t pretty, but we got it done,” Irving added.
While James, who laced his 30 with nine boards and seven assists, and Irving (six dimes, and a perfect 7-7 from the charity stripe) were the stars, the front court contribution cannot be underestimated. Timofey Mozgov dropped 16 points, Kevin Love put up 13 and Tristan Thompson had 11 boards.
This series, despite the 2-0 standing, hasn’t been the walk over many expected.
That’s largely due to Boston’s pint sized scoring machine Isaiah Thomas, who piled on 22 points to back up his big double double in game one, giving the Celtics’ bench a 51-7 scoring advantage over the Cavs’ reserves.
“We’re right there,” Thomas said.
“I think we can get the next one.”
But it was the class of Irving and James that killed them in the end.
“We made those guys earn everything they got,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said
“And that’s a step in the right direction.
“We were in a three-possession game and we shot 38 percent.
“He’s (James) the most physically talented and certainly one of the best mental players in the game.
“When you add that together, you’ve got a heck of a guy, a heck of a player.
“That’s why he’s considered one of the all-time best and the best in the game right now.”
Match Result: Cleveland Cavaliers win ($1.52 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Line: Boston Celtics +4.5 ($1.91 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Total game score: Over 191.5 points ($1.91 with WillliamHill.com.au)
We’d love to pick the Celtics. We really would. They’ve been gallant. We love what little Thomas does off the bench. What we don’t love is the 38 per cent shooting, the no pass Brandon Bass and the fact that Cleveland possesses the three best players in this series. They’ve given it a good crack on the road and they now get to try it from the comfort of home, but we just can’t see them nicking a game. James, Irving and Love are too good and even the supporting cast of Mozgov, Thompson and JR Smith is capable of getting it done. It should be close, but no cigar for the Celtics.
Chicago Bulls @ Milwaukee Bucks, Friday, April 24, 10am AEST
Chicago leads the series 2-0
Derrick Rose reanimated his corpse in game one and Jimmy Butler went to another level in game two to vanquish the Milwaukee Bucks ($2.20) 91-82 and give the Bulls ($1.70) a perfect record as they hit the road for game three.
Butler was sublime, setting his own career playoff mark with 31 points and adding nine rebounds, while Joachim Noah (6-19-5) and Pau Gasol (11-16-4-3) combined for 35 boards between them as the Bulls enjoyed a 64-48 rebounding advantage, similar to game one’s smashing on the glass.
Butler, like James in the Cleveland game, saved his best for the last quarter, dropping 14 points as the Bulls pulled away.
“Jo, Derrick were telling me to score the ball — literally telling me to shoot and not to pass up any shots,” Butler said.
“I was feeling it a little bit so I just put the ball in the basket.”
Rose, too, found his shot again after going scoreless in the opening half, dropping all of his 15 points after half time.
“When you’re missing shots, I think you’ve got to do other things to help your team, whether it’s the defence, the rebounding, making plays,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.
“And I thought Derrick did that.
“I thought once he got lost in the game, he started doing other things then he found his offensive rhythm.”
It’s a very tough spot for the young Bucks to be in and they’re staring down the barrel of a sweep, with a mountain of work to do if they’re going to nick even one game.
Khris Middleton was the best scorer for the Bucks again with 22 points, but Milwaukee had too many passengers with only Michael Carter Williams in double figures, with 12.
“They’ve been in the playoffs before so they understand this moment,” Bucks head coach Jason Kidd said.
“For us, it’s to make it hard for everybody.
“Pau — we’re trying to make it hard on him.
“Rose, Dunleavy, it doesn’t matter who it is.
“Butler got going there.
“We just couldn’t slow him down.”
Match Result: Chicago Bulls win ($1.70 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Total game score: Under 187 ($1.91 with WillliamHill.com.au)
This one has sweep written all over it. The Bulls are too experience, too tall and simply too good. Milwaukee is certainly building something in their little city, but the loss in game two made it eight straight playoff games since they’ve actually tasted victory. We reckon that’s about to be number nine and then number 10 in the next two, as the Bulls sweep to victory and earn a break before round two. The Bulls loom as a serious contender with a healthy Rose and Butler feeding off the bullocking work of Gasol and Noah up front. When Middleton is the only man that can put the ball in the basket, you know you’re in trouble – we’re going the unders.
Golden State Warriors @ New Orleans Pelicans, Friday, April 24, 11.30am AEST
Golden State leads the series 2-0
The noise might be a little different for the Golden State Warriors ($1.50) as they cruise away from their deafening home crowd and hit the road to New Orleans ($2.65), half way to a series win.
Klay Thompson went off for 26 points, his Splash Brother Steph Curry dropped 22 with six dimes and scored 26 points, Stephen Curry had 22 points and six assists and Draymond Green had another double double as the Warriors fought off a spirited effort from New Orleans to record a 97-87 victory.
“We still get excited at times and do some crazy things,” Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr said.
“I kind of like the fact that we walk that line.
“It’s what makes us who we are.”
Down 13 at one stage as Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans went to work for the Pelicans, the Warriors battled back, shutting the trio down in the second half to edge away with the win in front of a sell out crowd.
“We know we’re going to have turnovers or lapses, but it’s the defence that won us the game,” Thompson said.
Davis was brilliant again, dropping 26 points with 10 boards, Gordon splashed five treys in his 23 and Evans had a near triple double with 16 points, 10 boards and seven dimes.
“We know that we can beat this team,” Davis said.
“We were right there.
“They made shots, and we didn’t.”
“We’re playing the best team in the league, and we’re fighting tooth and nail,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said.
“Our guys are grouping up on the fly.”
Match Result: Golden State Warriors win ($1.50 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Line: New Orleans Pelicans +5 ($1.91 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Total game score: Over 203 points ($1.91 with WillliamHill.com.au)
Well, $1.50 about the Dubbies? Jump on. They’ve now won five of six games against the Pelicans this season. We can’t see them losing a game in this series, even if it is the Pelicans first home game. The Brow will be as brutal as ever, but an injury to Jrue Holiday has really hampered them. They’ve challenged the Warriors in both games, but there’s an air of confidence around Golden State that they just have the Pelicans covered. Whether it’s Curry, Thompson, Green or one of the bench boys, the Warriors have too many weapons – and Harrison Barnes has hardly fired a shot yet. One of them will stand up and get the Pelicans, it’s a just a matter of which one. We’ve gone the overs twice and haven’t been able to cover, but we’re sticking with it. The Pelicans should have a bit more luck on offence at home and that gives us a little more confidence.
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