All eight NBA betting favorites advanced through the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2008. But in the early going of the second round, the two new favorites in the Eastern Conference have experienced bumps in the road.
It began Sunday when the Boston Celtics blitzed the Milwaukee Bucks at home for an unlikely Game 1 victory. A day later the Philadelphia 76ers joined the upset party by defeating the Toronto Raptors to even their best-of-seven series, 1-1.
Oddsmakers don’t believe the scales have entirely shifted just yet, but there has been significant movement. The Celtics entered the series as +235 underdogs but are now just +105 to pull off the series upset. Meanwhile, Joel Embiid and the Sixers moved from +150 at the start of the series to +130 after the Game 2 win.
As for the favorites? The Bucks are now just -129 to advance, while the Raptors are -162 on 888Sport.
Both Boston and Philadelphia, two teams that underperformed relative to their preseason expectations, are capable of upsets. But the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds have met in the Eastern Conference Finals in four of the past five postseasons, and the shrinking odds of both the Bucks and Raptors look like excellent value bets right now.
Bucks Still NBA’s Best Team
Giannis Antetokounmpo on his mindset going into Game 2: "I can't promise you we are going to win, but I can promise we are going to play hard."— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) April 29, 2019
The Bucks had a worst-case scenario in Game 1 when they stopped making 3-pointers, Giannis Antetokounmpo had his worst shooting performance in months and Milwaukee’s always-locked-in defense became porous against a motivated Celtics team.
But the Bucks are still the NBA’s best team that won 60 games and is led by the favorite in MVP betting odds. Consider that the Bucks were an NBA-best 21-1 following a loss this season and that they haven’t lost back-to-back home games since last season.
Assuming they come out firing and even the series, all they’d need is a split in Boston in Games 3 and 4 to return to Milwaukee needing to win two of three. The Bucks were an NBA-best 27-14 on the road this season and won both games in Detroit in Round 1.
The Bucks also could get back shooting guard Malcolm Brogdon, who has been out since March 17 with a foot injury, at some point in the series. He’d give the Bucks another elite outside shooter and arguably their best perimeter defender.
Because they looked so awful in Game 1, it might be easy to forget just how good this Bucks team is. There’s a reason they’re still the favorites – albeit just slight ones – despite trailing the Celtics 1-0. An inspired Game 2 performance will get this juggernaut of a group back on track. They’re excellent value at -129 on 888Sport.
Raptors Will Bounce Back on Road
The Raptors trailed by 19 points early in Game 2 yet still had a chance in the final seconds to force overtime. Alas, Danny Green’s 3-point attempt was off and the two teams now head to Philadelphia with the series tied at a game apiece.
That’s good news for the Raptors, who were 26-15 on the road this season, third best in the NBA behind Milwaukee and Golden State. They also handled the Orlando Magic twice on the road in the first round with wins of 5 and 22 points. Toronto won’t be fazed by the raucous Sixers home crowd as it looks to take back homecourt advantage.
Also, all the load management of Kawhi Leonard seems to have paid off because he looks like an All-Pro early in the postseason. In seven games he’s averaging 31.3 points on 58 percent shooting, 7.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists. He’s also shooting 46.5% on 3-pointers and 89.1% from the free throw line. He has been the best player in the series.
Toronto is strong on the road and the Sixers are prone to suffering letdowns, just as they did in the previous round against the Nets in a Game 1 home loss. We fully expect the Raptors to at least split in Philadelphia, turning the momentum of the series heading back to Toronto. That makes them a good bet at -162 on 888Sport.