Games 1 and 2 of the NBA Finals were mirror images of each other in many ways — right up until they weren’t.
Both games were close battles until halftime, and both saw big Warriors runs in the third quarter. The fourth quarters could not have been more different though, and that’s why we’re tied 1-1 heading back to Boston.
The Celtics have been outstanding coming off of a loss, a perfect 6-0 so far in the playoffs — both straight up and against the spread.
I’m focusing on three Boston players for Wednesday’s props angles.
We’ll be using the Action Labs Player Prop tool to compare our NBA projections to the props posted at a variety of sportsbooks. Below, I have laid out three prop bets that I’m playing, the case for each bet and the best books to find odds on those player props.
NBA Finals Player Props & Picks
Jayson Tatum, Over 5.5 Assists (+110)
|Warriors vs. Celtics||Boston -3.5|
|Time | TV||9 p.m. ET | ABC|
As expected, Jayson Tatum has certainly been a major story in these Finals so far, though on the surface, his play has not really reflected the direction the series has gone.
In Game 1, Tatum scored only 12 points on an ugly 3-of-17 from the field. He never really got things going, but the Celtics won anyways.
Game 2 was a better scoring outing for Tatum — he dropped 28 points, including six 3s — but it wasn’t enough, as Golden State pulled away for a huge win.
Tatum’s scoring has not been indicative of the direction of these games.
But his assists have.
Tatum racked up 13 assists in Game 1. Boston didn’t really need him to score — even during that monster fourth-quarter comeback — because the Celtics’ “others” were hitting all their shots — often off of Tatum’s creation.
He had a monster 19 potential assists in Game 1. But that number plummeted to just four potential assists in Game 2 — with three actual dimes.
Boston’s others were very quiet and didn’t even get shots up in Game 2. The Celtics’ offense looked rough and didn’t move the ball well.
This is not new for Boston. When the Celtics win, Tatum racks up assists; when they lose, Tatum’s assists fall off. He’s averaging 7.1 dimes in playoff wins this year, with at least five dimes in 12 of 13 wins.
That number plummets to 4.3 assists in Boston’s losses, with four or fewer assists in 5-of-7 games. The trend could not be more stark.
I like Boston a lot in Game 3. The Celtics have proven to be extremely resilient and tough to beat off of a loss for many months now, and in a series so close, the home-road swing should play a huge role.
If we like Boston, it means we need to like Tatum assists. We need to trust the Celtics to play the good version of their offense, the one where they share the ball and get everyone involved.
If you like the Celtics to win the series, you can still get a nice number on Tatum to lead the Finals in assists. I bet that at +650 before the series started.
I’m also taking Tatum’s assist over anytime I like the Celtics, and we get a plus number here, too. Tatum went over 5.5 dimes in 8-of-13 wins and was one dime away from going over in four more.
But you can take this one step further. The whole point of this bet is its correlation to a Boston win, so why not parlay Tatum’s assist over with a Boston win? Add in the ML, and we get +216 at FanDuel. That’s an implied 31.6%, but Tatum has had six-plus assists in 40% of Boston’s playoff games.
If you like the Celtics coming home, this is a great way to back them via Tatum.
Marcus Smart, Over 13.5 Points (-110)
Marcus Smart was my sleeper Finals MVP pick coming into the series, but it’s been simply a pipe dream for much of the series so far.
Smart had a fine Game 1, but he was on the sidelines for the key stretch of Boston’s comeback.
He was also miserable in Game 2. He didn’t make his usual defensive impact and racked up five turnovers with only two points on 1-of-6 shooting.
In Game 2, coming off of the loss, we saw Draymond Green come out and make a statement. On the very first play of the game, Green got into Al Horford and tied him up, forcing a jump ball and setting the tone for the Warriors’ defense.
Green is the heart and soul of that defense, one that got shredded and, really, embarrassed the last time it was on the court.
Smart is Boston’s Green, and I’m expecting him to come out and do the same thing as Green in Game 3, setting the tone with aggressive play early and often. For Smart, that usually means him getting a lot of shots up, for better and for worse.
Smart did set the tone early in Game 1. He took four 3s in the first four minutes of the game and finished 4-of-7 from behind the arc. He had 18 points despite missing most of the comeback stretch.
I’m expecting more of that Smart in Game 3. He averaged 18.2 points per game in his past five outings vs. the Warriors before the Finals, and was right at that number in Game 1 before disappearing Sunday night.
His disappearance has dropped this line and bought us some value. Smart has gone over 13.5 points in five of the last seven games (71% hit rate), and went over in 11-of-17 playoff appearances (65%) this year.
This is another prop that correlates well with the Celtics winning. Smart has played in 11 Boston playoff wins this year and has gone over 13.5 points in eight of them. He was one bucket away from two more overs.
That makes this another spot you could parlay with Boston ML, though the correlation isn’t quite as strong as Tatum’s.
Either way, I expect Smart to be aggressive on both ends early and set the tone for his team at home in front of a raucous crowd. I’ll play the points over and look for a big bounce-back.
Jaylen Brown, Over 2.5 Turnovers (-125)
It’s not all Celtics upside in this props column.
Jaylen Brown had a heck of a start to Game 2. He started the game like he was shot out of a cannon, piling up nine points in the first two-and-a-half minutes as Boston stormed out to the lead.
But Brown faded from there, scoring only eight more points. He also missed 12 of his final 14 shots during an ugly shooting night.
One reason Brown struggled after the hot start was a big defensive change from Golden State — Draymond Green spent a big chunk of time defending Brown while Klay Thompson defended Al Horford.
That helped the Warriors keep a body closer to Horford and eliminate his 3s, and it put a more active defender on Brown.
Brown has had a strong playoffs, but he still has an extremely loose handle. That was quickly apparent in Game 1, as he had a rocky start that could’ve been worse than it turned out. It’s something Miami picked on last series too, especially late in the series.
Brown actually had only two turnovers in Game 2, but he recorded at least four turnovers in four straight games before that. He’s gone over this turnovers line in five of his last seven (71%), averaging 3.7 giveaways per game during that stretch.
Brown has at least two turnovers in 17 of Boston’s 20 playoff games this year, putting us within one turnover of an over in 85% of his games. He might have gone over in Game 2 of the Finals, as well — if not for his limited minutes.
Needless to say, Brown turnovers do not correlate to Boston wins. However, he has gone over this even in the last three Celtics victories, so I won’t be swayed. I probably won’t include it in my Boston ML parlays, though.