Monday night hasn't had this much suspense for basketball fans since Kansas beat North Carolina to capture the NCAA championship in early April. We won't be crowning an NBA champion tonight, but the winner of Game 5 between Boston and Golden State will take a giant leap toward hanging another banner. When teams have entered this historically crucial game of the finals with the series tied 2-2, the winner has become the NBA champion 22 of 30 times (73.3%).
The Warriors' Game 4 win reinstated themselves as the betting favorite to win the series, while Boston moved back to the underdog role. When considering Boston's +125 series price, it's important to note that there is more value on Celtics' moneyline price tonight (+135). There are a few unique ways to bet this one if you are backing Boston that I will share my thoughts on below.
At this point in the series, everyone knows about Boston's 7-0 postseason record when they are coming off a loss. However, it's been strong first quarters that have fueled their ability to bounce back. Per Kevin Rogers of Vegas Insider, the Celtics have outscored opponents in the first quarter in six of those seven games — by double-digits five times. We saw it firsthand in Game 3 when Boston ended the first quarter with a 33-22 lead over Golden State. The Celtics have been doing it all season, especially on the road, where they have the league's best record (33-15-4) to the first-quarter spread. I like Boston to win the game, and I am willing to bet that the behavior they have demonstrated all season continues tonight.
The prevailing betting strategy in the NBA playoffs has been to lay the points with the favorite or bet the underdog on the moneyline. However, with all four games decided by at least 10 points, Boston bettors have to ask themselves if there is an opportunity to extract more value than the standard moneyline price (+135).
We haven't blinked at laying 3-4 points with these teams when they are the betting favorites, and Boston has been even better on the road with their backs against the wall. The odds at +220 for this bet provide a decent enough payout for me to get involved with an alternative spread. Here are a few other options that BetMGM offers for tonight's game if you are following the same strategy.
Boston Celtics -6.5 (+300)
Boston Celtics -3.5 (+190)
Boston Celtics - 1.5 (+150)
You can tailor your bet according to your risk tolerance, but wagering on Boston to win by a few buckets makes sense in a series where the average margin of victory has been over 14 points per game. In a series of blowouts, a standard money line bet might be leaving meat on the bone, and this type of bet gives us a chance to capitalize on the kind of games we have seen so far. The Celtics have won outright as an underdog in six games this postseason by an average of 11.6 points, and you have to go back to the Brooklyn series to find a game that was within eight points. So I think Boston by five is fair, considering the price is better than 2-to-1 odds.