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This week in the NBA: Celtics and Bucks sweep first-round matchups

Drew Goodsell | 23 April 2019

Odds and review of the NBA action

The first round of the NBA playoffs is nearing its climax, with two teams securing a place in the Conference semi-finals, dispatching their first-round matchups with ease.

Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs are proving a tough nut to crack for the Western Conference second-seeds Denver Nuggets, with the series level at 2-2 so far.

Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers are one win away from securing their Conference semi-final spots, with Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors on the cusp of the semis too.

The best and worst have been brought out of teams and players already, so we take a look at the week that was in the NBA…

Losers

Detroit Pistons & Indiana Pacers

Indiana Pacers hadn’t looked a bad balling side throughout the regular season, and after clinching the fifth-seed, it looked to be an even match-up against the Celtics. The Pacers (48-34) finished just one game shy of matching the Celtics record of 49-33.

Celtics, led by one of the league’s bright young stars in Jayson Tatum, flanked by Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, swept aside the Pacers with ease, winning 4-0 and rarely being threatened.

In contrast, it feels slightly harsh putting the Detroit Pistons on the loser pile, but after clinching the final playoff spot in the East, they barely put up a fight against Milwaukee Bucks.

They were never expected to battle past the Bucks in the series, but a 4-0 whitewash is never a good look in the post-season. The narrowest margin of victory for Milwaukee was 16 points, and the series average victory margin was just shy of 24 points.

For Detroit, a post season appearance gave their fans something to cheer and the squad something to build on.

Jared Dudley

In game four of the Nets match up with Philadelphia, Brooklyn’s veteran forward Jared Dudley decided he’d take matters into his own hands and try to psych out the Sixers.

In quarter one, he’d managed to make it work and come out on top in the battle against Australian Ben Simmons, but that success was short-lived. The Nets had held the lead in the game for the majority of three quarters, until an on-court tussle between Dudley and Simmons spilled over.

Dudley had pulled Simmons into the crowd, a move Sixers pair Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid didn’t appreciate. Butler fought Simmons’ battle and had a scrap of his own with Dudley, which resulted in the pair getting ejected.

Embiid took matters into his own hands, and used Dudley’s antics as motivation to get to work on the court. Embiid top-scored for Philly with 31 and led a fourth-quarter charge to top the Nets 112-108, taking a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.

Winners

Milwaukee Bucks & Boston Celtics

In stark contrast to those two who got swept aside on the losers pile, the Bucks and the Celtics have made the best possible start to their charge to an NBA Championship.

Their 4-0 whitewashes of the Pistons and Pacers will have turned heads, especially those wins by the Bucks who ran out comfortable winners every night they hit the court.

The Bucks hadn’t previously made it out of the first round of the playoffs since 2001, where they eventually lost to an Allen Iverson led 76ers 4-3 in the Conference finals.

In the Eastern Conference semi-finals, these two ‘winners’ can’t both take victory in the next round, with the Bucks and Celtics facing off for a place in the Eastern Conference final.

Bucks still remain second favourites to take the NBA Championship at 9/2, only behind reigning champions the Warriors who are odds-on at 1/2 to retain their crown.

Celtics are fifth-favourites at 16/1 to claim the Larry O’Brien trophy.

James Harden & Giannis Antetokounmpo

James Harden Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets guard James Harden

Game by game, it’s becoming harder and harder to find flaws in the games of this pair. Though Houston dropped a game against the Utah Jazz, the Rockets are still in a commanding position to make it through, with Harden being the standout player every night for the Texan team.

Harden has top scored for the Rockets in each of the four playoffs games they’ve already contested, averaging just over 28 points per night, and managing an average of eight assists per game too.

Giannis has gone from strength to strength this year too. The 15th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft has managed to bulk up a fair bit since his introduction to the league back in 2013, but you can see why he’s got his nickname ‘The Greek Freak’.

In the four games against the Pistons, he’s averaging just over 22 points a game, and pulling in 12 boards a game. He’s become such an integral part of everything good the Bucks do.

It’s hard to call who will be the regular season MVP between the pair, but on current form, they’ll both be in the hunt for the playoffs MVP should they guide their teams to the NBA Finals.

Upcoming games

Orlando Magic @ Toronto Raptors – Over +206.5 points @ 20/21

Brooklyn Nets @ Philadelphia 76ers – 76ers to win on the spread -8.5 @ 20/23

San Antonio Spurs @ Denver Nuggets – Nuggets to win on the money line @ 5/12

Oklahoma City Thunder @ Portland Trail Blazers – OKC Thunder to win @ 6/4

View the latest NBA odds at Coral.

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All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.