Thanks to an all-around team effort by the Boston Celtics and an unfortunate injury for the Chicago Bulls, the East’s top seed managed to get a much-needed Game 3 victory on the road. With the momentum starting to swing Boston’s way, Game 4 will have pivotal implications for both teams today (6.30pm ET Sunday on TNT).
Now this preview looks back at the first three games, with analysis, before deciding on our betting predictions and picks in an attempt to get one over on the sportsbooks.
Game One Recap
It wasn’t until the final game of the regular season that the Bulls booked their tickets to the NBA playoffs meaning there wasn’t much time for either Chicago or Boston to prepare for the matchup. As it turned out, this worked in favor of the eighth seeded Bulls who played a crisp and clean fourth quarter and had a pivotal 14-4 run late in the game. They held on for the victory, 106-102.
It wasn’t that Boston played poorly either. Three Celtics scored in double digits with Isaiah Thomas leading the way. The young guard scored 33 points in 38 minutes, shooting over 55 percent from the floor and 10-of-12 from the charity stripe. All of this while playing with a heavy heart as Thomas’ sister had been tragically killed in a car accident just a few days prior. The team and home crowd rallied around Thomas but ultimately it wasn’t enough.
Chicago placed five in double digits including Jimmy Butler, who scored 30 with nine rebounds and former Boston star Rajon Rondo, who added 12 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Overall, Chicago played a much more complete game, using their defense to stop the Celtics from regaining their lead late in the fourth quarter. The Bulls out-rebounded their opponents 53 to 36, with Chicago almost matching Boston’s full game rebound total in the first half alone with 32, 16 of which came off the offensive glass.
Game Two Recap
It was another series of runs that led to Chicago picking up the win in Game 2, this time by a more decisive 14 points. The same storylines seemed to prevail as Chicago placed all five starters in double digits and once again out-rebounded Boston on the night.
Butler and Dwayne Wade led all scorers with 22, with Butler also picking up eight rebounds and eight assists. Perhaps the biggest contributor in game two however was Rondo, who came one rebound shy of a triple double as in addition to nine boards, he added 11 points and most importantly 14 assists.
Boston placed five in double digits as well, including Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk who contributed off the bench. It wasn’t enough though as for the second game in a row, Boston lost the battle of the boards, this time by a more manageable margin of 44 to 36.
Game Three Recap
With their backs against the wall and the series headed to Chicago meaning the Bulls had stolen back home field advantage, the Celtics faced a must-win situation in Game 3. Boston played incredibly well and showed off the necessary adjustments needed to get back into this series. But perhaps the biggest development was the absence of Rondo for the Bulls, who was injured in Game 2 and who will likely miss the rest of this first round series.
The Celtics placed five players, four starters, in double digits for scoring for the second game in a row. Thomas scored 16 with nine assists, Jae Crowder also had 16 and veteran Al Horford led the team with 18 and eight rebounds. No player scored over 20 points but that fitted into the Celtics strength of getting everybody involved and utilizing their bench advantage, something that had been mainly nullified during the first two games.
Chicago didn’t have any players top 20 either and also saw four of their starters and five players overall record double digit scoring. Butler and Wade, who had 14 and 18 respectively, both shot extremely poorly, hitting just over 33 percent of their shots despite attempting 40 combined, which was almost half of the team’s total for the game. The Bulls continued to dominate the stat sheets with their rebounding however, besting Boston 52 to 37 in that category.
Our Preview’s Boston Celtics at Chicago Bulls Game 4 Betting Picks & Predictions
So far, the Celtics/Bulls series has taught us a lot about both teams and about their overall talent level. We have seen Boston’s mettle and ability to fight against adversity. We’ve also seen how they responded to playing from behind and with the expectation of not being a top seed to lose in the first round. From Chicago, we’ve seen them play well and play above the level that their 41-41 record would suggest. However, what we haven’t seen from this team is what we’re about to see, that being their ability to adjust to life without Rondo.
It’s not that the injured guard is the best player in the NBA but Rondo has a strong history of playoff success and his contributions in the first two games certainly helped Chicago get the victories. Both Wade and Butler will have to step up to fill in that missing production but they will need to do better than only successfully converting one-third of their shot attempts. They will be playing at home which is a plus but they’ll also be playing as home underdogs.
So now we come to this preview’s Celtics vs Bulls picks and betting predictions for this pivotal Game 4 matchup:
- Boston opened as 2.5 point favorites with most of the top American online oddsmakers holding that line, though Bovada Sportsbook has them as three point favorites in advance of today’s contest. It’s safe to say that the Celtics look better now than they have all series and that the Rondo loss really is a big factor to keep an eye on. The rebounding could still be something that keeps the Bulls within reach but ultimately, picking the Celtics to cover the three point spread is more of a likelihood than their 2-1 series deficit might suggest. So take Boston -2.5pts @ best odds of -105 with 5Dimes. It is -110 for the same spread with most others.
- As for betting the total game points, this is listed at 204 points universally. Given the three games so far have all hovered right above or below that mark, it’s a safe bet to say this one will too. Nevertheless, my pick is take the over on 204pts @ -105 with either 5Dimes or BetOnline.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.