Just two games into their first-round 2017 NBA playoff series, the Boston Celtics are now the underdogs as the Eastern Conference’s No.1 seed. The betting odds favor the No.8 Chicago Bulls, who have stolen home-court advantage and taken a 2-0 series lead.
With a commanding lead as the series shifts to Chicago, the Bulls are -195 favorites to reach the second round, via Bovada.lv. The Celtics have +235 odds, hoping to win a few games at the United Center, starting with Game 3 Friday night.
In the early part of the series, Boston hasn’t looked anything like the team that beat out the Cleveland Cavaliers for the best record in the East. Chicago looks like a different team, as well, considering they needed a victory on the final day of the regular season just to sneak into the playoffs and finish with a .500 record.
The series has been surrounded by tragedy, as Isaiah Thomas’ sister was killed in a one-car accident the day before Game 1. The point guard somehow managed to still score 33 points on 18 shots in the series opener, but his Boston teammates made less than 40 percent of their field goals in a 106-102 loss.
Game 2 wasn’t close, and the Celtics lost by 14 points on their home floor. Boston played so poorly that it looked as if they were resigned to losing once they fell into a deep hole.
“I looked around and a few times in the game guys were putting their heads down, I think getting down on themselves,” Boston shooting guard Avery Bradley told reporters Tuesday night. “But as a team, we have to stay together. The other team is looking at that. They're using that as motivation for themselves.
“I could even hear Rondo, like, ‘Yeah, they gave up. They gave up.’ But you never can let a team see that. You have to continue to be positive and go out there and play hard, no matter what the outcome is.”
Boston won 12 more games than Chicago in the regular season, and the Bulls had what many would characterize as a disappointing year. But the Bulls have some big names in the starting lineup, and those players are stepping up at the right time.
Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo put up their worst numbers since their respective rookie seasons, but their championship experience seems to be paying off in the playoffs. Wade scored 22 points on 16 shots in Game 2, and Rondo is 1.5 rebounds shy of averaging a triple-double.
Jimmy Butler entered the series as the best player on either team, and he’s playing like it, thus far. He’s averaging 26.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.5 steals per game.
Perhaps most importantly, Chicago has exploited Boston’s biggest weakness. The Celtics were tied for 26th in rebounding this season, and the Bulls have a plus-22 advantage on the glass through two games. Only the Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets grabbed more boards than the Bulls in the regular season.
Things don’t get any easier for the Celtics as they head on the road for Game 3. The Bulls were nine games better at home than they were on the road in the regular season, and the Celtics won eight fewer games away from Boston.