NBA playoffs betting: Atlanta Hawks at Boston Celtics, Game 3
The Atlanta Hawks blew a huge opportunity in Game 2 against a shorthanded Celtics team, and now Boston has taken home-court advantage away heading into Friday night’s Game 3 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. Boston is an 8-point betting favorite on WagerWeb.com.
The Celtics played Game 2 without its starting backcourt as point guard Rajon Rondo was suspended one game for bumping a ref in Game 1 and Ray Allen missed another game with an injury. So everything was set up for Atlanta to go up 2-0. But behind 36 points and 14 rebounds from Paul Pierce, the Celtics won 87-80, rallying from an 11-point second-half deficit, as 4-point underdogs.
In wiping out the double-figure deficit, Pierce outscored the Hawks all by himself, 18-15, including 13 points in the final quarter. That was more than he had in all of Game 1, when Atlanta held Pierce to 12 points on 5-of-19 shooting.
Joe Johnson had 22 points but never got many open looks, hitting just 7 of 17 from the field. Josh Smith had 16 points and 12 rebounds, but he left late in the game with a sprained knee. Smith, who has been easily the Hawks’ best player in this series, is considered doubtful for Game 3 with what has been diagnosed with a strained tendon in his left knee.
Smith’s injury looms even larger given the fact that the Hawks are already without their top two centers in Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia. If Smith can’t play on Friday or in other games of the series, that severely limits what the Hawks would have in their front court. Smith and point guard Jeff Teague were the only Hawks starters to play in all 66 regular-season games.
Horford, who hasn’t played since undergoing surgery Jan. 1, has ruled himself out for the entire first round. Pachulia has been out since suffering the foot injury April 13 but there’s a chance he can return for this series of it is extended.
If Smith misses Game 3, coach Larry Drew’s options for the lineup would include starting rookie Ivan Johnson at power forward alongside Jason Collins or using a small alignment with Marvin Williams, Vladimir Radmanovic or Tracy McGrady. Erick Dampier, the only other healthy center along with Collins, has appeared in just two games since March 19.
While Rondo will be back for Game 3, Allen remains in doubt. Coach Doc Rivers admitted the team isn’t sure how to proceed on the balky right ankle that has forced Allen to miss 11 straight games. Allen, who missed 20 regular-season games due to various ailments, averaged 14.2 points per game this season, while shooting a career-best 45.3 percent from beyond the three point line. The Celtics have made just three three-pointers in two games thus far in the playoffs.