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Celtics big favorites to win NBA title; bettors back Lakers

Updated April 19, 2024 - 1:29 pm

The Boston Celtics have been wire-to-wire favorites this season to win their 18th NBA championship, which would break a tie with the Los Angeles Lakers for the most titles in league history.

The Celtics and defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets are in a class by themselves entering the playoffs, which start Saturday. Boston is the +150 favorite to win the title, Denver is the 3-1 second choice, and every other team is 12-1 or higher.

Westgate SuperBook NBA oddsmaker Jeff Sherman expects Boston to raise another banner to the rafters.

“They’re proven to be the best team all year,” he said. “They’re better than they were last year. Their bench has been playing well, and the pieces they added have fit nicely. Jrue Holiday and (Kristaps) Porzingis are nice additions.

“They’re just the most complete team out there. It feels like it’s Boston’s year.”

The Celtics are -225 favorites to win the Eastern Conference, where Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo is out with a calf injury and Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid has been dealing with a knee injury.

Giannis effect

The favorite flipped in the Bucks-Pacers first-round series and Game 1 after Antetokounmpo was ruled out for the opener. Indiana is now a -120 series favorite at the SuperBook and a 1-point road favorite in Game 1.

“I took the Pacers +3½ when that line opened up,” Sherman said. “I didn’t think there was any chance (Giannis) was going to play, and I don’t think there’s a chance he’s going to play the entire series. I also bet the Pacers +145 to win the series.”

Sherman said the Bucks would have been in the range of -250 series favorites with the two-time NBA MVP at full strength and 5½-point favorites in Game 1, though they’re only 17-19 under coach Doc Rivers.

“Whoever wins Game 1, I think the opposite team wins Game 2, and I don’t think Milwaukee will win in Indiana,” Sherman said.

Lakers liability

The Lakers are the largest futures liability at the SuperBook. The book is on the hook for six figures if Los Angeles, which was as high as a 40-1 long shot this season, wins the title.

Bettors also are banking on the Lakers to upset the Nuggets in their first-round series.

“We’ve been getting a ton of Lakers support,” Sherman said. “We opened that -400 on Denver and +330 on the Lakers, and we’re down to -360 and +300.

“There’s a lot of people thinking the Lakers might be able to get out of the first round against Denver.”

Sherman isn’t one of them.

“I know the Lakers are playing better, and they’re healthy. But I still think it’s going to be tough for the Lakers to beat that team four times,” he said. “Denver is so much more well-balanced.”

Four first-round series are virtual toss-ups. In addition to the tight Pacers-Bucks matchup, the 76ers and Knicks are each -110 to win their series.

The Mavericks are -135 favorites over the Clippers (+115), with Los Angeles star Kawhi Leonard listed as questionable for Game 1. The Suns are -130 favorites over the Timberwolves (+110).

“The West just feels a lot more wide open. You can make a case for five or six teams. It’s so tough,” Sherman said. “(NBA commissioner) Adam Silver is getting the parity he hopes for now in the NBA, unlike the way it used to be under (former commissioner) David Stern.”

Timberwolves (+125) over Suns, series price

Timberwolves (-1½) over Suns, Game 1

Professional sports bettor Erin Rynning’s best bet is on Minnesota (+125) to beat Phoenix in their first-round series. He also bet on the Wolves (-1½) to win and cover Game 1 at home Saturday.

“I’m surprised at the price with a Suns team that hasn’t shown consistency all season, including both offense and defense. Poorly built team,” said Rynning (@ersports1). “Meanwhile, the Wolves almost garnered the one seed while flexing defensive muscle all season. The Timberwolves seem clearly the value to me.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on X.

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