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Pacers fall away from East leaders


Indiana Pacers @ Boston Celtics
Sunday, 18:00
Live on Sky Sports Arena

The playoffs are finally here, though the way the season ended for the Indiana Pacers, they might be wishing they could play another couple of weeks to find some form for this series.
They lost nine of their last 13 games to finish the season. It’s still an achievement to get the fifth seed in the East after losing Victor Oladipo in the middle of the season – though looking at those who finished behind them, it’s not exactly time to break out the champagne either.
They almost held fourth, which would’ve given them home advantage in this series, but that final run of games saw them slip behind the Celtics and lose what could’ve been a crucial edge.
The Celtics closed the season heading in the opposite direction. They won six of their last eight to round off what has been a rocky season with a glimpse of their true potential. Last season, they really should’ve made the NBA Finals, and they were healthier this season but it never seemed to click.
They still have time to recapture the form that took them to within one home game of the season finale with the Warriors. Indiana ought not to cause a problem in this round, thought the absence of Marcus Smart, likely for the first two rounds of any playoff run after picking up an injury last Sunday against the Magic, could be felt as he is one of Boston’s bigger presences on defence.
Boston won the regular season series between these two 3-1, and delivered a 20-point pounding against coach Nate McMillan’s team just over a week ago, but two of the other three encounters were settled by one and two points each, including the Pacers last visit to TD Garden on March 29. I’d still expect the home team to win, but I’d rather bet on the visitors getting 7 points or more at [2.00].

Thunder can shake up Blazers


Oklahoma City Thunder @ Portland Trail Blazers
Sunday, 20:30
Live on Sky Sports Arena

The Trail Blazers did what they usually do this season. A steady opening to the season was followed by a steep improvement after Christmas as they went 34-14 to finish the season third in the brutally tough Western Conference.
Though maybe they finished the season a little bit too well. They’ve won three straight, and 11 of their last 13 games, meaning they flipped over Houston on tiebreakers after their final win over Sacramento to land that third spot. Before that they looked set for a series with the Jazz as fourth v fifth.
Now, they’ve got to take on the OKC rollercoaster instead.
We’ve covered the Thunder’s troubles of recent weeks previously. In typically unpredictable style, they rallied as the season drew to close to undo some of the damage seven losses in nine did through mid-to-late March.
Most importantly, they managed to avoid a clash with the Warriors in the first round, a fate that looked very likely prior to their final five wins. Paul George’s possibly limited play due to a lingering shoulder complaint is a concern, his average of 28 points per night was second only to James Harden’s spectacular scoring feats.
The Blazers have done well to weather the Jusuf Nurkic injury and certainly have depth to cope with any strain on their roster, but we’ve seen them romp into the postseason before and then fail to deliver. The Thunder unlikely surge into the sixth seed looks all-too-well scripted for another Oregonian first-round exit. OKC won all four of the games between these two teams during the regular season, which makes them getting +3.5, even on the road, very appealing. The Thunder on the handicap is the clear choice in this, even if George is in doubt, at [1.91].

Thunder can shake up Blazers


Oklahoma City Thunder @ Portland Trail Blazers
Sunday, 20:30
Live on Sky Sports Arena

Source: US Sports