The Boston Celtics are on the precipice of finishing off the reigning champion Toronto Raptors in Game 6 of the conference semifinals on Wednesday.
After allowing Toronto to get back into the series by dropping two straight, the C's rebounded in a big way with a 111-89 Game 5 romp. They rediscovered their offense and held the Raptors to only 11 first-quarter points.
Can Toronto force a decider? Continue reading for abe Insights' preview, which has the best odds across all major sportsbooks, analysis of the primary betting lines, stats to know and more information to help your betting.
Date: Wednesday, September 9
Time: 6:40 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Raptors 42%; Celtics 61%
Spread: BOS -3.5
Moneyline: TOR +140; BOS -154
The only big piece of recent health news for either team is for Raptors big man Serge Ibaka. Unfortunately, he suffered a sprained ankle in Game 5's loss, adding injury to the insulting outcome. Ibaka is a big loss if he can't go Wednesday, as he had 18 key points in Game 4's 100-93 win.
Without Ibaka to protect the rim, expect Marc Gasol's minutes to climb and for Boston's Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to attack the rim even more willingly. All these elements could spell trouble for Toronto's stout defense.
1.72 vs. 1.28: If the Raptors can simply convert better on offense, they're doing a fine job of at least hassling the Celtics on the defensive end. That first number is Toronto's sterling assist-to-turnover ratio, followed by Boston's far less impressive figure. Of course, part of that is due to the Celtics having more playmakers who can create their own shot.
33.7 vs. 30.9: These squads are not at all efficient from the 3-point line over the past five contests, with Boston holding a slight edge. Worse off are the Raptors, though, because their total includes Game 4's 17-for-44 (38.6%) effort from deep.
.307 vs. .222: Another stat where the Celtics boast a greater advantage is free throw attempt rate. They simply have more players who can penetrate the lane, and are collectively converting better at the charity stripe than Toronto. The teams' respective free throw percentages are 82.6% and 76% this series.
To boil Game 6 down to rather simple terms: much of the outcome hinges on the play of Raptors regular-season leading scorer Pascal Siakam. His average of 22.9 points in the 2019-20 campaign is down to 18, including just 15.8 versus Boston.
Whether it's the Celtics' overwhelming athleticism on the wing or a lacking desire to take over in the playoffs, Siakam has been far too passive, often settling for long-range jumpers, or as in Game 5, failing to get into a rhythm due to foul trouble and not shooting enough (nine field goal attempts in 29 minutes).
Siakam has the blend of size, strength and quickness to be more of a factor in the paint. As the 3-point shooting numbers accentuate, the Raptors must change up something on offense in order to force a Game 7. Part of that starts with running the offense through Siakam down low and getting more buckets from close range.
If there is a killer instinct in there, it's bound to come out for Siakam on Wednesday. He was a key contributor to last year's championship squad, but is struggling to be "the man" right now.
Raptors emotional leader Kyle Lowry and coach Nick Nurse need to get through to Siakam, who's made a similar leap this year to Boston's Jayson Tatum, but hasn't taken that to the postseason on a consistent basis. It remains to be seen if Siakam's hopeful awakening as Toronto's alpha will be too little, too late in the second round.
Barring a drastic improvement from Siakam or another dreadful shooting performance from the C's, there's every reason for bettors to believe in Boston to finish the job. Look for wagers to heavily favor the Celtics' spread and moneyline.
As both teams clamp down in virtual must-win scenarios — Boston doesn't want to allow a Game 7, Toronto is near elimination — the quality of defense should be outstanding. Thus, bettors are bound to skew action toward the Under points total.
Note: Odds current as of 2:15 p.m. ET on Wednesday, September 9.
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