The Cleveland Cavaliers rested many of their starters down the stretch, seemingly handing the #1 seed and home-court advantage through the Eastern Conference playoffs over to the Boston Celtics. Was Cleveland simply trying to be at full strength for another long playoff run – or were they trying to avoid the Chicago Bulls who have had their number throughout the 2016/17 season?
Chicago is definitely an enigma and some pundits and Bookies are expecting another epic series similar to when the teams matched up to go 7 games in the first round of the 2008/09 playoffs (won by Boston). Chicago and Boston are definitely familiar, especially as the two squads floated trade rumors at this season's deadline. Could a deal that was or wasn't made be the deciding factor in this series?
At times it didn't appear Chicago wanted anything to do with the 2017 NBA postseason but they limped in as the #8 seed nonetheless. That may be more attributed to the disaster that is the bottom half of the Eastern Conference more than to the prowess of Chicago but regardless anything can happen in the playoffs.
Chicago has won 7 of 9 to end the year and could be in prime upset mode in this up-for-grabs first round. There are the obvious storylines of the Jimmy Butler trade that wasn't, the return of Rajon Rondo to Boston, and the big question of whether Dwyane Wade can rekindle past playoff magic for his hometown team.
Boston has won 7 of 10 to end the year and will enjoy home court advantage throughout this first series. The Celtics are only 2-2 against the Bulls this season however but they did notch a 100-80 win in the last meeting on March 12th. It should be noted that all 4 games of the series this year went for the “under” bettors.
This series should be a classic as two of the most underappreciated guards in the Eastern Conference do battle with Isaiah Thomas and Jimmy Butler headlining the matchup. It doesn't have your typical #1 vs #8 feel and the series price of just Boston -500 reflects that (Golden State is -20000 for example and even Cleveland is -1000 favorites). Then again, Bulls fans will tell you that a Boston sweep wouldn't surprise them either.
What this series comes down to is if you want to wager the +400 on the unpredictable Chicago squad as a chance or if you want to take advantage of Boston, the better team, with value at -500. The smart choice is the Celtics as they win it in 5.