NBA Playoffs Series Preview: Pacers vs. Celtics


Welcome to Hoops with Noops: Playoff Series Edition! The NBA Conference Finals are here, and that brings another opportunity to find value in the betting markets. Not only do we have games to bet on, but also series prices, series props and other futures.

The betting menus are big which means there is more opportunity to make some good wagers. Let’s dive into this series by looking at the season’s head-to-head matchups, review key injuries that require our attention, and pick a winner and place some bets.

Boston Celtics (1) vs. Indiana Pacers (6)

Season Head-to-Head Matchups

Key Injuries to Watch

Kristaps Porzingis

He will miss the start of the series with a calf injury. Without Porzingis, the Celtics are still a very good team and probably the best roster in the NBA. The problem is that Boston becomes a team that will struggle to differentiate themselves and will struggle to score at the end of games like they have in year’s past. KP is their only post-up threat and a good shooter who creates space on the floor. The Celtics need him if they want to win the NBA Finals, but they don’t need him to win this series. It would be good to get him some playing time if it doesn’t jeopardize his ability to play in the next round. I expect him to be out until Game 4 or Game 5 depending on how the series is going.

Who’s Going to Win the Series?

Series Price: Celtics -900, Pacers +600

The Celtics were the best team in the regular season and have been the best team in the postseason. They have faced two teams dealing with injury issues, and even if healthy, those teams would have been big underdogs to beat Boston. The Celtics have a net rating of +12.8 and have a +11.4 points per game margin over their first 10 games, two of which were losses. Those are very impressive numbers and were achieved without Kristaps Porzingis, who hasn’t played since Game 4 of their first series against the Miami Heat. Porzingis obviously makes Boston better, but the Celtics are still a very good team without him. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are good defenders, can score one-on-one, and shoot well. Jrue Holiday and Derrick White are two of the best guard defenders in the league and both good shooters. The Celtics need to find a way to get KP some playing time so he’s ready for the NBA Finals. For now, they know they can win the Eastern Conference Finals with the same guys who won the first two rounds.

The Pacers have had a very different postseason experience. Both of their first two series were tightly contested and required the Pacers to win in high-pressure situations. They also faced teams that were constantly changing due to player availability. Of course, not having to play against Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard for a few games, and all the Knicks that got injured made things easier for Indiana from a talent standpoint. All those injuries do, however, require the team to be constantly changing their offensive and defensive schemes. The Pacers have played big and small, fast and slow, aggressively and cautiously, and any other kind of dichotomy you can muster. Pascal Siakam and Myles Turner are playing together even better than anyone expected and been the basis for the team’s success. Tyrese Haliburton started slow but had some great moments in the past few games and dominated Game 7 in Madison Square Garden. This kind of experience is invaluable and should help the team succeed in the future. The question is whether that future is now or next season.

Once again, the Celtics are big favorites to win a playoff series. Boston was -5000 against the Heat, -2000 against the Cavaliers and are now -900 against the Pacers. Those prices correlate to breakeven probabilities of 98%, 95%, and 90% respectively. It’s hard to say there’s a 90% chance of anything happening in sports, but the market and I agree that there is a 90% or better chance the Celtics beat the Pacers in a best-of-seven series. Boston has Holiday and White to take turns guarding Haliburton. Siakam can only guard one of Tatum or Brown at a time. Turner can beat his counterpart but not nearly by enough margin to cover up for everything else. Indiana wins games by playing fast and shooting a lot of three pointers. Boston loves to play fast, loves to shoot threes, and is well equipped to stop their opponents from doing both of those things.

The volume of three pointers we should see in this series will create a lot of variance game-to-game and even quarter-to-quarter. That variance has cost the Celtics Game 2 in both of their previous rounds of the playoffs. Boston struggled to shoot from deep in both of those games and their opponents shot very well from deep. The Pacers profile as a team that can do the same thing, but can they do it twice? I’m betting they cannot and that they might not even do it once. As I laid out, the Celtics are the much better team and barring some sort of outlier event will win this series. I expect them to do it in five games and I think they can finally get a sweep. It’s a little juicy, but Boston -2.5 games in the series is priced at -150. I think there is a much better than 60% chance the Celtics win in five games or fewer. I’ll bet that and place a small bet on them to win the series 4-0 at +260 or better.


  • Boston Celtics Series Game Spread -2.5 (-150, BetMGM), Risk 1.5U
  • Boston Celtics Series Game Spread -3.5 (+260, BetMGM), Risk 0.5U
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