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NBA playoffs betting trends: Celtics' run, Gafford's rim protection

Dylan Buell / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The clock's winding down on the NBA season, as the Finals begin June 6. Before offseason drama dominates the airwaves, there's still time to cash in on trends.

Here are a few to look out for.

The market overvalues the Celtics

Every metric - total wins, net rating, and point differential - says the Celtics are a historically dominant team, but they don't feel like one.

During Boston's 12-2 run to the Eastern Conference finals, the opposing team's best player missed multiple contests in all three series. Most notably, Tyrese Haliburton missed Games 3 and 4 in Boston's sweep of the Pacers.

The Celtics still almost lost several matchups in that series but pulled away in the final minutes thanks to their heroics and Indiana's blunders. On a positive note, Boston's problematic late-game offensive execution finally looked promising in the Eastern Conference finals.

Regardless of their record, the market has overvalued the Celtics' statistical dominance. Boston is 7-7 against the spread this postseason and 1-5 in its last six outings. It rarely overpowers inferior teams and oddsmakers have yet to adjust.

The Celtics held a 76-20 effort in 2023-24, putting them on par with historically memorable champions. But would anyone stack them with the 2017 Warriors, 2001 Lakers, or 1996 Bulls?

Their easy path will be forgotten if they hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy in June, but the Celtics' first true challenge will come in the Finals against either the Mavs or Wolves.

Kristaps Porzingis' return bolsters the Celtics' starting lineup, but it's smart to keep fading them against the number if the market continues to overvalue them.

Anthony Edwards' inefficient shooting

Edwards was prematurely dubbed the next Michael Jordan this postseason. Those comparisons cooled off after a rough start to the Western Conference finals.

He's looked exhausted throughout this series. Edwards' conditioning should be better for a 22-year-old, but this is the furthest he's advanced in his career. He'll learn from his shortcomings the next time he's in this spot.

Minnesota's leader expends energy on both ends as a two-way player. The Wolves must earn him some rest by hiding him defensively and relying on Mike Conley for ball-handling responsibilities.

Edwards is averaging 23 points per game on 40% shooting from the field against the Mavs, down from his playoff average of 27.5 on 47% shooting.

The All-NBA guard didn't surpass his point prop in six of his last seven outings, including three against Dallas. He exceeded it in Game 4 against the Mavs, the Wolves' only win, but it took him 25 shots - the second-most field goals he's attempted during the playoffs - to score 29 points.

The Mavs' defense loads up on Edwards and prevents drives with focused help and timely rotations. That combined with his fatigue has led to a disappointing conference finals. Minnesota's only chance to come back from a 3-1 deficit is Edwards re-emerging as the alleged second coming of Jordan.

Daniel Gafford's block party

The Mavs had one of the NBA's worst defenses and rebounding teams when they traded for Gafford in February. Dereck Lively II was enjoying an impressive rookie campaign, but he couldn't handle the brunt of the rim-protecting and rebounding duties as an inexperienced center.

In the final months of the season - after acquiring Gafford and P.J. Washington - Dallas emerged as an elite defensive team and strong rebounding group.

Gafford's effective rim protection against a towering Minnesota frontcourt is a huge factor in Dallas' 3-1 lead. Gafford impedes Rudy Gobert's catches and swats away Karl-Anthony Towns and Edwards' drives.

The 6-foot-10 center leads the league in postseason blocks while playing 22 minutes per night. Gafford and Lively typically split time at center, but the latter injured his neck in Game 3 and sat out Game 4. That meant more playing time for Gafford, who averaged 30 minutes per game in those two contests.

Gafford has recorded 11 blocks over his last three outings and gone over his block prop in all of them. As long as he's manning the paint, Gafford will keep collecting blocks and anchoring a daunting defense.

Sam Oshtry is a sports betting writer at theScore. You can follow him on X @soshtry for more betting coverage.

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