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Top Picks: NBA playoffs betting lines get tricky as Celtics, Bucks both favored big in Game 2s

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Gambling is a lot like life in that you tend to learn more from your failures than your successes. When you make a losing pick, it’s essential to look back at your thought process behind the pick and see if you can find something you didn’t consider, or if you were just plain wrong.

When I get a pick wrong, I’m not angry because the pick was way off or I suffered a “bad beat” late. (OK, so I’m a little angry about bad beats.) What’s worse is when there was a factor I didn’t consider before making my pick that I should have. Whether it’s a player dealing with an injury or maybe a team playing its third straight road game this week — something along those lines.

Then there’s what happened to me on Tuesday night. I took the under in the Phillies-Mets game. It was set at 9. Then, in the first inning, the Mets committed four errors, the Phillies hit a couple of three-run homers, and before the inning came to an end, it was 10-0 Phillies. The under busted in the first inning. That doesn’t happen often, and it happens less often when the total is as high as 9.

But, while it looks bad, those are the kind of losses you don’t care about. There was nothing I didn’t consider with the pick. There was no error or oversight in my analysis in making the pick. Things just went haywire. Plus, things tend to balance out because I also took the Denver Nuggets -7, and they trailed San Antonio 82-75 after three quarters only to outscore the Spurs 39-23 in the fourth quarter and get the cover. My thought process behind that pick proved to be solid as well, even if the game didn’t go as I planned before achieving the desired result.

The point is, when it comes to analyzing your picks, judge your thought process behind making your picks, not the results of the games. You have no control over the results — only your decisions. On to today’s picks, which I didn’t think about at all (kidding). All odds via Westgate.

1. Pacers at Celtics: Celtics -7

NBA Playoffs Round 1, Game 2: 7 p.m. ET, TNT (stream on fuboTV — try for free here)

The thing about the NBA Playoffs is that not everything that worked for you in the regular season is going to work for you now. Your opponents spend all their time game planning for you and figuring out how to stop you from doing what you do best. So while the Pacers were able to survive the loss of Victor Oladipo during the regular season and still reach the playoffs as the No. 5 seed, it’s just different now. Now it’s not nearly as easy to find ways to score points against a team like this Celtics team. A team that’s been good defensively, and has been together for the most part for a while, all playing under an astute coach.

That was evident in Game 1 when the Pacers had a 45-38 lead over the Celtics at halftime, and then Boston put the clamps on them, holding them to 29 points in the second half, and 74 points overall. Maybe the Pacers have figured out a way to counter Boston’s defense and find a way to score effectively. I don’t think they have. I believe Boston takes a 2-0 lead in this series and does so with ease.

2. Pistons at Bucks: Under 213

NBA Playoffs Round 1, Game 2: 8 p.m. ET, NBATV (stream on fuboTV — try for free here)

I hate spreads like this 15-point Bucks favorite in playoff games. We don’t know if Blake Griffin will play tonight, though most seem to expect him to. Either way, even if he does play, it will likely keep the Pistons from losing by 35 again, but will it keep them within 15 points? I don’t know. On the other side, 15 points is a lot to cover for the Bucks as well, so I prefer to avoid this spread altogether.

Instead, I’m looking at the under as, whether Griffin plays or not, I don’t know if I’m willing to trust the Pistons to do enough offensively to carry their share of this total and push it over.

3. Astros at Athletics: Astros +100

MLB regular season: 10:07 p.m. ET (stream on fuboTV — try for free here)

The Astros enter this game having won 10 straight, with four of those wins against the Athletics, and they’re underdogs in this game. That’s partially due to the Athletics doing so well against lefties so far this season and Houston having Wade Miley on the mound tonight. But the Astros have hit Oakland starter Frankie Montas well themselves. In 70 plate appearances against Montas, current Astros hitters have a wOBA of .403. They also have a strikeout rate of only 10 percent against him, which is nearly half of Montas’ career strikeout rate of 19.9 percent. So they see the ball well against them, so to get them as a dog here is a terrific value.

Prefer the fantasy world? DFS millionaire Mike McClure has optimal picks for today’s MLB slate on FanDuel and DraftKings. Check them out here on SportsLine.

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