There was a lot working against the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
It was going to be difficult for the Celtics to refocus after an emotional Game 7 win against the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday. They had just one day in between games, after a tough series against the reigning champs. That's a tough spot, especially against a good Miami Heat team.
Then the Celtics took two roster hits. Al Horford was out due to health and safety protocols. Marcus Smart missed Game 1 with a foot injury. That shortened the Celtics' rotation.
It wasn't a huge shock when the Celtics faded badly in the second half. They lost 118-107. Miami played well, but a lot of that result seemed due to the issues Boston faced.
Game 2 will be where we find out what kind of series this should be. Smart is expected back and Horford cleared protocols, so he'll play. Derrick White, who started Game 1 in Smart's place, will be out as his wife is expecting to give birth. The Heat are 3.5-point favorites for Thursday night's game at BetMGM.
Both teams have been great this season. The Heat, the East's best team, have been good from opening night through the Game 1 win over Boston. The Celtics took a while to get it together, but since late January they have been the NBA's best team. It's a great series.
Thursday seems like a prime zig-zag theory game. That's an approach in which bettors do the opposite of what happened in the previous game of a series. The Heat won and covered in Game 1, but the Celtics showed they were more than capable of taking a game in Miami. It was just a bad situation for them. Boston will bounce back, assuming Smart plays. We'll see if the Heat can hold off their charge.
Here's the first look at the sports betting slate for Thursday:
PGA Championship starts
We have our second golf major starting Thursday. Yahoo Sportsbook's Pamela Maldonado broke down her favorite bets:
Panthers face critical Game 2
The Florida Panthers, which had the NHL's best record in the regular season, lived on the edge in the first round of the NHL playoffs but survived. They're back to fighting out of a hole early in their second-round matchup.
The Panthers are down 1-0 to the Tampa Bay Lightning and face a crucial Game 2. They're -165 favorites, and that line is not giving the Lightning much credit. The Lightning are built for the playoffs and the same might not be true for the Panthers.
The Colorado Avalanche also have a Game 2, after an overtime win over the St. Louis Blues in Game 1. The Avalanche were clearly the better team in Game 1, they're the best team left in the NHL playoffs and they should have an easier time in Game 2. The Avs are -225 favorites but taking them on the puck line at -1.5, for +105 odds, could be the better play.
MLB rolls on
There's an eight-game baseball slate, with five games happening in the afternoon. The most intriguing games are probably the San Diego Padres with Yu Darvish pitching against the Philadelphia Phillies (-120) and the St. Louis Cardinals at New York Mets (-185).
What's the best bet?
The Celtics seem primed to cover, and it's worth a +140 play on the moneyline as well. As a bonus, take that Avalanche puck line, and why not, how about Viktor Hovland to win the PGA at +2500.