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NBA playoff props predictions: Three best bets for Tuesday’s trio of Game 2s

Bet on Boston to pile on the first-half points vs. Atlanta, Cleveland’s Mitchell to torch Knicks again

Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown (right) scored a game-high 29 points in his team’s 112-99 playoff victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday. Boston outscored Atlanta 74-44 in the first half and is projected for 61.5 first-half points in Tuesday’s Game 2. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown (right) scored a game-high 29 points in his team’s 112-99 playoff victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday. Boston outscored Atlanta 74-44 in the first half and is projected for 61.5 first-half points in Tuesday’s Game 2. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)Read moreMaddie Meyer / Getty Images

The Boston Celtics were one of the most explosive first-half teams during the NBA’s regular season.

The Atlanta Hawks? They often treated defense like a virus, particularly in the opening 24 minutes of games.

Both trends continued Saturday in Boston, where the host Celtics sprinted out of the gate in their playoff debut, racking up 74 points before halftime on the way to an easy Game 1 victory.

Will Boston once again fill the bucket early and often in Game 2? Our crystal ball says “yes”.

Here are our three favorite prop bets for Tuesday’s NBA playoffs tripleheader, starting with the Celtics’ first-half team total.

Odds updated as of 8:30 p.m. on April 17.

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Hawks vs. Celtics prop: Celtics total first-half points scored

  1. Odds: 61.5, Over -118/Under -104 (FanDuel)

  2. Prediction: Over

It was a tale of two offensive halves for the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series against the Hawks.

Boston jumped out to a 74-44 halftime lead before shifting into cruise control in the second half, when they got outscored 55-38.

The first-half/second-half discrepancy was nothing new for the Celtics against Atlanta. During three regular-season meetings, the Celtics posted the following first-half/second-half point totals (including a meaningless regular-season finale that was bereft of starters for both teams): 61/59 (in Boston); 71/63 (in Atlanta); 62/64 (in Atlanta).

For the entire season, Boston ranked second in the NBA in first-half scoring, putting up 60.5 points on average (right behind first-place Sacramento’s 60.6). The Celtics also finished third in first-half scoring at home (61.5 per game).

Boston’s second-half scoring numbers and league rankings: 55.9 points overall (13th); 57.1 points at home (12th).

Meanwhile, the Hawks gave up a tick under 60 first-half points per game overall and 61.4 on the road, ranking 25th in both categories.

Will Atlanta hit the court Tuesday with the intention of slowing down the tempo and making Boston work for every point? You would think so. Will it matter? We doubt it to the point that we’re betting against it.

» READ MORE: The Sixers waited to flip the switch against the Nets in Game 2, but they won’t have that luxury much longer

Knicks vs. Cavaliers prop: Donovan Mitchell total points scored

  1. Odds: 31.5, Over -111/Under -115 (FanDuel)

  2. Prediction: Over

For the first time since 1997, the Cavaliers on Sunday played a postseason game without LeBron James on the court. But Donovan Mitchell sure as heck did his best LeBron impersonation.

The All-Star shooting guard went off for 38 points while also chipping in five rebounds and eight assists against the New York Knicks. The problem for Cleveland? Nobody else really stepped up in the scoring department.

Mitchell ended up tallying 39% of his team’s points in a 101-97 Game 1 loss.

Needless to say, you can’t pin that one on Mitchell. And even if the Cavs fall again Tuesday, we’re betting that it once again won’t be his fault.

After all, Sunday’s 38-point output was actually Mitchell’s lowest in his last five games. He ended the regular season with four straight 40-point performances to finish 10th in the NBA in scoring (28.3 points per game).

That includes a 42-point showing in a 130-116 home loss to the Knicks on March 31.

Toss in a pair of 31-point efforts in consecutive games against the Brooklyn Nets, and Mitchell has at least flirted with this Game 2 prop number in seven of his last eight contests.

The only risk we see in playing Mitchell to top 31 points Tuesday is he might try to get his teammates more involved at the expense of his own offensive game. But with the way he’s burning the nets right now — 41.4 ppg last five contests; 36.4 ppg in the last eight — there’s no reason to think Mitchell won’t fly past 31 points again in Game 2.

Clippers vs. Suns prop: Ivica Zubac total rebounds

  1. Odds: 10.5, Over +100/Under -137 (Caesars Sportsbook)

  2. Prediction: Under

Zubac yanked down a game-high 15 rebounds in Los Angeles’ 115-110 upset win in Phoenix in Game 1. And he did it in less than 30 minutes of action.

The Clippers’ 7-foot center has double-digit rebounds in four of his last six games and eight of his last 14. His per-game rebounding average over this 14-game stretch, which dates to March 15: slightly less than 10.1.

Zubac also is averaging 10.75 rebounds in four games against the Suns this season. That includes a 12-board effort on Feb. 16 to go alongside Sunday’s monster game on the glass.

So why fade Zubac in Game 2? Because Phoenix knows it must contain the 26-year-old if it wants to avoid dropping the first two games of this best-of-7 set at home. Because we expect a more spirited effort from Zubac’s counterpart (Suns center DeAndre Ayton). And because Zubac doesn’t often eclipse 10 rebounds in consecutive games.

Addressing the latter point: While Zubac has scored in double figures in nine straight games and 13 of 14, he’s grabbed 11 or more boards in consecutive contests just once. He had back-to-back 16-rebound performances against Golden State and Orlando on March 15 and March 18.

That represents the only time since Feb. 8 — a span of 23 games — that Zubac has snagged more than 10 rebounds in two straight outings.

Also, Zubac had a team-worst -11 plus-minus rating in Game 1. So as much as his size is a big asset for Los Angeles, Zubac’s presence on the court for extended stretches is actually more of a liability.

Play the percentages with this one and take Zubac to finish with 10 or fewer boards.

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