NBA Finals Game 6 betting preview: Can Warriors close out Celtics on the road?

Jesse D. Garrabrant / National Basketball Association / Getty

For the first time in this year's NBA Finals, the Warriors lead the series and can close out the Celtics on the road. However, Boston is favored in this do-or-die game and has been tough to beat after a loss.

Here's how we're betting Thursday's contest:

Warriors @ Celtics (-4, 210), 9 p.m. ET

In many ways, this series can be distilled to one simple truth: When the Celtics turn the ball over, they lose. The C's are a dramatically different team when they limit turnovers, and it's a key reason why oddsmakers are hesitant to count out Boston entirely.

Here's another simple truth laid bare in Game 5: The Celtics can't stop turning the ball over. And their season will end because of it.

Boston coughed it up a whopping 18 times in Monday's 104-94 loss to the Warriors, including nine times in an ugly first half that signaled the beginning of the end. The Celtics rallied with a stretch of mostly turnover-free basketball to briefly take the lead in the fourth quarter, but their offense once again lost its rhythm late, allowing the Dubs to escape with a pivotal win.

That's been the story for Boston time and time again. Its offense becomes too reliant on outside jumpers, which often leads to chaotic drive-and-kick opportunities that beget careless turnovers. Golden State inevitably gets hot down the stretch - as it's done for the better part of a decade. While the Celtics' defense is stout in the half court, it can't keep up with the avalanche of transition buckets the team's sloppy offense generates.

None of that is new. However, what should concern Celtics bettors is that it all happened despite Stephen Curry having one of the worst shooting games of his entire career. He finished without a made 3-pointer for the first time in 233 games and the only time in 133 career playoff games. Yet the Warriors' supporting cast finally stepped up to punish Boston.

The Celtics looked overwhelmed by Golden State's balanced attack from the opening tip, and by the final few minutes of the game, they looked defeated. That's a heavy charge to levy against a team favored to win this series just a week ago, but how else would you explain it?

Boston's key players spent more time jawing at the referees than actually making free throws - the team finished 21-of-31 (67.7%) from the charity stripe, which includes two crucial late Jayson Tatum misses in another forgettable performance for the 24-year-old star. He shot just 5-of-11 from inside the arc, missed 4-of-6 free-throw attempts, and was one of six Celtics players with as many turnovers (four) as assists (four).

We know by now that Boston can't win that way. The Celtics are 1-7 when they commit 15 or more turnovers and 13-2 when they don't. The bad news for the C's is that three of those seven losses came against the Warriors, who have seemingly cracked the code to flustering this talented but inconsistent offense.

That inconsistency has been a blessing and a curse: Boston is 7-8 straight up after a win but a stellar 7-1 after a loss. Of course, that one defeat came in near-identical circumstances in Game 5, following a turnover-plagued Game 4. What changes in Game 6?

We know Curry will have a better game Thursday - years of evidence loudly suggest it. Golden State's role players finally feel like a legitimate threat after four quiet games. Will Boston respond at home? The recipe appears simple - don't turn it over - but it was simple in Game 5, too. At some point, even the simple answer might not be enough for the C's to survive.

Pick: Warriors +4

C Jackson Cowart is a sports betting writer at theScore. You can follow him on Twitter (@CJacksonCowart) or email him at cjackson.cowart@thescore.com.

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NBA Finals Game 6 betting preview: Can Warriors close out Celtics on the road?
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