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For Game 3, the dominant Celtics will be underdogs for just 4th time in 99 games

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On Jan. 11, the Boston Celtics were 2-point underdogs against the Milwaukee Bucks. That’s the same day Bill Belichick was fired by the New England Patriots. The NFL playoffs would start two days later and Jim Harbaugh was still at Michigan just three days after winning a national title.

It was a while ago. And for the five months that followed, the Celtics were favored in almost every single basketball game they played.

The Celtics are 1.5-point underdogs at BetMGM for Wednesday’s Game 3 of the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks, and that’s notable. Since Jan. 11, the Celtics have played 60 games and were favored in 59 of them, according to Covers.com’s game log. They were underdogs just three times all regular season and they have yet to be underdogs in a playoff game.

There are a lot of ways to illustrate the Celtics’ dominance — and perhaps their easy path to being up 2-0 in the NBA Finals — but being underdogs just one time in their last 60 games is pretty amazing.

Being underdogs is something the Celtics haven’t experienced since early April. Again against the Bucks, they were 3.5-point underdogs on April 9. That came late in the regular season with the No. 1 seed already long clinched. The Celtics won the East by 14 games.

Before that, the only other time the Celtics were underdogs was Dec. 20. They were 3.5-point underdogs at the Sacramento Kings with Jayson Tatum out of the lineup. The Celtics won 144-119.

Jayson Tatum and the Celtics are in the rare position of being underdogs for Game 3. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Jayson Tatum and the Celtics are in the rare position of being underdogs for Game 3. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

The NBA is not set up for one team to be favored in 95 of 98 games, especially when the postseason is factored in. There are too many good teams around the league. There are also plenty of nights in the regular season when a team is playing the second game of a back-to-back, or at the end of a long road trip or with multiple players out with injury. Oddsmakers usually don’t blindly post a team as a favorite, even a very good one, when it’s in a bad spot.

The Celtics didn’t cover all of those spreads as favorites, but just being favored game in and game out for just about an entire NBA season that lasts nearly eight months is remarkable.

The Celtics were a respectable 42-36-4 against the spread in the regular season, according to The Action Network. That’s not easy when you’re favored in 79 of 82 games.

Boston is 8-7-1 against the spread in the playoffs. In half of their playoff games they’ve been favored by double digits.

The Mavericks have had a great playoff run too, but were underdogs of 6.5 and 7 points in the first two games of the NBA Finals. There was a question of whether Boston would be favored in Game 3, on the road, but oddsmakers made the Mavericks a small favorite. That was the right move, because as of Monday morning 75 percent of the money at BetMGM was on the Mavericks to cover. There’s still time before tipoff Wednesday for money to come in on the Celtics and move the line to Boston being favored yet again, but that seems unlikely. The Celtics will probably be underdogs for the first time in the playoffs on Wednesday night.

If the Celtics get the final two wins they need to win the NBA Finals — the odds are -1000 at BetMGM for them to win the championship — this Boston team should be remembered for a dominant run. The Celtics did end up facing playoff opponents who were each dealing with injuries, the Eastern Conference was much weaker than the West this season, and the Celtics caught a No. 5 seed Dallas team in the NBA Finals, but that’s part of the NBA playoffs. Boston won’t have to note any of that on the banner, if they raise another one.

The Celtics have been a force all season. Just check the odds.

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