Last Updated: 2018-02-08
Six games are on the NBA docket for Thursday night, with our traditional TNT doubleheader broadcast to a national TV audience. After a bunch of blowouts on Tuesday, we had a more competitive Wednesday in a lot of ways, but Indiana and New Orleans have a game to make up as a result of some arena issues. Looking ahead to Thursday, only two of the six games had overnight lines to consider.
One of them is the game we’ll put in the spotlight for tonight, as the Boston Celtics visit the Washington Wizards. Fortunately, that is one of the two games with an overnight line, so we’ll be able to take a look at the betting action so far and break the game down in its entirety in today’s “How to Bet” article.
On the positive side of the ledger, the Celtics expect Greg Monroe to make his debut tonight. Shane Larkin is still listed as day-to-day, but that day is not today because he is out. Marcus Smart is still sidelined and Gordon Hayward remains out from that injury burned into our minds.
John “To The Window To The” Wall is still out with his knee injury and isn’t expected back until March. Reserve guard Sheldon Mac remains out after suffering an Achilles injury in October. This doesn’t have any bearing on the Wizards, but it is a good reminder that illness can be prevalent for teams this time of year, so keep an eye on social media and beat writers for those types of reports.
Even without John Wall, the Wizards are a short favorite at home. This will be the second straight game as an underdog for the Celtics and the fifth in their last eight games if the plus sign remains next to their name on the board. Boston was also a pup in the LA back-to-back against the Clippers, at Golden State, at Denver, and against Toronto on Tuesday. Boston is 32-20 ATS overall, but lost 111-103 to Washington as a four-point favorite on Christmas.
Oddsmakers are having some trouble pricing the Wizards. They haven’t been a favorite or a dog of more than six points since January 13 in a home game against Brooklyn. The Wizards had a five-game winning streak snapped on Tuesday night by Philadelphia as a six-point underdog. Outright home upsets over Oklahoma City and Toronto were part of that win streak, but the books weren’t fooled and haven’t slapped any recency bias on this team. The total has climbed from 205 to 206, which is the lowest total for a Wizards game since January 5 at Memphis in a standalone road game. Both teams do have a slight tilt to the under, with Boston 29-26 and Washington 28-24 to the under.
What’s At Stake?
Boston’s lead in the Eastern Conference has been trimmed to one with Toronto’s win on Tuesday night. The Raptors also have two games in hand and host the Knicks minus Kristaps Porzingis tonight, so they will be a heavy favorite to move to 38-16 and that could tie things atop the Eastern Conference. That doesn’t really matter too much at this stage of the game, as Boston has 26 games left and Toronto has 28, but these two teams appear destined to battle it out for the top spot with Cleveland’s freefall and no other challengers. The Celtics and Raptors are also in the same division, so an Atlantic Division banner hangs (pardon the pun) in the balance.
Washington holds a 2.5-game edge over the Miami Heat in the Southeast Division and you have to hand it to Scott Brooks and Company for holding down the fort without John Wall. With Cleveland idle, Washington can pull into a tie for the #3 seed in the conference, but Cleveland will have two games in hand. Running through Toronto and Boston in the span of a couple of weeks without John Wall would be a good confidence booster for the Wizards heading towards the postseason.
Boston is in a slightly better spot than Washington. The Celtics just lost to Toronto on Tuesday, but had Wednesday to sit around the nation’s capital and wait for the game. Prior to that, they had home games against Atlanta and Portland, which are not particularly taxing. Not to mention, Sunday’s home game against Portland was an afternoon tilt, so Monday was a true off day with the opportunity to practice before flying to Toronto. This is the front end of a back-to-back for the Celtics, with Indiana in town tomorrow night. Cleveland is on deck on Sunday, but that Pacers game protects the Celtics from a look-ahead. The 20-point loss on Tuesday should in this spot as well.
Washington played three road games in four nights with stops in Orlando, Indianapolis, and Philadelphia. Now they’ll play a fourth game in six nights and then head to Chicago for Saturday’s game against Daaaaa Bulls. The last game before the All-Star Break isn’t until next Wednesday against the Knicks, so Washington will have some time next week to get rested up. The Wizards are coming off of a winning streak, though. I traditionally like to fade teams the game after a winning streak gets snapped. Everything is in rhythm and rhyme during a winning streak. Once that stops, things tend to crumble just a little bit. Considering the Wizards were winning without Wall, I wonder how they come out here.
The Celtics have had some issues lately. They’ve taken a bit of a tumble down the Offensive Rating column and now sit 19th, which is the lowest of any playoff team not named the Miami Heat. A good defense can hide a lot of problems, however, and per Defensive Rating, no defense is better than Boston’s. The Celtics allow an estimated 102.4 points per 100 possessions per Basketball-Reference. We all know that their depth is a strength and it certainly helps on the defensive end to have fresh legs. Unfortunately, Boston’s offensive problems are a bit concerning. They’ve been a tad batter offensively over the last five games with a 108.5 ORtg, but the defense has taken a bit of a slide as well. One of the things that I need to get a better grasp on in the NBA and NHL is how small sample sizes matter. I come from a baseball background, where small sample sizes simply create a lot of noise.
The Wizards have actually been quite good offensively over the last five games with a 114.7 Offensive Rating per NBAStuffer.com. Make no mistake, the Wizards are a better team with John Wall, but sometimes that collective team effort can more than make up for the loss of a star. More players are getting involved and more players are spreading the ball around. Wall’s usage has been spread to other parts of the lineup and players like Bradley Beal and Tomas Satoransky have really stepped up. Over a long stretch of games, the loss of Wall will be more evident, but the Wizards are playing good team basketball without their star and it shows. Washington has also showed the pace down just a tad, but has still gone over in three of the last four games because of some poor defensive play.
Hopefully we can do better in this spot than we did on Tuesday with Golden State losing by 20 to Oklahoma City. Amazingly, Boston was 14-of-29 from distance in the first meeting and still managed to lose by eight as a four-point favorite. That does give me a little bit of pause, but I like the Celtics tonight. As mentioned in my situational betting article this week, Toronto gets up for those regular season litmus test games. I’m not surprised Toronto rolled. I do think it will force Boston to bounce back a bit tonight and the spot does favor them a bit.
What the Wizards have done without Wall is impressive, to say the least, but this is where you really need John Wall. The Celtics are an elite defensive team by NBA standards. He is the best creator of shots and passing lanes on the team. It certainly feels like the Wizards offense should struggle a bit without him. Wall had 21 points and 14 dimes in the first meeting. That is a lot of offense to have a hand in. Washington has also been traveling all over the place and players are playing bigger roles without Wall’s minutes, so a fourth game in six nights is a tough spot.
I don’t see any great angles on the derivatives for this one. These two teams both average around 96 possessions per game, with Boston’s year-to-date mark there and Washington’s pace without Wall just a tad higher. Boston likes to chuck a lot of threes and Washington has the third-best three-point field goal defense behind Philadelphia and Boston. I’d slightly lean to the under tonight, but this line seems to be pretty good in the 206 range.
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