- Kemba Walker will miss second straight game for Celtics with knee soreness, Marcus Smart doubtful due to thigh contusion
- Trae Young questionable for Hawks with right ankle sprain
- Celtics beat Hawks 109-106 in Boston on January 3
The Super Bowl is in the rearview mirror, which means it’s officially basketball season. Of course, basketball season has been going on since October, but today is the first day the NBA will have the spotlight all to itself. We’ve got a sizable 10-game slate of games on Monday, including the Boston Celtics’ trip to Atlanta to take on the Hawks.
Both teams will be shorthanded for their second head-to-head meeting of the season. Boston has already announced that All-Star point guard Kemba Walker will miss his second straight game with knee soreness, and Marcus Smart isn’t expected to play either due to a thigh bruise. That obviously leaves Boston short on guards.
Atlanta, meanwhile, may be without another All-Star in Trae Young, who sprained his ankle over the weekend. Young has already missed a number of games on the season with a similar issue. The Hawks have also listed De’Andre Hunter and Bruno Fernando as questionable, while DeAndre’ Bembry is listed as doubtful.
The injury situations have resulted in a strange line for this one. The Celtics are listed as 6-point favorites on the road in a game with an over/under of 224.5 points at BetOnline.
Extra Shots for Brown, Tatum, Hayward
Walker and Smart missing this game means the Celtics’ wings will see bigger offensive roles. Kemba has the highest usage rate on the team. The Celtics managed to club the 76ers on Saturday night with Walker sidelined, thanks in large part to 32 points from Jaylen Brown. Jayson Tatum chimed in with 25 points of his own, while Gordon Hayward was a complete non-factor, finishing with just 4 points on 1-for-11 shooting from the field.
Coincidentally, Walker also missed the first meeting of the season against the Hawks a month ago. Smart wound up posting a big game with 15 points, 9 assists and 6 rebounds, but tonight one would imagine Boston will have to give a few more minutes to someone like Brad Wanamaker. It’s also not unfathomable to think that Tremont Waters or Carsen Edwards could see some rare playing time with Boston so thin in the backcourt.
Boston may still be without Enes Kanter, as well. Kanter has missed the last handful of games with a hip issue, and he’s officially questionable for tonight’s game. If he remains sidelined, Daniel Theis will log heavy minutes at the 5, while Boston will also embrace a smaller approach in the middle with the likes of Semi Ojeleye and Grant Williams.
The Celtics have flown under the radar from a betting perspective all year long. Everything about the Celtics indicates they’re legitimate contenders to win the Eastern Conference, yet they have garnered very little betting interest. Boston’s odds to win the NBA title are currently sitting at +2000 at BetOnline, which puts them toward the bottom of the pack of upper-echelon teams.
Atlanta’s Dicey Situation
Obviously, the Hawks will hope that Young feels well enough to play in this game. Frankly, he’s really their only way of potentially keeping the game competitive. The Hawks have the worst record in the Eastern Conference (13-37) even with Young having played the vast majority of the games, but it’s hard to see how they can keep up tonight if Young sits out.
If Young is a no-go, Lloyd Pierce will have to turn to Jeff Teague and Brandon Goodwin to man the point guard duties. Teague has been a capable initiator in this league for years, but his best days seem to be behind him from a playing perspective. Teague started and played 25 minutes the last time Young missed a game, but Goodwin actually outperformed Teague in 20 minutes off the bench.
Young is a phenomenal talent, but he hasn’t been able to lift the Hawks out of the doldrums. Atlanta owns the league’s worst offense, as they’ve mustered just 102 points per 100 possessions. They’ve been an unmitigated disaster on the other end of the floor, as opponents are averaging 111.1 points per 100 possessions against them.
Young suiting up would obviously make this a more competitive game, but I like Boston here regardless. Even without arguably their 2 best guards, the Celtics should have little issue getting past a Hawks team that hasn’t been able to stop anybody all season long. There is more than enough firepower in the Tatum-Brown-Hayward triumvirate for the Celtics to take care of business in this spot.
The vast majority of bets and money have come in on the Celtics to cover the 6-point spread, and it’s hard not to like it. Boston has gone 29-17-2 against the spread so far this season, which is the second-best mark in the Association behind Oklahoma City. Atlanta (23-27-0) has been one of the worst teams in the league ATS.
Bet the Celtics to cover on the road.