The Celtics moved to 6-0 without injured point guard Rajon Rondo with their win over the Lakers Thursday night, so now the inevitable, “are they better without Rondo” talk starts. That’s an easy question to answer. No. In the short-term, with a highly motivated Garnett and Pierce and a relatively soft schedule (their last five wins have come over teams with under a combined 40% winning percentage), they have looked brilliant. In the long run, it’s been a long time since a team without an elite point guard (or Kobe or Lebron) went to the Conference Finals.
I feel pretty confident the Celtics aren’t going BACK to the Eastern Conference Finals without Rondo this season – therefore NOT better than last year (or better without Rondo). Just my opinion, but the talk seems absurd.
Let’s get to some action on the court tonight, with an interesting game from a wagering standpoint, even if it isn’t the most watchable game otherwise…
Utah Jazz at Sacramento Kings -1 (Total: 197)
Utah is one of the best home teams in the NBA. Yet they are not even close to one of the best teams in the NBA. So using the transitive property (see, my high school teachers were right, I would end up using that math someday…), they are one of the poorest teams in the NBA away from home. Look, whenever Sacramento opens as a favorite in any game it is going to raise some eyes, but objectively, they should be favored by more than just a slim point tonight.
Utah has lost nine of their last thirteen road games, and their wins are over Orlando, Detroit, Charlotte, etc. They haven’t beaten a good team on the road all year. Not that Sacramento is a good team, but they have been respectable at home, playing .500 ball this season (12-12).
The biggest advantage is scheduling. Sacramento is home after a brutal two-plus week road trip, but the league did them a solid and gave them a full five days to rest and recover. They have no notable injuries and DeMarcus Cousins isn’t even suspended! Utah, on the other hand, took a rare home loss last night in a physical game to the Bulls, now gets on a plane and plays the backside of a back-to-back on the road. It is one of the more reliable bets in the NBA, even when then teams and matchups on the surface appear to say otherwise.
I’m taking the Kings at home tonight laying just a point in a virtual pick ‘em.
Free Pick: Sacramento Kings -1