The NBA is back, baby! Last I checked in with some NBA picks, I was putting the finishing touches on a mediocre 15-15-1 run. I started hot and then hit some snags during the playoffs, but I’m back to hopefully get off to a quick start and hand out winning picks on a regular basis.
Opening night yields just a two-game schedule, but I’ll be looking at the Eastern Conference for you all year, which puts me on a fun showdown at the TD Garden between the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers.
These two teams last met in the playoffs, where Ben Simmons hit a bit of a wall and Philly flamed out in a 4-1 series loss. A few of those games were extremely tight, but Simmons wasn’t always at his best and Boston pulled away without the help of Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward.
Both will be on hand for Boston’s home opener, which understandably plays to their advantage. Hayward will be on a 25-30 minutes cap and Kyrie Irving has been dealing with a sore back, but these aren’t expected to be issues for Tuesday night.
Boston opens as the obvious favorite (they also boast the second best NBA Finals odds). Let’s see if you should bet their way, consider the Sixers or attack tonight’s Total:
Philadelphia 76ers (+4.5, -110) @ Boston Celtics (-4.5, -110) Total: 209 (-110)
There is some history between these two teams, but none of it has ended all that well for the Sixers. Granted, Philly was one of the worst teams in the league for quite some time prior to last year, but losing 19 out of the last 22 meetings still has to hurt.
It’s safe to say the Celtics may have a mental edge here, while they’ve also won by at least five points in five of the last nine showdowns. I’m really only looking at those matchups for insight, seeing as they’re the only recent games where the teams as currently constructed (or close to it) have faced off.
I don’t even think we can fully trust any of that data, as the Celtics inherit another viable defender with a healthy Gordon Hayward on the court and Kyrie Irving also stabilizes this offense. Boston was the #1 defense in the NBA in terms of efficiency last year and they also tended to slow things down (23rd in pace) offensively.
That directly contradicts the Sixers, who want to run the floor (4th in pace). The 76ers are equally capable on the defensive end, but we haven’t exactly seen that translate in this specific series. In the last nine meetings, the Celtics have scored at least 100 points seven times.
From a matchup perspective, the Celtics have the edge here. Al Horford and Aron Baynes give them some bodies to hurl at Joel Embiid, while Hayward, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart give them a slew of quality defenders that can check Ben Simmons and close out on Philly’s outside shooters.
On top of that, the Sixers lost two key shooters this summer when Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova fled for opportunities elsewhere. They patched up their roster, but one of their additions (Wilson Chandler) will not suit up for this contest and they’ll also temporarily lose some shooting when they start Markelle Fultz over J.J. Redick.
The plan is to use Redick as a starter in the second half and he’ll obviously still provide a nice bench spark in the first half, but I question this call. Fultz still has to prove he can be trusted as a perimeter threat, while he seems to be a guy that needs the ball in his hands to make a reliable impact. That’s potentially a problem, as it could inhibit Ben Simmons (a clear non-shooter) and his overall impact on the offense.
I don’t think anyone knows what this is going to look like yet, but a road date against a deep and talented Celtics team feels like a pretty bad time to experiment with a brand new rotation.
There’s also the case of ATS data. I never want to rely too strongly on against the spread stats, but I already see a lot of reasoning to get behind the Celtics and very little in the against the spread information keeps me from marching to that beat.
Most importantly, the Celtics were very good against the spread as a whole last year (tops in the NBA at 62-37-2). They also went 21-18-2 ATS as the home favorite, 32-18-2 ATS at home in general and 38-26-2 ATS when favored. I think the first stat is still pretty important, but overall, the Celtics did a solid job against the spread last year and appear to be even better going into the new year.
Philly was really at their best at home. They were a pedestrian 24-22 on the road last year and that number looked just as middling (23-22-1 ATS as road team) against the spread and didn’t improve (11-10-2) when they were the road dog, either.
I’d be lying if I suggested the Sixers aren’t capable of beating this spread or getting a big road win to send an early message, but everything points to the Celtics for me. Boston is tough to beat at home, they’ve been great against the spread, they’ve owned this series and they literally got better by default. Philly is going through more of a transition and is tougher to trust on the road in a hostile environment.
Sportsbetting.ag offers a solid price if you like Boston like I do. You can eat the cash if you just want them straight up (-190), but their -4.5 point spread looks doable. I do expect a pretty tight game still, but the Celtics should find a way to pull away late and cover.