We notched a winner last night as the Toronto Raptors struggles continued. They emerged with a victory, but it required overtime to defeat the Pelicans – a less than impressive performance from the Champions of the North. As a matter of fact, the entire East seems to be falling apart a little bit. The Cavaliers are in disarray, the Raptors looks weak, Atlanta is hot and cold – ditto for Charlotte, and Indiana, New York and Chicago have never quite put the new pieces together properly.
Right now, the only two good teams playing legitimately GOOD basketball in the East are the Celtics and Wizards and would you give either a game against the Warriors in a series?
Cleveland will get it together I’d imagine, and it is still nearly impossible to see anyone OTHER than LeBron and the Cavs in the Finals, but they certainly aren’t inspiring any confidence (though they are inspiring journalists and talking heads thanks to LeBron’s nuclear detonation of TNT’s Chuckster!)
Let’s keep the winning going with another pick tonight from a jam-packed slate of action with 12 games to choose from (also a really good and wide-open DFS night with so many games – be sure to check out Alex’s DFS column later today if you are a fantasy player).
Today’s Free Pick:
Toronto Raptors at Boston Celtics -5.5
Speaking of the slumping Raps, it is nearly impossible NOT to fade them on the road on the backend of a back-to-back against the Celtics. The records are nearly equal, but the momentum is clearly opposite. Add in the rest/travel factor, and Boston should be a six or seven point favorite tonight. Making things even MORE crazy, DeMarr DeRozan is likely not playing, meaning Boston should be an eight point favorite tonight.
I don’t want to get out of breath with how surprising this line is to me, but I would caution you to keep an eye on it as it could widen as news of DeRozan’s injury factors into the public play. Games like this do occasionally make me nervous – the ones that are SO OBVIOUS you pause and say, “wait, does Vegas know something I don’t?” I felt that way last night with the college play on Maryland, “why are they an underdog? Is there a crazy injury I don’t know about? Has the whole team contracted Malaria? What is going on??”
But everyone from Boston is listed as green-light go, so there is little pause in me green lighting a Celtics wager.
Isaiah Thomas has been amazing, doing things offensively that not even Pierce or Bird did in terms of 20+ point games night after night. DeRozan’s injury puts even MORE of a burden on Kyle Lowry who will have to not only carry the offense, but also try to find some way to corral Thomas.
If you care about that sort of thing, since Tyron Lue was the All Star coach last year, the second-place Eastern team will coach the squad, so tonight’s game will go a long way towards determining if Brad Stevens or Dwayne Casey will get the nod. I’d like to think that gives the players some extra incentive, but perhaps I am being naïve. Either way, this is a big game for playoff positioning so expect a max effort.
The advantages for Boston are too great to ignore tonight. They are 4-1 SU in their last five games and 10-2 overall. Toronto is 2-6 ATS in their last eight games and 3-7 ATS in their last ten road games. Boston is more rested, more healthy and more, um, at home.