NBA bettors get a good one on Thursday night, as the league’s #1 offense battles the #1 defense. Kyrie Irving and company have ripped off a ridiculous 13 wins in a row following an 0-2 start and they’ll be looking for victory number 14 when they host the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
It’s an epic battle on paper, perhaps pitting the league’s two best teams against each other. Some aren’t ready to crown the Celtics as the top team in the Eastern Conference, but for the moment, they certainly look the part.
Whether or not we’re about to get a preview of this year’s NBA Finals, however, we need to make a pick.
This is without a doubt the game to target tonight, on what is a weak two-game slate for betting purposes. The other game should be the easiest of calls, as the Houston Rockets battle the Phoenix Suns. If you don’t want to put much thought into your pick tonight, just ride the Rockets, straight up.
We’re looking for a little more value with our NBA picks, though. With that, let’s dive into tonight’s huge showdown and see which bet needs to be taken.
Golden State Warriors (-7.5) @ Boston Celtics (+7.5) Total: 216
I want to point out that there are three viable bets within this contest. I don’t really want Golden State straight up (-280 at BetOnline), as we’re not getting enough value there. The Dubs look unstoppable these days, but they’re still on the road against the hottest team in the league (as well as the NBA’s top defense). There’s not enough safety in that bet and there is also zero upside.
Picking the Warriors to cover isn’t a reach and if you think they’re going to win, it’s a viable play at -110. After all, Golden State has been absolutely thrashing everyone lately. The Dubs have an impressive winning streak of their own going (7 in a row) and during that stretch they’ve won by 10+ points in every single game.
Golden State did show a little weakness in their last game, as they only beat the Magic by 10 at home with Stephen Curry sidelined. Curry is fully expected to return to action tonight, however, suggesting the Warriors will be at full strength.
A slow start still hampers the Dubs against the spread. They’re just 6-8 ATS on the year and boast that same record as the favorite. When favored on the road, the Warriors are a solid 4-2.
Boston, on the other hand, leads the league with a staggering 12-2-1 record against the spread. Going 13-2 will do that, but Boston has also been an impressive 5-0 ATS as an underdog, 5-1-1 ATS at TD Garden and they beat the spread in their lone home contest where they weren’t favored.
We’re not being given much wiggle room here, as both teams are impressive straight up and against the spread. Boston has to have a mild edge with this game being on their home court, of course.
The Celtics would normally get another bump up due to their elite defense, but there are some important factors to consider here. First, Boston’s schedule hasn’t been that tough. Their best wins this year came against the Spurs, Thunder, Raptors and an improved Magic squad.
San Antonio was down both Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker, the Thunder have struggled with their chemistry with so many new faces in town, Orlando still isn’t an elite team and the Toronto win came by one point. Suffice to say, record and streak aside, it’s possible Boston is being inflated a bit in the betting world.
Golden State, meanwhile, has wins over the Wizards, Raptors, Spurs, Nuggets and Timberwolves – most of which have come fairly easily.
After a rough start defensively, the Dubs have quickly ascended the ranks on that end of the court. Already the top offense to almost historic proportions, Golden State comes into Thursday’s matchup with the league’s 6th best defense. Golden State is also 5th in pace and 7th in total rebounding.
None of this is necessarily ideal for Boston, who despite their best efforts, are still down a key star in Gordon Hayward and remain a young team with a lot to learn. They have the best defense in the league by the numbers and they’re at home, but they’ve yet to face these Golden State Warriors.
They have had some success in the past in this series, however. The two sides split the four meetings (2-2) over the last two years, while one of those games was an epic 124-119 double overtime marathon. Boston didn’t have Irving leading the charge then and wasn’t quite as good defensively. Naturally, that provides optimism for this bet.
You don’t need me to tell you the Warriors are still the best team in the NBA and that they could easily win this game. However, from a betting perspective, the Celtics at +7.5 is the logical angle to take. Even if Boston doesn’t win, this game projects to be close. Two of Golden State’s three losses on the year have come against defensive-minded teams that like to grind the game down to a dust (Pistons and Grizzlies), too.
Boston has a lot to prove here. Not only would they love to get a 14th straight win and get another victory in front of their home crowd (6-1 at home this year), but this game gives them a chance to prove they really are the best the Eastern Conference has to offer. If the Celtics in their current form can go to the wire with the Dubs (or even win), everyone will know they just might have what it takes to make a run to the NBA Finals.
Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr recently suggested the Celtics could be his team’s main competition down the road, and this tight line suggests Vegas agrees to an extent. Ultimately, Boston matches up extremely well with the Warriors. They don’t have the star power Golden State does, but they have a collection of versatile defenders to throw at Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green.
Boston has the ability to stretch the floor, attack the rim and play defense. They’ll undoubtedly be up to face the defending champs and prove they belong among the league’s elite. We can get them at +7.5 on their home floor. I’ll take the points all day.