After a surprise three-game winning streak SU and ATS, the Toronto Raptors got back on the losing track Friday night. They’re 3-point home faves on Saturday’s NBA odds board against the Boston Celtics.
Jason’s record as of Apr. 2: 64-65-5 ATS, 7-11 Totals, plus-1.15 units ML
It’s a good thing for the Toronto Raptors that they play in the Atlantic. They’ve already clinched the division title, which means they don’t have to worry too much about the rest of the regular season. But they’re still playing like hot garbage these days. Yes, there were those three straight wins SU and ATS against overmatched and/or hobbled opponents, but Friday night saw the Raptors jump right back on the suck train in a 114-109 loss to the Brooklyn Nets (–2 at home). Toronto shot 8-of-26 from long range and committed 14 turnovers. Not good.
Things could get worse from here. Amir Johnson hurt his right ankle in the third quarter and didn’t return, allowing the Nets to come from behind and get a much-needed win in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt. Will Johnson be able to play Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET) against the Boston Celtics? It’ll be that much harder for Toronto to cover the NBA odds as 3-point home favorites if he doesn’t.
Don’t Call Him Psycho
When the Raptors (45-31 SU, 35-40-1 ATS) are at full capacity and playing focused basketball, they’re a lot fun to watch. This is not one of those times. Kyle Lowry (19.6 PER, plus-3.8 BPM) has missed seven of the last eight games and isn’t expected back until Wednesday at the earliest. In his place, Greivis Vasquez (12.8 PER, minus-1.2 BPM) has had the occasional solid game, but more often than not, you get something like Friday’s 3-for-10 performance against Brooklyn.
Now Johnson (15.2 PER, plus-1.8 BPM) could be out for Saturday’s game, too. He was already pretty beaten up at this stage of the season, so Toronto might want to give Johnson a break before the playoffs anyway. He’s one of the few quality defenders (plus-1.0 DBPM) on the roster; if he doesn’t suit up against the Celtics, Tyler Hansbrough (12.7 PER, minus-1.0 BPM) will likely pick up his minutes, with Chuck Hayes (9.5 PER, minus-1.0 BPM) possibly making a rare appearance off the bench.
This should be music to the ears of the Celtics (34-42 SU, 43-32-1 ATS). Unlike the Raptors, they’re in a dogfight for the playoffs, sitting a half-game out as we go to press. And while Toronto could be missing its starting power forward, Boston has unleashed Jared Sullinger (18.4 PER, plus-2.2 BPM) after a long injury layoff. Sullinger played just three minutes in Friday’s 110-101 loss to the resurgent Milwaukee Bucks (+5 away), but the fact he can play at all is a bonus – he was supposed to miss the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his left foot.
The Celtics have plenty more beef where that came from. Tyler Zeller (18.8 PER, plus-0.7 BPM) has gotten better and better with each passing game; hard to believe Boston got Zeller and a first-round pick out of the Cleveland Cavaliers for virtually nothing last year. Toronto native Kelly Olynyk (15.7 PER, plus-1.8 BPM) has also made strides in his sophomore season. Don’t forget about Brandon Bass (16.4 PER, minus-0.6 BPM), either. If Sullinger can get a few minutes in against the Raptors, even better.
As for our friend Isaiah Thomas (20.3 PER, plus-1.3 BPM), he’s back in fine form, dropping 23 points and six assists on the Bucks in 26 minutes off the bench to lead the Celtics. Thomas should have a field day Saturday against non-defenders like Vasquez (minus-2.3 DBPM) and Louis Williams (19.6 PER, minus-3.1 DBPM). It’s go time for the Celtics: They need this win a lot more than the Raptors do, and their mental fortitude under head coach Brad Stevens is a step above Toronto’s under Dwayne Casey, so take them with your NBA picks.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Celtics +3 at BetOnline