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BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 22: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics looks on from the bench during the fourth quarter of the Celtics home opener against the Toronto Raptors at TD Garden on October 22, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Maddie Meyer / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

The Boston Celtics are small favorites over the Houston Rockets on Sunday. Read ahead for analysis-driven Celtics vs Rockets betting picks.

After dominating the Oklahoma City Thunder by 33 points on Friday, the Rockets enter Sunday’s game at .500. Boston, however, is still looking for its first win. It is coming off an embarrassing blowout loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday.

The Celtics were favored in their loss to Toronto but are now 0-2 against the spread. The Over is 1-1 in their games. Houston, meanwhile, is 1-1 ATS and the Over is 0-2 in its games.

Here are my picks and predictions for Sunday’s NBA matchup between the Rockets and the Celtics (odds via DraftKings Sportsbook).

Celtics vs. Rockets Game Info

Date/Time: Sunday, October 24, 7 p.m. ET
Location: Toyota Center, Houston, Texas

Celtics vs. Rockets Odds Analysis

Houston is back to being an underdog, just as you’d expect. Before being favored to beat the Thunder, the last time the Rockets had been favored was on April 18 of last season against the Orlando Magic. This season, they are 0-1 ATS in the underdog role.

Boston is favored on Sunday by a similar number of points as it was against Toronto. Sunday’s Over/Under, which has dropped a bit since the opener, is the highest of the three Celtics games this season.

Celtics vs. Rockets Picks

Celtics -5.5 (-115)
Under 222 (-105)

Celtics vs. Rockets Predictions

Celtics -5.5 (-115)

This is a good spot to back the Celtics. Annually, they have playoff expectations. A tight overtime loss to the New York Knicks in their season-opener showed they can compete with playoff-caliber teams. After losing to Toronto - by as many points as they did, no less - the Celtics must feel embarrassed. 

Houston is just the team Boston must want to face in order to get its first win of the season. In other words, such a developing, young, and low-quality team like the Rockets makes for a great “get-right” spot for the Celtics. The Rockets are a young team and three of their regular starters have played three or fewer seasons. SG Jalen Green is a rookie, SF Jae’Sean Tate is in his second season, and SG Kevin Porter Jr. is in his third season. 

Young teams are notoriously inconsistent. They may come up with great outputs in a single evening, but they don’t know how to win. Houston has not won back-to-back games since February of last season. Its last five losses after a win were each by double-digits.

Porter Jr. is inadequate as a point guard and a problematic one as well. Besides his lack of playmaking, he needs to repair his turnover tendencies. So far, he has an absurd 11 turnovers through two games.

Houston’s qualitative deficiency at the point guard position is compelling other guys to step up unnaturally. C Christian Wood, for example, is trying hard to get others involved. Wood’s strong three-point shooting helps explain Houston’s success in its last contest; however, he has been unreliable from behind the arc from one game to the next for much of his career. 

The Rockets rely for most of their scoring on the pick-and-roll for the ball-handler and transition offense. However, Boston owned the fifth-best defense against this play type last year, as measured by points per possession allowed, and continues to have the personnel to remain successful in this respect. In particular, the Celtics enjoy having famously strong defender PG Marcus Smart healthy. Among other things, he skillfully utilizes his active hands to be disruptive.

Transition opportunities will be rare for the Rockets because of Celtics playmakers being efficient. Both SF Jayson Tatum and SG Jaylen Brown have proven themselves to be high-volume and efficient 3-point shooters who can also score inside the arc. They represent Boston’s strong offensive advantage in terms of quality and experience playing together.

Under 222 (-105)

Without Wood shooting well, Houston really lacks efficient shooters in addition to lacking reliable playmakers since Wall is absent.

Boston will cover the spread with good defense and its two top playmakers, but the rest of the unit is still adjusting to an offseason overhaul that saw some scoring quality, such as SG Evan Fournier, leave via free agency.

Thus, this will be a rather ho-hum Boston cover that stays Under the projected total.

Picks made 10/24/2021 at 6 a.m. ET.