Coming off a crushing defeat on a Luka Doncic buzzer-beater, the Boston Celtics will try to regroup less than 24 hours after the loss in Atlanta. Back-to-backs have been kind to Boston under Brad Stevens, but Trae Young and the Hawks offense haven’t exactly been called “kind” to their opponents. With tired legs on one side of the ball, and injuries on the other, this should be a tight matchup to call. We’ll tell you where to look at SBR’s top-rated sportsbooks.
Boston Celtics vs. Atlanta Hawks
Wednesday, February 24, 2021 – 07:30 PM EST at Philips Arena
A Familiar Spot
The Boston Celtics are no stranger to competing on the second night of back-to-backs. Since coach Brad Stevens took over in 2013, the Celtics have gone 67-48-2 against the spread on no rest, good for a cover rate of 58.3%. At that number, it’s been the most profitable betting spot on Boston. In fact, only one team — Miami (59-42-6) has covered more in the spot. Another profitable spot? The Celtics on the road, where they’re 174-140-6 ATS, covering in 55.4% of their road games. The bottom line is that if you point to the trends under Stevens, who’s been a favorite of the betting community for his team’s ability to cover, the Celtics are in yet another profitable spot.
The Celtics have dealt with a lot of injuries this year, but all things considered, they’re in a very good spot. They still don’t have Marcus Smart, who should be sidelined until around the end of the month with a calf issue, but other than that they’ve rolled with the punches. Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and some of the bigs have been in and out of the lineup. Aside from Smart, they should be fully-staffed on Wednesday.
That’ll be a key against the Hawks, who are just outside the top 10 in paint scoring and susceptible there with 48.6 points allowed per game, which ranks 22nd in the NBA. Boston’s bigs can gain a huge advantage for the team if they can simply slow the roll of Atlanta’s slashers and execute the easy task of scoring down low.
The Celtics, as a team, has lost seven of 10 games, and could desperately use this win. What’s done them in has been their inability to close. Boston ranks 26th in the NBA — fourth-to-last — with a -2.6 point differential in the second half of games, and that’s sunk to a league-worst -11 over the past three contests. It’s a far cry from their sixth-ranked +3.6 point differential in the first half. A fast start should be expected, but the key to a victory will be a big second half.
Third Time’s a Charm?
The Hawks sit in 11th in the East, the losers of nine games out of their last 12. One of their only wins? Against these Celtics, back on Feb. 17. One of their losses? Against these Celtics, on Feb. 19. The win was a comfortable one, by eight points, while the loss was dismal, a 12-point beatdown. Let’s take a look at both.
Both games, strangely enough, saw the Hawks convert on an equal percentage (33.3%) of three-pointers. What wound up making the difference in the winning effort was the ability to control things down low. Atlanta was able to score 60 points in the paint in the win, against just 52 in the loss, and allowed a whopping 66 points in the paint to the Celtics in the loss — 20 more than in its winning effort. Strangely enough, the rebounding effort was actually stronger in the loss.
So, it’s going to be up to Atlanta’s wings and bigs to make the difference on Wednesday. The Hawks have been dealing with injuries to John Collins, De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish of late, and it’s possible all three will miss this contest. That would significantly hamper Atlanta’s ability to control the narrative of this game, and things could get away from them.
Given the Hawks’ injuries and general ineptitude in the paint, for my NBA picks I give Boston the clear edge in this matchup. Taking into account Boston’s stellar marks against the spread on back-to-backs, and on the road, I have no issues laying points here.
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.