Tuesday, 5:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
Free NBA Pick: Celtics ATS
Best Line Offered: Bookmaker
Al Horford may not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of talented big men in the NBA, but in Boston, he is pivotal in the pivot and his return was felt immediately in Boston’s 119-103 throttling of the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday night. After a seven-game absence with a knee issue that has lingered throughout the season, Horford looked refreshed and rejuvenated in Boston’s dominating victory. And although the stat sheet read just 10 points, six rebounds and five assists in his 19 minutes of action, he was perfect from the floor and impactful defensively in snapping the Celtics’ three-game slide.
While the Celts have been struggling to maintain consistency, the 76ers have won three of their last four and covered what the NBA odds board was dealing in those three victories. Joel Embiid is proving to be a force of nature in the post and Philadelphia sits just 2½ games behind the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Raptors. Speaking of the Raptors, the Sixers demolished them on Friday night by the score of 126-101, but it must be noted that Toronto came to town short-handed playing without Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka, and Jonas Valanciunas.
As we analyze this Christmas Day matchup we see that Boston has a stranglehold on the series over recent years. The C’s are 11-3 straight up over their last 14 meetings, including the 4-1 postseason series victory from last year, and are 7-1 straight up at the Garden over Philly’s last eight visits to Beantown. Yet, if you had been backing Philadelphia over the last three seasons you would find the ATS mark is much closer. Boston is 8-6 against the spread over the last 14 and 5-3 ATS over their last eight clashes in Boston. However, the Green has Horford back in the fold as well as Marcus Morris (knee), who returned on Sunday after missing games (losses) against the Suns and Bucks.
Although the Celtics are in decent shape with a 19-13 mark, they have had but one prolonged winning streak which is surprising for a team that exceeded expectations in the NBA Conference Finals by taking the Cavaliers to seven games without Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward. Irving remains the straw that stirs the drink while Hayward is still feeling his way along after a year’s absence with a gruesome leg injury. Nevertheless, the Celtics have the Sixers’ number, a team that is 6-9 straight up and 5-10 ATS on the road, and below we see trends that are hard to ignore in favor of the Celtics covering in our NBA picks on Christmas Day:
- Celtics are 7-1 ATS in their last eight games following a straight-up win.
- Celtics are 7-1 ATS in their last eight games following an ATS win.
- Celtics are 7-1 ATS in their last eight games playing on one days’ rest.
- Celtics are 5-1 ATS in their last six games following a straight-up win of more than 10 points.
- Celtics are 5-1 ATS in their last six home games vs. a team with a losing road record.
- Celtics are 4-1 ATS in their last five Tuesday games.
Final score prediction: Celtics 116, 76ers 108