Free NBA Picks: Buy Bargain-Bin Celtics Over Spurs

Sunday, March 24, 2019 2:32 AM UTC

Sunday, Mar. 24, 2019 2:32 AM UTC

The Boston Celtics couldn’t beat the NBA odds Saturday night. But they look like the right pick Sunday when they host the San Antonio Spurs.

Jason’s 2018-19 NBA picks record through Mar. 23:
22-20-1 ATS, 0-4 ML (minus-9.35 units), 31-14 Totals

San Antonio (42-31 SU, 40-31-2 ATS) at Boston (43-30 SU, 35-37-1 ATS)

Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBA-TV
Free NBA Pick: Celtics ATS
Best Line Offered: Pinnacle

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Something strange is going on here. The Boston Celtics are begging to be faded for Sunday’s home game against the San Antonio Spurs; the Celtics just lost 124-117 to the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday – going ‘over’ 222.5 points in the process, thank you kindly – while the Spurs sat idle. Boston have a 2-4 SU and 1-5 ATS record during their past six games. San Antonio are 9-2 SU and 8-2-1 ATS since the end of February. We’d have to be stupid to put the Celtics in our NBA picks, right?

Hold our beer. Boston opened at –2 on the NBA odds board, and according to the fine folks at FiveThirtyEight, that’s not nearly enough points. They’ve got Boston projected at –7.5. What the what?! Either the computers have gone mad, or the market has already priced in the Spurs – make that overpriced. Let’s take a closer look at this gap before we step in it.

After the Fall

As much as the C’s have struggled this year, they also have a point differential of plus-4.8. And while the Spurs have outperformed expectations thus far, they only have a point differential of plus-1.4. That’s a difference of... let’s see, carry the one... 3.4 points. We’d have to give Boston the very old-school four points for home-court advantage to get close to –7.5, but even if we go with a sleek, modern 2.6 points, that still puts them at –6.

Not that you should handicap games this way, but it’s close enough for government work. It’s possible the market freaked out when Al Horford (plus-4.7 BPM) missed Saturday’s game with a sore knee, and Jayson Tatum (minus-0.6 BPM) took a tumble in the final minute. But Horford’s absence probably had more to do with load management than anything else, and Tatum seems to be fine after getting checked out post-game.

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Donatas Motiejunas signed with San Antonio Spurs, according to @tlangvinis. More NBA teams were interested. Also, D-Mo has an offer from Shandong to stay in CBA for the next season. Motiejunas was averaging 27.3 ppg & 14 rpg past season. He was paid ~$3M per year.

— Donatas Urbonas (@Urbodo) 23 de março de 2019
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Don’t Donatas Me

Meanwhile, the Spurs may have already peaked in value. They’ve lost back-to-back games at 0-1-1 ATS since rattling off nine straight victories – including a pair of upsets over the Golden State Warriors (–2.5) and the Milwaukee Bucks (–2). Both those games were at home, mind you, as were four other wins during that streak. The road has been less kind to the Spurs this year at 16-18-2 ATS.

The Spurs are relatively healthy, though, and they’re adding PF Donatas Motiejunas for their playoff drive. However, Motiejunas probably won’t be cleared in time to play Sunday, and even if it happens, does he move the needle that much? Let’s put some faith in those advanced stats and drop a couple of units on the Celtics. Huh huh huh... “units.”

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