Lock 'Under' 209 In Clippers & Celtics Game As Our Free NBA Pick

Sterling Xie

Wednesday, February 10, 2016 3:06 PM GMT

Bettors examining this spotlight game on the penultimate day before the All-Star break should strongly consider taking the under as the sharp NBA pick for tonight's game.

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NBA Pick: Under 209
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

 

Clippers vs. Celtics
Wednesday night is essentially the final opportunity for bettors to find action on NBA games before the league's All-Star break hiatus. Yes, there are two games on Thursday, and there will be plenty of props for the skills challenges in Toronto. However, on a night with a full slate, the majority of the action will likely flow into the matchup between the Los Angeles Clippers and Boston Celtics, the only game pitting two teams over .500 against each other.

 

Betting Preview
On the surface, the over-under line for this game does not look like a particularly obvious target. Both are top-10 offenses by offensive rating (points per 100 possessions), but each have relatively neutral over-under records for the season. Los Angeles has long adjusted to playing without All-Star power forward Blake Griffin, and with Boston healthy, there aren't any injuries which would clearly sway bettors one way or another.

However, both the Celtics and Clippers have been trending towards lower-scoring games, suggesting we should lean towards taking the under on this relatively neutral line. Boston has hit the under on six of its past nine games, while Los Angeles has done so on eight of its past 10. In fact, the Clippers have hit the under on each of their past six road contests, not reaching the over since a 115-102 loss at Cleveland on Jan. 21.

Indeed, besides possessing top-10 offenses, both Boston and Los Angeles are top 10 by defensive efficiency as well. The Celtics rank second in the category, trailing only the outlier San Antonio Spurs defense. The Clippers are ninth for the season, but have improved significantly since Griffin's injury. In games since Dec. 26, the first game Griffin missed, Los Angeles has stifled opponents to 99.7 points per 100 possessions, the fourth-best mark in the league over that span. 

One factor bettors should be wary of is the pace of the game. Boston is not particularly noteworthy for dominating any single slice of the court on offense, but has nonetheless produced offensively because of its pace. The Celtics are the third-fastest offense in the league, while Los Angeles is a more moderate 13th in pace. If Boston dictates the pace of this game, the over becomes significantly more likely.

However, much of that speedy pace depends on the Celtics' ability to force turnovers. Boston leads the league with 16.9 turnovers forced per game, which allows them to generate a transition possession 15.8 percent of the time. Only five teams run more than the Celtics in this regard, so Boston is able to compensate for its shaky three-point shooting (particularly from its guards and wings) and lack of post scorers with the ability to generate easy baskets and free throw attempts in transition.

Of course, as you might expect from a Chris Paul-manned offense, the Clippers are better at taking care of the ball than most teams. Los Angeles only turns the ball over 12.9 times per game, the second-best rate in the league behind Dallas. Paul's usage rate without Griffin in the lineup has risen above 30 percent, meaning that a significant number of Clippers' possessions are ending in the hands of an elite ballhandler.  Even with Paul likely to see full-time pressure from the guard duo of Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart, it is unlikely the Celtics will be able to generate as many easy transition points as they typically do.

 

Final Analysis
Given that Boston also just played a draining road game on Tuesday night in Milwaukee, a 112-111 loss, the Celtics may not have their usual legs. The Clippers are at the tail end of their four-game east coast road trip, and though they did get a day off ahead of this contest, a cross-country business trip is never easy on any team. With both teams playing their final games before the All-Star break, it's possible we could see two fatigued teams trying to cross the finish line for their much-needed respite. That may not make for especially aesthetically pleasing basketball, but it does give bettors an opportunity to make a profit. Add Under as the sharp NBA pick.