The New Orleans Pelicans are playing the worst defense in the NBA and the Boston Celtics are playing at a fast pace, but those factors may be overcompensated for with this big total.
There could be an overly inflated total Monday night in an interconference NBA matchup when the Boston Celtics (11-9, 11-9 ATS) of the Eastern Conference close out a five-game road trip as they pay a visit to the New Orleans Pelicans (5-15, 7-13 ATS) of the Western Conference at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, LA at 8:05 ET in a game televised nationally on NBA TV.
The posted total at Pinnacle Sports is 213½ for this contest with the current odds on the ‘under’ set at -110.
Beat Elite Teams but Struggle with Rest?
The Pelicans may be 5-15, but they have actually gotten up for the better teams in the league, beating the likes of the San Antonio Spurs and the Cleveland Cavaliers both here at the Smoothie King Center. With no disrespect meant toward the Celtics, they are not at the same level as those two clubs, so will New Orleans once again play down to the level of the competition as it has done many times while going 3-15 vs. the rest of the NBA?
The Celtics meanwhile were expected to be the biggest threat to the quest of the Toronto Raptors to three-peat as Atlantic Division Champions, and Boston is indeed right there at 11-9, just one-half game behind the 12-9 Raptors. Boston was the winning NBA pick in back-to-back road games on this trip at Miami and Sacramento before a furious rally in a 34-point fourth quarter fell just short in a 108-105 loss to the Spurs on Saturday.
Return to Playoffs May be Difficult
You may recall that all five teams from the Southwest Division made the NBA Playoffs last season including the last place Pelicans, whose 45-37 record was still good enough to snare the eighth seed. However, the slow start by New Orleans this year has put a return to the playoffs in grave peril considering the depth of the West, which from top to bottom is still much stronger than the Eastern Conference from which the Celtics hail.
And it is not too difficult to see why the Pelicans are struggling so much this season as they are dead last in the NBA in points allowed at a hideous 109.0 per game, as well as 27th in field goal percentage allowed at 46.2 percent and 29th in three-point defense at 39.1 percent. Injuries have also played a huge factor, but at least New Orleans is getting healthier in that regard with the recent returns of Omer Asik, Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday.
So will a more complete roster result in the Pelicans playing better defense going forward? Well, it certainly cannot hurt and New Orleans does have one of the premier defenders in the league in Anthony Davis, who is averaging 2.6 blocked shots and 1.4 steals per game.
Fast Pace but Good Defense by Celtics
Another reason why the ‘under’ could have value here is that this bloated posted total is one that usually requires both offenses to pull their respective weights, but we actually feel that the underrated Boston defense can help keep the scoring down. The raw stats already have the Celtics at a very good seventh in the NBA in points against at 98.0 per game, but the truth of the matter is that they have really been even better than that!
You see, Boston is playing an up-tempo style under Coach Brad Stevens this season that has it fifth in the NBA in pace rating grading out at 101.2 possessions per game. Thus, allowing anything less than 100 points per game is outstanding and the Celtics are in fact third in the NBA in defensive efficiency, trailing only the Spurs and the Miami Heat, a couple of teams whose great defense is more obvious.
So even with the fast tempo and the Celtics also ranking seventh in the league in scoring offensively with 102.8 points per game, the combined total score of all Boston games of 200.8 points this season is still nearly 13 points less than this posted total.
An ‘under’ Series
Finally, this has primarily been an ‘under’ head-to-head series as it has gone 9-4 in the last 13 meetings. The ‘under’ is also 21-9-1 in the Pelicans’ last 31 games after allowing 100 points or more in their previous game.
While we do not anticipate this contest to be a half-court game by any means, we do feel that this total is inflated and look for an underrated Boston defense to key an ‘under’ visiting New Orleans on Monday.
NBA Pick: Celtics, Pelicans ‘under’ 213½ (-110)