The Boston Celtics have been shredding the NBA odds for nearly two months now. The Indiana Pacers are on fire, too. Only one of these teams can cash in when they meet Saturday.
Jason’s record as of Mar. 11: 48-45-4 ATS, 4-8 Totals
And the hits just keep on comin'. The Boston Celtics were at it again Friday night, beating the Orlando Magic 95-88 to cash in as 5-point home faves on the NBA odds board. Make it 15-11 SU and 19-6-1 ATS for the Celtics since Jan. 19. That's good enough to keep Boston within one game of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference as we go to press. But who cares – we're rolling in Kelly green right now. Money money money.
We've been making a mint on the Indiana Pacers, too, as you may have noticed. They're 13-2 SU and 11-4 ATS since Feb. 4. Which puts us in a bit of a quandary for Saturday night's matchup (7:00 p.m. ET, NBA-TV) at the Fieldhouse. Like the movie says, only one can win. Indiana's favored by 8.5 points on the early basketball odds, which seems a bit steep. Decisions, decisions.
Let's go ahead and see right off the bat if there are any good betting angles for the total, because fading either of these two teams right now isn't advisable. The UNDER is 7-2 for the Pacers in their last nine games. Seems reasonable; we know Indiana to be a sound defensive basketball team when healthy and hale. Not having Paul George (plus-1.8 DBPM last year) around doesn't help, but the Pacers are still second in the league in Defensive Rating (91.6) over the past 10 games. Nice.
Conveniently enough, the UNDER is 6-2 in Boston's last eight games, as well. But we're not sure how much weight this trend carries. The Celtics are only No. 12 in Defensive Rating (100.5) over the past 10 games, and No. 15 in Offensive Rating (101.9). Those numbers don't point in any particular direction. In fact, the OVER was on a healthy 8-2 run before Boston's aforementioned UNDER streak. Hmmm.
Did somebody say “healthy”? That might be our ticket out of this mess. Isaiah Thomas (23.3 PER), who's played so well – on offense, at least – since coming to the Celtics (28-36 SU, 37-26-1 ATS) at the trade deadline, is out until Monday with a sore back and elbow. Well, that changes things. Without Thomas in the lineup, Boston needed 30 points from Evan Turner (11.4 PER) to come from behind and beat Orlando on Friday. That's not going to happen very often.
This also makes us less inclined to put the UNDER in our NBA picks. Turner doesn't put big point s on the board very often; he's got a minus-2.9 OBPM to go with his plus-0.8 DBPM. Compare and contrast with Thomas (plus-6.8 OBPM, minus-3.6 DBPM). Let's not forget that taking Thomas out of the lineup means more minutes for defensive specialist Phil Pressey (minus-1.7 OBPM, minus-0.5 DBPM).
Aside from George, who may or may not be back this season depending on whom you read, the Pacers (30-34 SU, 35-26-3 ATS) don't have any injury problems at the moment – unless you include Roy Hibbert (15.1 PER) and his infected elbow. He missed Thursday's 109-103 overtime win over the Milwaukee Bucks (+7 away), and some sources have him listed as questionable for Saturday, although others don't have him listed.
We can live with that. Given Thomas' absence for Boston, the fact that the C's are playing on zero days of rest, and the way causal bettors don't pay attention to these things, we'll give Indiana a conditional endorsement in this matchup.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Pacers (if Hibbert plays) at The Greek