Tuesday is the penultimate day of the NBA regular season and it's not clear how motivated either the Raptors or Celtics will be tonight. Toronto opened as a 1.5-point favorite on NBA odds.
Raptors Either No. 3 or No. 4 in East
Toronto has clinched no worse than the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and thus home-court advantage in the first round. The Raptors are currently fourth at 48-32, a half-game behind Chicago (49-32). If those teams finish tied, the Raptors would be the No. 3 seed because they are a division champion and despite losing the season series with the Bulls. Now, the Raptors might decide they like being the No. 4 seed better because that means you avoid Eastern Conference betting favorite Cleveland in the second round (if form held, the No. 4 seed would face the Hawks in the conference semifinals). However, the No. 4 seed will face a tough Washington club in the first round while the No. 3 would get an easier matchup against Milwaukee. Toronto hosts Charlotte to close the regular season on Wednesday and probably wins that game because the Hornets have been eliminated and have several players out injured.
The Raptors have won three straight games and come off a 107-104 win in Miami on Saturday. After missing several games to heal his back, All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry has played the past two but has struggled from the field, going 7-for-26 overall and 1-for-13 from 3-point range. Starting power forward Amir Johnson has missed four straight games with a badly sprained ankle and he's not likely to play Tuesday. Johnson averages 9.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Tyler Hansbrough would start again if Johnson is out.
If Toronto is looking for some motivation here, it is going for the first 4-0 road trip in franchise history. The Raptors also are trying to win a third straight game in Boston for the first time. Toronto is eight 3-pointers away from matching the franchise record for three-pointers made in a season (713) set last year. The Raptors are 37-42-1 against the NBA betting odds spread and 45-35 'over/under.'
Celtics One of NBA's Surprises
Boston's Brad Stevens will not win the NBA Coach of the Year Award -- Golden State's Steve Kerr probably will -- but Stevens certainly deserves some votes. The Celtics traded away probably their two best players earlier this season in Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green and were essentially giving up on the year and headed back to the lottery. Yet Boston (38-42) clinched a playoff spot on Monday night when the Nets were crushed at home by Chicago. So how much will the Celtics care about this game? They will finish either seventh, where they currently are, or No. 8 in the East. One more wins clinches the No. 7 spot and a date with LeBron James' Cavaliers. Boston closes the season in Milwaukee on Wednesday.
The Celtics, who have a four-game winning streak, have made 11 trades and have had 41 different players on the roster this season. If Chris Babb gets into one of the Celtics' final two regular-season games then Boston will have set a franchise record by utilizing 23 different players on game days this season. That's why it's amazing the job Stevens has done. Since Feb. 3, Boston has won 22 games, tied with the Rockets and Cavaliers for third-most wins in the league in that span. The Celtics had an 'over/under' of just 27 wins for this season at sportsbooks.
Boston is 47-32-1 against the spread this season and 41-38-1 'over/under.'
Toronto leads 2-1. The Raptors won the lone game in Boston way back on Nov. 5, 110-107 behind 35 points from Lowry. Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas missed that game due to injury. Rondo had a triple-double and Green 20 points. The teams met most recently on April 4 in Toronto and the Celtics won 117-116 in overtime, the first victory of their current four-game run. Boston rookie Marcus Smart hit the game-winning layup at the buzzer. Isaiah Thomas, who led Boston with 25 points, drove the lane and the defense collapsed on him so he found Smart with a pass. The Raptors led 116-115 on Lou Williams' 3-pointer with four seconds left. DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 38 points. Johnson and Lowry missed it.
NBA Free Picks: I am leaning Boston only as this game is at home and Toronto might be more likely to rest some guys so they can play in the regular-season home finale Wednesday. Go 'over' the total for this NBA pick. Toronto is just 2-9 ATS in its past 11 following an ATS win. Boston has covered 14 of 17 vs. teams with a winning record. The 'over' is 7-2 in Toronto's past nine on the road.