Can The Boston Celtics Return To Contender Status?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019 6:31 PM UTC

Wednesday, Mar. 13, 2019 6:31 PM UTC

It has not been pretty for the Boston Celtics since the All-Star Break. While they have shown flashes of their upside like in their win against the Warriors, they can also be downright awful on offense at times. Can they get back to contending with the other top tier teams in the East?

NBA Championship Odds (+1400)

Eastern Conference Odds (+350)

Atlantic Division Odds (+2500)

*Courtesy of BetOnline

Sitting below .500 since the All-Star Break has not been kind to the Celtics in the standings. They are still in the horrific 5th spot in the Eastern Conference standings and they are more than a half dozen games back of the Raptors in the division lead.

What Went Wrong?

For starters, the Celtics are going through a somewhat tough stretch in their schedule. They had to come off the long layoff to play the Bucks, Raptors and Blazers in three of their first four games back. They lost all three and added a loss to the Rockets at home soon thereafter. Everyone was preaching doom and gloom at that point before they got a huge win against the Warriors to start a three-game winning streak.

One of the main issues for Boston has been their offense has taken a nap since the break. They’ve started to show signs of life since the Warriors win, but they own a 22nd ranked offensive rating of 107.1 since the break. That’s far from the 111.9 offensive rating they were sporting going into the All-Star Break.

Stretch Run Outlook

Boston is currently enjoying a nice homestand after a four-game West Coast swing, but they are back on the road a lot to close the season. Seven of their final 11 games are on the road and nine of their final 14 are against playoff teams.

This is a make-or-break type of run. If they come out of it above .500, they are more than likely going to move up to the four seed or maybe even the three seed in the East. The 3rd seed is the biggest prize left up for grabs in the standings.

The Bucks have a slim but solid lead at the top of the standings, while Toronto is starting to carve a lot of room for themselves in the 2nd seed. However, the Sixers, Pacers, and Celtics are all very close in those next three spots and the 76ers have a much easier stretch run of the season compared to Boston or Indiana.

Indiana is in a tough stretch of their own though and they are of course without their star player Victor Oladipo. Indiana is playing a stretch right now where 10 of 11 are against playoff teams. This includes eight games in a row against playoff teams and five of those eight are on the road against Western Conference playoff teams. Boston and Indiana also have two more meetings before the end of the year.

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3 or 4 is definitely in reach. Celtics can't afford any more bad losses though. Indiana has a brutal schedule, including two left vs Boston. Philly and Boston also play each other one more time too.

— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) March 8, 2019
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Time To Panic Or Time To Bet?

I’m still buying stock in the Celtics. While their odds to win the East aren’t great, fade them at your own risk. They are one of the few teams in the league who are a top 10 offense and defense when they are playing at their best.

Boston’s best player has more playoff experience than almost any player at the top of the East except for Kawhi Leonard. Irving has played in 52 playoff games while Leonard has played in 87.

While this may ultimately not be enough for Boston to overcome to win the East, it is certainly going to make them undervalued in a potential matchup in the first and second round. If they can grab the fourth seed and play the Pacers in the first round, they could sweep that series or win it in five games.

They would likely follow that with playing the Bucks and they are currently 2-1 ATS against them this season. If this team that was in the Eastern Conference Finals last year without Gordon Hayward or Irving can find their form over the next three weeks, they are likely going to be a great bet for their first five to eight playoff games.

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