NBA Picks Celtics vs. Pacers -12

Jason Lake

Sunday, December 22, 2013 12:48 PM GMT

Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013 12:48 PM GMT

Visions of sprained ankles are dancing in the heads of NBA players this holiday season. What effect will the latest injuries have on the basketball betting lines for Sunday’s Celtics-Pacers matchup?

Jason’s record on his final NBA picks for 2013, up to December 20 inclusive:

29-28 ATS

6-5 Totals

How many times has this happened to you: You go to the store and buy a dozen eggs, but when you get home, you find that two of them are cracked? That’s what betting on the NBA odds has turned into. You think that Player X is going to play, and he’s a last-minute scratch. You think that Player Y is out, and he makes a surprise comeback.

There are ways around this. You can open up the carton and check out the eggs before you buy them. And you can wait until close to tip-off to get the most accurate information possible about which players are going to play. The drawback to waiting is that sometimes the lines set early on by sportsbooks hold the most value. But quite frankly, I’m sick and tired of buying broken eggs – or even worse, recommending that you buy them.

Ankles Aweigh

In the NBA, some eggs are more valuable than others. The Boston Celtics (12-16 SU, 15-12-1 ATS) may or may not have PF/C Jared Sullinger in the lineup when they visit the Indiana Pacers (21-5 SU, 18-8 ATS) on Sunday afternoon. Sullinger tweaked his ankle during the second quarter of Saturday’s 106-99 loss to the Washington Wizards (+1.5 away); however, he was able to stay in the game, and after getting some post-game treatment, Sullinger insisted there was no chance he’d sit out against Indiana. “No, not at all,” Sullinger told reporters after the Wizards loss. “I’ll play tomorrow.”

I don’t trust him any further than I can throw him. Which, at around 260 pounds (him, not me), I estimate would be about four feet. It isn’t that I think Sullinger is lying; if he says he’ll play, he probably will. But we’ve been through this before. There is a non-zero chance that Sullinger will be a late scratch, and a bigger chance that his minutes and/or his productivity will be limited.

Heavy Lumbar

This isn’t just one typical egg out of a dozen we’re talking about, either. Sullinger (19.0 PER) has been Boston’s best player with Rajon Rondo still yet to make his debut. The former Ohio State Buckeye hasn’t been talked up a lot; he slid to No. 21 in the 2012 NBA Draft because of concerns about his back, and Sullinger (13.5 PER last year) missed the last two-plus months of his rookie campaign after undergoing lumbar disc surgery.

Looks like they did a good job. Sullinger is the lynchpin of this Celtics roster, posting 18.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists per 36 minutes. He’s also a lot less foul-prone than last year, and he’s even added the 3-pointer to his arsenal (31.3 percent). Over at 82games, Sullinger leads all of Boston’s regular rotation players in Simple Rating at plus-5.7. You definitely want to know that egg isn’t cracked before you buy the whole Celtics carton.

Rondo Records

For that matter, we don’t know for certain that Rondo (18.1 PER) won’t make his debut Sunday. He reportedly looked very good during a scrimmage on Friday, and although he’s not expected back until January, who can tell for sure anymore about these things. Everybody is day-to-day.

I’d happily recommend adding the Pacers to your NBA picks otherwise. They destroyed the NBA lines in Friday’s 114-81 win over the Houston Rockets (+6 away), which was also Danny Granger’s first game back from injury. Granger was held to five points in 22 minutes and committed five turnovers, but a little rust can be expected after such a long layoff. Just ask Kobe Bryant. Uh-oh…

NBA Pick: Take the Pacers –12 (–105) at Pinnacle

[gameodds]5/250922/?r-1=43-19-349/us[/gameodds]

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