Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to March 24 inclusive:
Maybe they should just change their name to the Toronto Matadors. The Raptors nearly completed another one of their patented second-half comebacks Tuesday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers, although this time they couldn’t quite finish the job, losing 102-100 while tripping over the NBA lines as 4.5-point road faves. Grievis Vasquez blew a tire on the last possession with a chance to tie or take the lead.
In a way, justice was served; Toronto came out of the gate absolutely flat, and the Cavaliers were up by 21 points early in the second half before nearly handing the “W” to the Raptors. Our Canadian heroes dropped the cash for just the fourth time in their last dozen games. Can they do better on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET, SN1) against the Boston Celtics? They could hardly do worse.
Let’s give some credit to the Cavaliers – they got paid for the fifth time in a row since the Kyrie Irving injury. But again, it was the Raptors (39-31 SU, 42-27-1 ATS) who dug themselves their own grave, missing seven of their first nine shots and eight of their last nine shots while finishing the night at 16-of-26 (61.5 percent) from the free-throw line. Toronto is now 2-4 SU and 3-3 ATS in its last six games, relinquishing third place in the Eastern Conference to the Chicago Bulls. Is the party over in the T-Dot?
Possibly. This is still the most profitable team in the East, and one of the best in the league since the Rudy Gay trade. But things haven’t been the same since Patrick Patterson (17.4 PER) sprained his right UCL on March 7. Patterson has given the Raptors 14.9 points and 8.0 rebounds per 36 minutes, joining Vasquez (12.8 PER) on what has been a much-improved reserve unit.
Good news for Raptors fans: Patterson was cleared for contact during practice, although it still remains to be seen when he’ll return to action – perhaps in a week or so. And now the bad news: Vasquez appeared to hurt himself on that decisive final play against Cleveland and is considered iffy for Wednesday’s game. His status should be cleared up by the time you read this.
Keeping Up with the Humphrieses
The Celtics (23-47 SU, 35-34-1 ATS) have nonetheless opened as 3-point home dogs on Wednesday’s NBA odds board, and given that they’ve been idle since Friday, this could be a rare occasion when fading Toronto makes sense. Boston is 3-6 SU and 6-3 ATS in its past nine games, yet another example of a tanking team that’s getting paid off as the regular season mercifully draws to a close.
We’ve seen plenty of spunk from the Celtics this year despite the dismantling of the roster that took place both before and during the season. Rookie head coach Brad Stevens has done a commendable job of preparing his players, getting solid results in the paint from fellow rookie Kelly Olynyk (13.9 PER) and second-year breakout star Jared Sullinger (16.2 PER). We’ve also seen the revival of forgotten veteran Kris Humphries (18.5 PER), who’s been the team’s most productive player since getting a regular turn in the rotation in December.
Boston has already taken the cash off the Raptors in both their meetings this season, once before the Rudy Gay trade and once after. Both of those games went UNDER the NBA totals, as well, so this looks like a swell place to go for the standard underdog-UNDER parlay. Since there are tanking implications here, I’ll defer to the total in this matchup. May the sphere be with you.
NBA Pick: Take UNDER 194.5 at Heritage