About the only thing the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics have in common heading into Wednesday night's game at TD Garden is that both reside in the horrific Atlantic Division. Otherwise, these are two clubs heading in vastly different directions. The Raptors are 4-point favorites on NBA odds with a total of 196.
Follow along as we take a detailed look at this matchup in hopes of finding a betting edge. Does the total look to offer us some sort of value, or could betting the spread be the key to another night of sucessful NBA picks?
The Celtics (19-19-1 ATS, 16-23 O/U at sportsbooks) had no plans to be competitive this season, no matter what they said publicly. After trading Coach Doc Rivers to the Clippers for a future-first-round pick and Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to the Nets for essentially a bunch of junk and draft picks, Boston kick-started a full rebuild with an eye on a Top-5 pick in the loaded 2014 NBA Draft.
The team was surprisingly competitive for the first six weeks or so under first-year coach Brad Stevens despite not having All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo as he rehabs from last season's torn ACL -- there are rumors Rondo could debut for Boston on Friday against the Los Angeles Lakers (has that one marquee matchup lost its luster or what?).
Eventually a lack of talent will catch up to an overachieving, talent-challenged team and that has happened to Boston. Monday's 104-92 home loss to Houston was the Celtics' ninth straight defeat (4-5 ATS on NBA odds) -- worst skid in seven years -- and 12th in the past 13 games. Boston's starting five on Monday was Jordan Crawford, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger and Kris Humphries. That's a solid reserve unit on any good club. Stevens has Boston playing hard and good defense but the team just can't score.
Leading scorer Jeff Green didn't play the final 14 minutes against Houston because of a shoulder sprain and was 2-for-10 from the field with four points and four turnovers. He did practice Tuesday and will be ready to go against Toronto. The Celtics are minus-75 when Green is on the floor in January. That's not a good sign for your primary offensive option.
Toronto (22-14 ATS, 19-17 O/U at sportsbooks) is the best bet in the NBA right now. The Raptors crushed visiting Milwaukee 116-94 as 10.5-point favorites Monday on NBA odds to win their third straight game and 12th in 17 since second-leading scorer and ballhog Rudy Gay was traded to Sacramento in a salary dump. The Raptors have covered in 10 straight, even in the two straight-up losses in that stretch. Toronto is two games above .500 for the first time since March 9, 2010.
Dumping Gay has improved chemistry in a big way as team assists are way up. DeMar DeRozan has become the primary scorer and is averaging 23.5 points in seven games this month. Point guard Kyle Lowry was once on the trade block but now the team might keep Lowry even though he can walk as a free agent this summer. He's averaging 17.8 points, 8.2 assists and 4.5 rebounds in the past 10. Shooting guard Terrence Ross has probably been the biggest beneficiary of the Gay trade as he's now starting and getting heavy minutes. He's averaging 11.7 points this month. Very quietly, the Raptors are No. 3 in scoring defense -- Gay didn't bother playing much on that end.
These teams opened the season against one another in Toronto, with the Raptors winning 93-87 as 8-point favorites on NBA odds. Green led Boston with 25 points, while Gay had 19 for Toronto. Boston went scoreless for nearly four minutes after tying the game at 78 with 7:42 left in the fourth quarter.
The Raptors have lost just three road games since the Gay trade and they were to three NBA title favorites in the Spurs, Heat and Pacers. The Celtics have lost three straight at home but have won 10 straight there over these Raptors. That said, the Raptors have covered 14 of their past 16 overall this season and are 12-2 ATS in their past 14 against teams with a losing record. Boston is 0-4 ATS in its past four at home against teams with a winning road record.NBA free picks: Toronto -4 and under 196.