Today our Money line NBA pick on the underdog takes us to Oklahoma as two of the best teams since the NBA All Star break match up: Boston Celtics and OKC Thunder.
Just Keep Winning Just Keep Winning
The Celtics should be chanting this song done so well by Dory from “Finding Nemo.” I am amazed as Boston just keeps finding ways to be competitive day in and day out. Here I think we find a good situation when the home team, OKC, has to be favored by NBA odds makers, but I really like the way Boston is grooving right now. Since the break overall the Thunder have shot much better than the Celtics at 44.8% from the floor and 35.6% from the field compared to 42.3% and 34.4% respectively. More recently, in the last three games, the numbers are closer with Boston shooting 45% and OKC just below that number. What the Celtics do much better than OKC though, and what I really like, is offensively they move the ball and find good looks. Since the break Boston is ranked fourth in the league in assists (just below 24 per game) behind Golden State, Atlanta, and New Orleans (good company), while OKC is ranked in the middle of the league at 22 per game. As well what stands out to me is how well they have handled the ball even in their up tempo style (leading the league in field goals attempted at 88.2 per game). Since the break they, pretty unbelievably, lead the league in the least amount of turnovers at 11.7 per game. So they shoot the most and turnover the ball the least which is a combination I think any good coach would like, and they have a great one in Stevens (more on that later). For the Thunder since the break they are in the upper half of the league in turnovers at almost 15 per game. In the last three games Boston has still been solid only averaging about 13 turnovers a game compared to OKC at 18.
But Can the C’s Play Defense?
Recently, the answer is yes. Boston has been getting it done on both ends of the floor. In the last three games they are ranked 3rd in the league allowing only 41% shooting from the field compared to OKC at 45%. From beyond the arc in the last three games they are (both teams) about even allowing just over 33% from that range. There are some more defensive surprises from Boston recently, in the last three games they ranked third in assists allowed at just above 18 (behind Utah, Chicago, and ahead of Memphis and Miami… not bad), while OKC in that same time frame is allowing just above 22 per game. Continuing on this recent defensive upswing, in the last three games the Celtics are ranked fourth in the league (almost 18 per game) in opponent turnovers, OKC is at just under 15 in that same time frame. The NBA odds makers, again, have a spot where they must make OKC the favorite, but I think we can see that offensively and defensively Boston is playing better basketball. The how they are doing it is the amazing thing… quick, name three starters on the Celtics. If you are like me, either you had to think a little bit harder than Duncan, Parker, Leonard or you had no clue. Yet here the Celtics are, a very competitive solid basketball team, worthy of consideration with your NBA Picks.
The Brad Stevens Factor
I remember when Stevens was at Butler and they made their back to back NCAA finals appearances unbelievably enough. One particular game, in the final four, the team needed a score and a stop. They got the score and the camera focused in on Stevens as his team got back on defense… you could see him smiling and yelling at his team, “Now, now!” like now is the time to get the stop. They did, and they went on in the tournament. It was a very cool coaching moment. I have always been a fan of Stevens, and I don’t like to quote other writers often but I feel Andy Kaufman at Boston.com hits the nail on the head about how amazing Stevens has been this year, “A reminder: this is a guy whose best player (Thomas) has been around for 10 games and is now hurt; whose most consistent and reliable player (Avery Bradley) wouldn’t start on most, if any, contending teams; whose starting power forward (Brandon Bass) has had little to no trade value in two years; and whose energetic top bench players aside from Thomas (Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko, and Gigi Datome) are other teams’ underachieving castaways.”
But again, here they are, realistically in the playoff race and I like them tonight to continue their strong run and upset the Thunder. I recommend you add them to your NBA picks.
NBA Pick: Boston +255 from 5Dimes