Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Free NBA Picks: Celtics ATS
Best Line Offered: BetOnline
The Eastern Conference looks wide open this season, with probably five teams having a realistic chance of reaching the NBA Finals: Toronto, Boston, Indiana, Philadelphia and Milwaukee. The key might be getting the top seed.
Which brings us to Wednesday’s potentially huge matchup between the Raptors and Celtics from Beantown. This writer believes these are the two best teams and that neither is likely to lose a playoff series where it has home-court advantage. Thus, winning the regular-season series could be vital should the clubs finish with the same record.
The teams have split this season, each winning at home – the home side has won the past nine in this series. Toronto won the first back on Oct. 19, 113-101, behind 31 points and 10 rebounds from Kawhi Leonard. Boston won 123-116 in overtime on Nov. 16 thanks to 43 from Kyrie Irving. He scored 17 points in the final eight minutes or so of the fourth quarter and then had a hand in every OT basket. Irving also had 11 assists, becoming the first Celtic with a 40/10 games since Antoine Walker in 2001.
Obviously, then, the winner here wouldn’t lose the season series at least. They close it out Feb. 26 north of the border, where Toronto has taken the past seven vs. Boston.
Irving Expected To Play
Slight advantage in an extra day of rest for the Raptors as they haven’t played since a draining 140-138 double OT win in Washington on Sunday, their fifth straight victory. Serge Ibaka hit the winning three-pointer with 15 seconds left in the second OT. Leonard had 41 points and 11 rebounds in a season-high 45 minutes. It was Kawhi’s 19th consecutive game with 20+ points – a career-high streak. He is averaging 30.2 points over that stretch.
Pascal Siakam scored 24 and had a career-high 19 rebounds. It was his ninth double-double of the season. He had zero career entering it. Probably should have never gotten to OT as Toronto led by as many as 23. The Dinos are still a bit thin with center Jonas Valanciunas (thumb) out at least a few more weeks. CJ Miles (hip) and Fred VanVleet (hip) are both questionable for Wednesday. OG Anunoby (personal) is out.
Boston is in an offensive funk, failing to score more than 103 points during a three-game skid (all on road). The Nets aren’t very good on defense, but the C’s managed only 102 in a seven-point road loss Monday. Brooklyn had lost 10 straight in the series. The Nets led by just two with seven minutes left in the third when they blew it open with a 15-0 run. Brooklyn would go on to extend its lead to 27 points. Jayson Tatum had a career-high 34 in the loss.
Not a huge upset, really, considering both Kyrie Irving (quad) and Marcus Smart (illness) sat. Both are expected to play on Wednesday, which will shift Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown back to reserve roles.
- Home team is 7-0 ATS in the last 7 meetings.
- Raptors are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 road games vs. a team with a winning home record.
- Celtics are 14-4 ATS in their last 18 Wednesday games.
We think the home streak continues in this series and Boston covers with Irving back. Toronto is just 1-7 ATS in its past eight on the road overall and the C’s 14-6 ATS at home, so bet Boston ATS as a slight favorite.