Sweet Spots in NBA: Celtics' Defense Makes it Tough on Opponents

Jay Pryce

Sunday, February 25, 2018 3:51 PM UTC

Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018 3:51 PM UTC

In Sweet Spots of the Week we'll look at how the Celtics perform against cold-shooting opponents, the Wizards without John Wall, the Raptors scoring versus poor assist-to-turnover defenses, the Spurs at home, and Joel Embiid and the Sixers hosting sub-.500 teams.

NBA: Sweet Spots of the WeekMonday: Grizzlies vs. Celtics

The Celtics sport the second-best scoring defense in the NBA, allowing 99.8 points per game. They’re the last team you want to play coming off a poor shooting night. Opponents draining less than the NBA average of 46.0 percent from the floor in their previous effort are 3-15 SU and ATS the next time out against Boston.

The Celtics hold foes to 93.4 points per game on 41.3-percent shooting in this spot. The Grizzlies put up 89 points on 43.8 percent Saturday at Miami. It’s the fifth time in their last seven games failing to reach 90 points. We’re betting they fail to hit the mark again on Monday.

Tuesday: Wizards vs. Bucks

No John Wall, no problem. The Wizards continue to surprise bettors with their star point guard on the shelf following minor knee surgery earlier in the month. Wall has missed 22 games in 2017-18 and Washington is 14-8 ATS (13-9 SU), covering a 0.3 average line by 1.82 points per game. Shooting guard Bradley Beal is thriving in these contests, posting 23.9 points per night.

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Owning a career 2.4 Box/Plus Minus, which measures how may points a player is worth per 100 possessions above the league average, the market is slightly overvaluing Wall’s absence. Suiting up, the Wiz are 28-46 ATS in the last calendar year; 16-8 ATS when out. The line differential is 3.5 points, a tad more than Wall’s BPM. Washington gains even greater value on the road in this spot with the public weighing home-court advantage too heavily. The Wiz are 11-7 SU and 13-5 ATS overall. Expect them to be a couple points shy of true value at the Bucks on Tuesday.

Wednesday: Raptors vs. Magic

Toronto’s new sharing offense is pummeling poor assist-to-turnover defenses. It averages 120.6 points per game on 48.8-percent shooting versus those yielding a 1.66 ratio or greater entering a contest. The Magic own a 1.74 rate, third-highest in the league.

The Raptors' scoring bonanza in this spot has cashed the "over" 12 of 14 times, and by a whopping 12.4 points per game. A final score of 228.7 points is soaring past a 216.3 average total.

Wednesday: Pelicans vs. Spurs

The Spurs are a different beast at AT&T Center — in planning, preparation, and performance. They are completely throwing the totals market for a loop in their approach to tackling low- and high-scoring teams. For example, the NBA scoring average is 106.0 points as of publication. Hosting foes combining for fewer than 212 points on the year, the "over" is 12-3, a 212.0 final score sailing 13.9 points past a 198.1 average total. Up against opponents averaging over the 212 threshold, and the final tally is coming up a whopping 12.3 points shy of a 206.1 average total. The "under" is 11-1 under these conditions. In fact, at least one team has posted 97 points or fewer in each of 12 contests.

The Pelicans enter Wednesday's game with a blistering 222.9 average combined score. Look for the Spurs to turn this into a grind-it-out affair and take New Orleans out of their comfort zone. Pick "under" as one team fails to hit the century mark.

Friday: Hornets vs. 76ers

The Sixers host the Hornets on the second night of a back-to-back following a date with the Cavaliers on Thursday. The protocol of sitting All-Star center Joel Embiid with the team on zero rest seems to have run its course. The big man has suited up in the past two in this situation.

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If Embiid does play against Charlotte, lay the points with Philly. Since January 2017, the Sixers are 12-3 SU and ATS at home against teams with a negative point differential. The Hornets own a -0.1 average scoring margin. The defense, with Embiid patrolling the paint, shuts down opponents for 93.4 points per game on 41.3-percent shooting in this spot.

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