Those placing NBA picks know that the Orlando Magic aren’t going to make the playoffs this season, but they can definitely play spoiler for the Boston Celtics' playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Boston Celtics Can Win Because…
Their improvement has been noticeable – not necessarily over the course of the full season, but certainly over the past six weeks or so. The Celtics were able to come up with a winning record in the month of February, going 7-4. They have won their last two games as well, and more specifically, they just won a road game against New Orleans, a playoff contender in the Western Conference. They absorbed 29 points from Anthony Davis to beat the Hornets. The star of the game for the Celtics was new point guard Isaiah Thomas, who scored 27 points and has given Boston a very quick dribble-penetrator to put some life in this team’s offense. With Marcus Smart and Evan Turner, two powerful and muscular wing players, also on this roster, the Celtics are unique in that they have three players (Thomas, Smart, Turner) who can all dominate the ball while also setting up teammates if the defense tries to press them or hedge against them at the top of the key. Boston has a more versatile offense, and that’s what’s needed for a team that has been allowing an average of 102.4 points per game. Boston is 6-4 in its last 10 games and is giving the appearance of a team that is going to stay in the playoff hunt until the very end of the season. This team has been reinvented in a good way, such that the Celtics which struggled in the first three months of the season are really not in existence anymore.
What also has to give the Celtics optimism for this game is that while they’re on the upswing, Orlando is only 4-6 in its last 10 games. The Magic score an average of 95.8 points per game, which should be a welcome tonic for the Celtics’ very inconsistent defense.
The Orlando Magic Can Win Because…
They have also shown resilience and the ability to find potency in their offensive attack. Much as the Celtics were able to score 104 on the road in New Orleans and win, the Magic were also able to improve a great deal at the offensive end of the court in their most recent game. Orlando put 119 points on the board in a win over the Sacramento Kings on Friday night. The Kings might not be a playoff team, but they’re now coached by George Karl and should be taken seriously if only because they have two prime players in DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. Yet, Orlando was able to outscore the Kings in a shootout.
Orlando has two players performing at a very high level right now. Victor Oladipo scored 32 against the Kings, and that comes off a 38-point performance earlier in the week against Phoenix. He’s on a big-time roll. Elfrid Payton handed out 12 assists against the Kings, two nights after dishing out 10 assists against the Suns. With that 1-2 punch playing that well on offense, Orlando should feel it can run roughshod over Boston’s inconsistent defense.
These teams both have reasons to be confident about this game, but the Celtics have better coaching in Brad Stevens and should be able to accomplish more at the offensive end of the court. Take Boston with your NBA picks.
NBA Pick: Boston -1 at BetOnline