NBA Betting: Play the Boston Celtics, Fade the Portland Trail Blazers
With the NBA heading into its six-day All-Star break, most teams have two games left before some much-needed rest. Let’s take a look at a couple of teams, and why bettors should consider playing on one and fading the other.
Play: Boston Celtics
The Celtics are playing arguably their best basketball of the season heading into the break. The team has won seven straight games, four at home and three on the road. This week, Boston has two tough nationally-televised matchups, beginning on Tuesday in Houston. That’s followed by a Thursday night battle against the Clippers. Boston is likely to be a short underdog at the Rockets and a slight favorite against the Clippers. While both of these opponents are of high-quality, there’s plenty of reason for optimism in both of these spots. To begin with, the Celtics are performing at a fantastic level at the moment. During its seven-game win streak, the team has a net rating of +10.9, the best in the NBA over that stretch. Houston, meanwhile have gone 4-3 SU and ATS over its last seven, but has only put up a net rating of -1.6, 16th in the league during that stretch. Houston’s season-long net rating of +3.3, shows that the team is not playing to the best of its abilities at current. While the Rockets have jettisoned their sole remaining big man, in Clint Capela, the Celtics are a team that matches up well against the small-ball of the Rockets. With its bevy of quality wing players, and the versatile Marcus Smart, Boston has plenty of lineup options it can throw at the Rockets to deal with their unconventional style of play. Smart in particular, revels in difficult defensive matchups, and may be able to blunt the production of Houston’s star James Harden. If he can make the former MVP a little uncomfortable, things could get tricky for the Rockets.
After the game against Houston, Boston heads home to face the Los Angeles Clippers. Los Angeles has won four of five games in February, with the only defeat a bizarre outlier of a loss, as the team got crushed 142-115 against Minnesota, despite having both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the lineup. However, this sets up as a tough road spot for the Clippers. The team is only 15-11 SU and 13-13 ATS on the road. Additionally, the Clippers will be at the end of a tough four-game road trip from a travel perspective. Los Angeles has had to go to Minnesota, Cleveland, and Philadelphia, before heading to Boston for this one. This will be Los Angeles’ fourth road tilt in six days, and follows what promises to be a battle against the 76ers in Philadelphia on Tuesday night. Los Angeles beat Boston 107-104 in overtime in the team’s previous meeting, a game which Boston led by as many as eight points in the fourth quarter. The Celtics will carry an element of revenge for this big game, and look primed to give a big performance here.
Fade: Portland Trail Blazers
Portland has put together a solid stretch of results at a critical juncture in its season. The Trail Blazers are 6-2 SU and 7-1 ATS over their last eight games. For the season, the team has a net rating of -1.4, and over this recent stretch, Portland has compiled a net rating of +3.7. Damian Lillard has been the best player in the NBA in recent times, simply scoring at will. The superstar has one sixty-point game, two fifty-point games, and two forty-point games over his last ten. Lillard is one of the most competitive and driven players in the league, and he looks hell-bent on willing his team into the playoffs.
That said, the next two games are not easy from a scheduling perspective. Portland has had a brutal cumulative run of travel since last Tuesday. The team traveled to Denver, then home to face the Spurs, then over to Utah, then back home to face the Heat. Now, on a one-day turnaround, the Trail Blazers have to travel to New Orleans, to face a Pelicans team still trying to hang around in the battle for the last playoff spot. New Orleans’ phenom Zion Williamson is questionable for this game, but if he can play, he looks to be a serious matchup problem for a Portland team seriously lacking in size. Hassan Whiteside looks to be the only player who can possibly handle Zion’s strength, and he struggles defending away from the basket, and is prone to foul trouble. If Williamson can have his way and remain efficient inside, it will open up things for this Pelicans offense. His status must be monitored before this one. Despite the small sample size, New Orleans’ net rating is a ridiculous 15.3 points better with Williamson on the floor.
Despite Lillard’s fantastic recent play, New Orleans has a good and big defensive backcourt in Jrue Holiday and Lonzo Ball to make things difficult for him. Slow down Lillard, and you’ll slow down Portland. New Orleans is built to be able to do just that.
Making matters worse for Portland, the team then heads to face Memphis on the second night of a back-to-back, in a game that is of huge importance. As of writing, the Trail Blazers are two and half games back of Memphis and desperately need a victory here. However, Memphis has the key advantage of not playing since a 106-99 win at Washington on Sunday. The Grizzlies should themselves be plenty rested and plenty focused for this big game. Portland’s season certainly would not end if it drops these two games, but the degree of difficulty would be substantially ramped up. Lillard and the Trail Blazers have shown a lot of fight over the past couple of weeks, but it’s hard to see them performing at a high level in such tricky spots.