Washington at Boston
Time: 4:30 PM (CT) ABC/ESPN
Spread: BOS -5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Boston Celtics lost its major and key acquisition opening night. Things were supposed to unravel following that injury to Gordon Hayward. They did not. Boston finds itself atop the Eastern Conference at 27-9 as it hosts the 18-15 Washington Wizards in the third game of a five-game lineup on Christmas day.
The Celts are 5-point favorites at home where the team has posted a 14-4 mark thus far, and the over/under is set at 206 points by oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.
Boston has been a little more down to earth over its last 10 games, having gone 5-5 over that span. Even so, it maintains a 1.5 game lead on the Toronto Raptors for the Atlantic Division crown. Toronto is hot and has won its past six, so the time for Boston to heat back up is now. Crucial in replacing the injured Hayward has been rookie Jayson Tatum and second-year swingman Jaylen Brown, who rank No. 3 and No. 2, respectively, on the team in scoring. Tatum has been nothing short of sensational and is averaging 13.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game in 30 minutes a night. Brown has improved nearly every facet of his game and is good for 14.7 points and 1.18 steals per night.
But perhaps the biggest difference maker has been franchise player Kyrie Irving. Irving was acquired at the “low” cost of Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder from the Cleveland Cavs this past offseason, and he is playing the best and most efficient basketball of his NBA career. The Flat Earther has averaged nearly 25 points per game and five assists per night while posting a team-high PER of 26.0. Along with Irving’s career year has come one from veteran Al Horford, who has developed into one of the league’s most effective high-post passers. Horford leads the team in assists at 5.4 per game—and he is shooting a blistering 40.9 percent from three-point range while connecting on 51.7 percent of his field goals overall.
Outside of these highly effective four players, has been the strong play of a cast of role players: Marcus Smart is still one of the league’s best defenders, and Marcus Morris seems to have found a home in Boston, replacing the colossal bust that was Jared Sullinger several seasons ago. Terry Rozier has developed nicely in his second season, and despite his shooting struggles (34 percent field goals) has looked as though he will eventually be a very integral part of the team. In 23 minutes a night, Rozier makes his impact known, though his 8.5 points per game may seem humble. The fact remains, Brad Stevens simply knows best how to milk the talent of his roster, and the disaster that Hayward incurred is largely forgotten by a Celtics’ fanbase thinking “title” no matter the cost.
The Washington Wizards are playing typical Washington ball. That is to say, decent, not bad, but hard to call anything other than mediocre (18-15 speaks for itself, no?).
It is still a two-man team based on the talents of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Beal leads the team in scoring at 23 points per game, and he has been more consistent, but outside of that tandem and an emergent Otto Porter, there just is not much to suggest Washington will be anything but what it has been the last half-decade. Wall still needs more help.
The Wizards still have as strong starting-five and one of the league’s weakest benches. Washington continues to fulfill the low expectations and leap the bar of mediocrity, as the league’s perpetual middle-of-the-pack non-contender. The Wiz are a good matchup against Boston, but the team really does not match up ultra-favorably against any of the league’s true contending teams. It’s a repeated theme.