Boston at New Orleans
Time: 5 PM CST (ESPN)
Odds c/o 5dimes
The New Orleans Pelicans have lost its last two since Zion Williamson returned. It will search for its first win with Zion in the fold as it hosts the Boston Celtics at 5 PM (CST) on ESPN. The spread is set EVEN for the game, with the betting total listed as 230 points according to NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes.
At 17-29, the New Orleans Pelicans have formed an identity and some purpose, but now it all comes together with one Zion Williamson back in the fold. He has scored 22 and 15 through his first two games. A highly vaunted pick and hailing from Duke, Williamson is expected to transform the Pelicans. He will play in his first game with no minutes restrictions.
Williamson is a unique high-caliber athlete who at just 6’7” packs a lot of muscle and explosiveness onto his frame. It initially caused some knee soreness and issues, but the Pelicans helped him work through that by tinkering with his stride and running form. The result should be an even stronger Zion, and the fans around the league are eager to get a glimpse at the player being billed by many as a “generational talent.” Whether Williamson puts up big numbers in his debut or not, it is sure to be a specter of intrigue for everyone to see how he fares right out of the gate this season.
Thus far, the Pelicans have built most of its offense around the breakout talent of Brandon Ingram. While Ingram mostly languished in his first seasons in Los Angeles, he has thrived in the Bayou. Ingram is averaging 25.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.4 assists while playing 34.7 minutes per game. Team leader Jrue Holiday leads the team in minutes (35.5) and also totals over 20 points per game while dishing a team-tying-best 6.3 assists per game.
Lonzo Ball has found his stride in New Orleans as well, averaging 12 points and 6.3 assists, and 5.8 rebounds, while having started in 27 games this season. J.J. Redick, as the consummate pro he is, has seamlessly thrived in the Pelicans offense as a floor spacer.
E’Twaun Moore provides a similar role in the second unit, as 10 instant offense points in 21 minutes a night. The Pelicans also have managed to get strong play from both veteran forward Derrick Favors and rookie Jaxson Hayes. Hayes has displayed plenty of potentials to substantiate the lottery pick New Orleans spent on him, averaging 8.5 points and 4.6 boards in just 16 minutes a night. Favors is just shy of a double-double in 24 minutes a night. The two combine to spell the 5-spot quite effectively. But how will the lineup transform with Williamson? So far, his gravity alone has suggested he will be a high-impact player, and with his first game bringing a 4 of 4 three-point shooting performance he may do it with more than just sheer power in his career.
The Boston Celtics are clearly a better team without Kyrie Irving. Boston is 30-14 and is currently seeded No. 4 in the Eastern Conference.
Kemba Walker has stepped into the role of No. 1 scorer, and he is averaging 21.6 points and 5.2 assists in his first season as a Celtic. Jayson Tatum, too, has stepped it up in his third season. The former Duke swingman is averaging 20.9 points and seven rebounds per game. And if that was not enough, Jaylen Brown has taken on a much bigger scoring role in averaging just under 20 points per game. Adding to this trio, Gordon Hayward is progressing well from his surgery and should be back in the lineup soon. The C’s are locked and loaded and absolute contenders in the Eastern Conference.
Boston averages 111.2 points per game this season while continuing to play its tough brand of defense. The team shoots 45.8 percent from the floor and 35.4 percent on threes (33.5 attempts per game). Boston also is still waiting for eventual-starting center Enes Kanter to round into shape following an injury to starting the season. Kanter has shown bright flashes, but his consistency is something the C’s are trying to figure out. Daniel Theis performed admirably in his absence, but Kanter will bring a scoring punch to the 5-spot that Theis and Robert Williams III cannot.
Marcus Smart continues to function well as a jack-of-all-trades sixth man, or a “stretch-6” as he called himself in the preseason. Smart is averaging 11.4 points and 4.7 assists per game and can provide defense at all positions. The Celtics depth is functional— in the sense that its backups provide different looks and strengths than its starters. Carsen Edwards has looked good in limited minutes and will be a solid backup for Walker for the first three seasons of his NBA career. The Celtics just have a lot going on, and even without Hayward and Kanter, this team has rolled to a .750 winning percentage thus far.