Boston at Toronto
Time: 11 AM CST
Spread: TOR -3
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Toronto Raptors are 21-9 and it has won five of its last six entering Christmas Day’s matchup with the Boston Celtics. Toronto is in second place in the Atlantic Division, trailing Boston by just 1/2 a game. A win for the Raptors would take command of the division lead. Toronto is 3-point favorites in NBA odds with the over/under set at 212.5 total points according to bookmaker 5dimes.
Toronto was expected to collapse after losing NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Of course, nothing of the sort has happened. The core Raptors remain from last year’s title-winning team, and it is showing in abundant clear colors: The team is winning 70 percent of its games and still a contender in the Eastern Conference.
Credit Pascal Siakam with plenty of the “sticking power” for the franchise. He has assumed Leonard’s role nearly without skipping a beat, in averaging 25.1 points, eight rebounds, 3.6 assists, one steal and one block while playing nearly 37 minutes per game. Kyle Lowry is still a consistent All-Star and is tallying 20-plus points per game while dishing 7.6 assists and coming up with 1.2 steals per game.
Perhaps the most notable role increase, though, has been that of Fred VanVleet, who is now the No. 3 option in the offense and thriving in that role.
VanVleet has averaged 17.8 points and seven assists per game while shooting 36.7 percent from three on 6.6 attempts per game. Norman Powell, too, has seen his scoring role increase and he is averaging a career-high 14.4 points per game. Serge Ibaka has shown he has plenty left, and he along with OG Anunoby fill out a very tough frontcourt rotation.
That is not to forget what Marc Gasol’s leadership and playmaking bring in the 28 minutes he plays per game. Though Gasol averages just 6.6 points, he has 3.4 assists per game to his credit and plays an important role defensively with his big and strong body. The Raptors simply have all the things intact that made the team great without that team’s greatest player. It certainly has not spelled “pushover,” this is a team that could legitimately challenge for the crown in the East.
Boston is 8-6 SU on the road. It enters on a three-game winning streak which has seen it defeat the Dallas Mavericks (without Luka Doncic), Detroit Pistons, and Charlotte Hornets. Boston finds itself underdogs on the road on Christmas Day, with the line set three-points in favor of its opponent, Toronto.
Gordon Hayward is nursing a foot injury but is listed as probable for the game. Hayward has rounded more into the form he showed while a member of the Utah Jazz this season for Boston. He is averaging 17.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game while posting a PER of 20.82. Free-agent signing Kemba Walker has brilliantly assumed the role that once was occupied by Kyrie Irving.
Walker averages 22.6 points per game, 5.4 assists, and 1.5 steals/blocks per game. Jayson Tatum also has stepped into a larger role. In his third season, he is averaging 21.6 points per game while shooting 42 percent from the floor and 35 percent from three. Jaylen Brown is ultra-efficient. He is shooting 50 percent from the field and 37 percent from three and averaging just under 20 points per game.
The Celtics legitimately have four players who have either been No. 1 options or have the talent to be one, and the second unit is decent too with the offensive-minded center that is Enes Kanter, as well as jack-of-all-trades guard-forward Marcus Smart.
The Celtics, like Toronto, have a lot of key role players that come together to form a very solid team, even with Boston losing Irving in the same manner that Toronto lost Leonard. It shows that these strong teams were great because of a full-team experience rather than that of the two standouts and “leaders.”