NBA on TNT Monday Odds: Boston Celtics at L.A. Clippers

Boston at L.A. Clippers
Time: 9:30 PM CT (TNT)
Spread: LAC -7.5
Total: 217

Betting odds c/o 5dimes

The Los Angeles Clippers are coming off a 101-91 victory over the Chicago Bulls on the road, and now travel back to Staples Center to host the Boston Celtics in the second-half of a TNT double-header on Monday night. The Clippers are 7.5 point favorites over Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics, who are on the second night of a back-to-back after losing 109-106 to the Phoenix Suns last night.

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Boston opted to rest both Avery Bradley and Al Horford last night, expecting a victory over the Suns to be easy enough without two starters. Brad Steven lost that gamble, as the Celtics were especially woeful defensively and utterly melted down in the game’s final seconds, allowing the Suns to score on an Eric Bledsoe layup only to hit the game-winning three at the hands of Tyler Ulis at the buzzer. The Suns placed six scorers in double figures—with the rookie Ulis shooting 8 of 12 for 20 points in 33 minutes off the bench. The Celtics meanwhile shot just 37.6 percent as a team and were just 22 of 60 outside of Isaiah Thomas.

Thomas shot 10 of 25 for 35 points, but he also posted a -9 differential.

Thomas, for as awesome as he is on offense, is a huge defensive liability for the Celtics, and teams continually attack the 5-foot-9 guard, particularly with bigger floor generals like last night’s 6’3” Bledsoe. Chris Paul is a more fair defensive matchup for Thomas, but CP3, too, can certainly get it cooking offensively. While Paul is less likely to take Thomas to the blocks, Isaiah’s defensive lateral motion is suspect in its own right, and with Bradley and Marcus Smart there to close in on the wings, the Celtics do have the supplementary pieces to cover for his weaknesses in the same manner that the Houston Rockets do with James Harden.

It just remains to be seen how far a team can go when its greatest source of offensive strength is its primary defensive weakness. Perhaps right now, Boston is playing about as good as possible at 40-23, and further steps towards contention can begin when the team begins to use its assortment of draft picks acquired from the Brooklyn Nets.

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The Clippers have lost three of its past five overall games, but are 19-10 at Staples Center this year. The Clips are seeded No. 5 in the Western Conference and will have to leapfrog the Utah Jazz to obtain home court advantage in the first round. L.A. is a solid 18-15 on the road this year, but Utah is 21-12 at home and in a fairly evenly matched first round matchup that home court advantage could factor huge.

With Blake Griffin approaching free agency, changes are on the horizon in L.A., even if Chris Paul does seem prepared to remain a Clipper indefinitely. This current roster seems to have mostly run its course, though the Clips should be able to take care of business against a tired Celtics team.

Boston did rest Al Horford and Bradley, so perhaps see a bigger role in the offense tonight. Nevertheless, it is not as though Thomas is ever deficient of energy, so perhaps too much can be made of the fatigue factor. The Celtics will also rely heavily on some of its bench, like Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier to give Thomas’ legs some rest if possible.

No matter what the case, the Celts are still two full games ahead of Washington in the Eastern Conference standings and trail the Cavaliers by just three games. Winning tonight would be big, but Boston may be destined for that No. 2 seed no matter what it does. And that should be enough to climb out of the first and second rounds towards an eventual matchup with the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals. But nothing is taken for granted, not from a team with such a diminutive best player.

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