Boston Celtics at New Orleans Pelicans
Time: 8 PM ET (NBA TV)
Spread: BOS -1
Betting odds c/o Bovada
The thought is in New Orleans that the Pelicans are starting to turn things around. Though 5-15 it is coming off a surprise victory against last year’s Eastern Conference champs as it knocked off the Cleveland Cavaliers 114-108 in OT on Friday while holding the Cavs to just three points in OT. Even so, the visiting Boston Celtics are 1-point favorites over the Pelicans in NBA action on NBA TV tonight.
Key of course in the win over the Cavs was the play of Anthony Davis, who finished with 31 points and 12 rebounds. He scored six of his team-high in the OT period, and Alvin Gentry was reasonably pleased with his team’s performance. He said, “We’ve just got to try to find a way to come up with some wins…to get a quality one like this is good.”
To be fair, the Pelicans have dealt with its fair share of injuries. Swingman Tyreke Evans has returned to add some scoring punch and playmaking, but Jrue Holiday has yet to hit stride with Ish Smith performing the point duties admirably (ranking top-five in assists per game).
New Orleans has also won three of its past four at home, including a win over San Antonio on Nov. 20. The Pels can hang with any teams at the Smoothie Center; it has been the road that has given the team difficulty.
“We just got to to it (play well) against teams that are not the Spurs or Cleveland,” Davis said, “We’ve got to make sure we’re playing at a high level every game.” Perhaps that goes without saying with the Pelicans 10 games below .500 and very much needing to turn things around to have any shot at the 2016 postseason.
The Pelicans were a surprise playoff team last season and with the talent aggregated in the Big Easy, it seems Davis and company should be there again. Moreover, the talent disparity between the Western and Eastern Conferences has started to level out, meaning New Orleans may not need quite the outstanding record to return to the postseason this year.
Its opponent the Boston Celtics were another surprise team last season, winners of 45 games and though the team was smashed in the postseason by the Cavaliers, Boston is a resilient group coached by one of the league’s best in Brad Stevens.
The Celts are 11-9 this season and are coming off a 108-105 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, a club that has yet to lose a home game this season. Point guard Isaiah Thomas had 23 points in the loss while hitting 7 of 17 from the field but the Celtics were negative-9 on the glass while also managing to get outscored in the paint 44-30.
Boston does not have the toughest frontcourt, and its strength remains in the rotation of its guards.
Thomas has emerged into a near-star, averaging 21 points, six assists and two rebounds per game while posting a team-high PER of 22.0. The Celtics next two top scorers are both swingmen, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder. Bradley, Crowder, and second-year guard Marcus Smart gives the C’s one of the most feared defensive rotations, even if Smart has appeared in just nine games this season due to a leg injury.
It is said Smart will come off the bench when he returns, and the date is nearing, but he is still out for this contest. Bradley is suffering from an illness but is likely to play. Forward David Lee is out with a heel contusion.
The Celtics are a little banged up, but its key rotation players are healthy and the team could prevail in what should be a close one this evening.
If Davis can get it going against Boston’s frontline though, there may be nothing to slow him.