NBA Preview and Free Pick
Boston is in northern California tonight for a non-conference tilt against Sacramento. Tipoff is schedule for 10:00 p.m. ET on Golden 1 Center court. The oddsmakers have positioned the Celtics as two-point chalk over the home team Kings. NBA Preview and Free Pick: Celtics -2 over Kings.
As much as it has been fun to watch Sacramento grow as a team rather than individual talents that comprise the squad the bottom line against the spread success of the Kings is in part due to the oddsmakers. Sportsbook managers were not issuing Sacramento their handicap due early in the first pair of months of this season’s campaign. This especially when examining the pointspreads for this young group when matched up against the assumed top clubs in the Western Conference.
Conversely the Celtics are publicly shaded each and every night regardless of which conference or division their foe plays in. Carrying the weight of a shaded handicap in combination with Boston’s liabilities has been a wash. The Celtics come into tonight’s west coast contest with a 32-32-1 ATS mark on the season.
Dysfunctional best describes the Celtics. Both as a team and painting a picture of their 2018-19 body of work. While successfully entertaining encompasses who and what the pleasantly surprising Kings have been.
The current cast of characters that make up the Celtics require a manager, coach per se, that understands the art of juggling. Boston head coach Brad Stevens has in many ways mismanaged this seasons Celts circus act. To coach Stevens defense there is no easy way to fashion a game of “Jacks” inside the daily routine of basketball at the professional level. The dynamics and differences of athletes, particularly those in the NBA, are fragile.
To morph from last season’s success without the services of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward to this year’s inconsistencies has been difficult to put one’s arms around. Coach Stevens didn’t have the “Irving Factor” in the late stages of the season or throughout the playoffs. In my uneducated opinion Irving is the greased pig of the personnel.
Boston has played with water in their gas tank all season. Running like a well oiled machine for stretches followed by a period of mechanical breakdowns. In dark and turbulent times NBA Divas simply need to get away. In most cases a road trip is just what the doctor ordered. The first game of the Celtics current four-game road swing saw the group dismantle the best team in the league. Boston put as 128-95 beat down on Golden State in Oakland on Tuesday night.
Irving has in my opinion been the primary character in the Celtics dysfunction. When Kyrie is focused and playing within the team concept this Boston squad is dangerously good. But leave it to Irving to piss into the wind after a big wind. The Boston point guard was quoted in the Warriors postgame presser, “We put a lot of emphasis on being connected, being together. It starts with me and my energy and the way I play.”
As good as the Celtics were in their rout of the Warriors on Tuesday night Irving still can’t separate the “me” and “I” from the why the squad were 30-plus points better than the reigning world champions.
The current state of the Kings surrounds the absence, injury, of forward Marvin Bagley III. The former Duke Blue Devil wasn’t producing overwhelming numbers in his rookie season. But his nightly work easily equaled to a traditional double-double. His 10 points and close-to 10 rebounds per game were a perfect fit for the guard-oriented scheme of coach Dave Joerger.
Recently acquired small forward Harrison Barnes finally found his shooting touch. The former Dallas Mav recorded 22 points and 10 rebounds in the team’s victory over the Knicks. Note; the point and glass production came against the Knicks. Second note; the Celtics are a much different animal especially in terms of defending the perimeter than that of New York.
Coach Joerger has done a masterful job of keeping his young group from being frantic in their play. The young troupe of ballers take one possession at a time. They rarely give away big leads and have successfully executed damage control when trailing by double-digit deficits. Grading the Kings and breaking down them down into team liabilities and assets is difficult. Gamers that have supported the Sac-attack this year have been rewarded. The Kings are 37-25-1 overall against the spread this season. And Sacramento’s 22-10-1 record against the number is the top ATS home mark in the league.
The efficiency of the Celtics is at its best when Gordon Hayward is contributing. The All-Star scoring forward netted 30 points on 12-of-16 shooting in the rout of Golden State. Hayward has continued to test and in turn trust the ankle that put him a year adrift from the court.
Combine a confident Hayward with an Irving that is carrying a positive team attitude and Boston is capable of beating any team at any venue. A less talented Boston troupe swept the Kings a season ago and did so with an 19 point average margin of victory.
The Free Pick is understanding that the Boston cast of characters are rounding into postseason form — and with that belief — will prove to be too much for the young Kings to handle tonight. Back the Celtics and lay the small number tonight in the California capital.