Boston Celtics vs. San Antonio Spurs Pick

by | Dec 31, 2018 | nba

Boston Celtics (21-14, 18-17 ATS) vs. San Antonio Spurs (20-17, 21-16 ATS)
When: Monday, December 31, 2018 – 7:00 pm ET
Where: AT&T Center – San Antonio, TX
TV: NBATV
By: Kyle Cash, NBA Basketball Handicapper, Predictem.com

Point Spread: BOS -1.5/SAS +1.5
Total: 218

Last Night in the NBA

Unfortunately for Predictem.com, the Philadelphia 76ers decided not to take advantage of their rest days and instead conceded an absolute ass-whooping to the Portland Trail Blazers. Ask not what Joel Embiid can do for you – ask what he can do for your wallet. Let’s hope that my large adult son Joel and my new #1 fan Barbara Cerbus can get healthy again before the new year. Prayers to you both!

Elsewhere in the NBA, Karl-Anthony Towns is officially emerging like Andy Dufresne out of the Shawshank prison Jimmy Butler constructed for him, the Lakers picked up a LeBron-less win on LeBron’s birthday, and at one point during the game, the Detroit Pistons quite literally forgot to guard the guy who had the ball. So much for my “NBA defenses are actually really good” hypothesis.

Predictem note: Players tend to bet parlays frequently in the NBA. It’s the second most parlayed league per event after NFL and the most parlayed league overall. It’s crucial to winning that players use the best sportsbooks for parlays. Players who expect to win know the payout odds is the most important aspect to winning. 

I usually take the time to enjoy my New Year’s Eve, and it’s one of the rare nights of the year that the NBA is not in the forefront of my mind. But after two years ago when James Harden quite literally broke my brain (there’s an epic candid picture to prove it) with a 53 point/16 rebound/17 assist triple-double, I dutifully and shamefully partake in the offering the NBA gives us. I vowed that night to never miss another game like that again. Fortunately, I don’t think we’ll have any of those stat lines tonight as the Boston Celtics visit the San Antonio Spurs for a Texas new year. The Celtics are currently favored by 1.5-points on the road with the total set to 218 points. Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and the Celtics never brought to mind? I think so.

Spotlight

It’s been a long, strange 2018 for the Boston Celtics, and let’s hope that none of their momentum from their Eastern Conference Finals appearance carries over into 2019. My best case scenario is that the Celtics’ pick they get from the Kings will be a Euro stash in the late teens, Kyrie Irving gets fed up and flees to play with KD in The Big Apple, and Jayson Tatum tops out as a 17 point per game ball hog who wants to be a poor man’s Kobe Bryant. A boy can dream – can’t he?

Instead, we’re nearing the point of the season where Kyrie Irving starts to take it really seriously, and he can singlehandedly take down the Spurs if he wants to (spoiler alert: he literally already did that one time with a 57-point game). His playmaking has come a long way since his 25-win teams in Cleveland, and he’s averaging 26-6-8 over his last 6 games. He’s the main reason why Boston, despite their inconsistent play, still rank 10th in the NBA in Offensive Rating, and he’s helped to contribute to their elite defense as well.

To take down the Spurs, the C’s are going to need to continue their recent offensive output. Suffice to say that Popp’s squad is still one of the best coached teams in the league, and it’s a rare game where the coach’s chess match may be as important as the players’ efforts. In a game projected to be slow-paced, the Celtics are going to need Uncle Drew to lace up and show those young whipper-snappers who’s boss.

The Good, The Bad and The Spurs

There’s contrarian-thinking – and then there’s Gregg Popovich. The wily veteran coach saw the 3-point boom happening in the NBA and said, “No, thanks.” He’s like Brooks getting out of prison and being overwhelmed by technology – the NBA went and got itself in a big, damn hurry, and Popp just can’t take it anymore (Two Shawshank references in one day! It’s amazing it’s taken me this long to include one, tbh. That’s called self-control). The Spurs are averaging 7 less 3-point attempts per game than the league-average, and a whopping 19 less per game than the league-leading Houston Rockets. Trading 2s for 3s is a novel concept – but at what point does basic math overpower sheer force of will?

Against Boston, we may just find out. The Celtics have allowed the 3rd most amount of 3-pointers per game to opposing squads, and their defense is exploitable from deep. The Spurs aren’t even a bad 3-point shooting team; in fact, they make them at the highest clip in the NBA. Bryn Forbes, Patty Mills, Davis Bertans, Marco Bellinelli, Rudy Gay – the list goes on for days. But with DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge penning their mid-range manifestos on a nightly basis, it’s impossible for San Antonio to sustain a consistent outside attack. But with a stout defensive frontcourt in Al Horford and Marcus Morris, the Spurs would be wise to play from the perimeter where Boston’s defensive talent is significantly worse. But try to tell Popovich what he should do. I dare you.

Best Bet

Not two months ago, I took pen to paper (metaphorically) and signed the death certificate for the San Antonio Spurs. On Christmas day, I had time to casually peruse the standings and – lo and behold – the Spurs are playing like the Spurs. They’ve dispatched 9 of their last 12 opponents including 7 of 9 at home. You don’t live to be as old as the Spurs dynasty without picking up a few tricks, and it seems that San Antonio has concentrated their efforts on taking down teams in their own domain. The Spurs are 14-5 SU at home this season, and 5-1 SU as a home underdog. Boston is a “switch the flip” team, and I would think that, eventually, that switch gets turned on for good. But we’re not quite there yet, and it’s about time for the Spurs to officially put the league back on notice. Winter is coming – and so is San Antonio. Happy New Year, handicappers!

Update: Mybookie and a few other sportsbooks currently have Spurs +2.

Final Score Prediction: San Antonio Spurs 106 – Boston Celtics 104

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