Raptors-Celtics: Betting, DFS Angles for This Defensive Battle

Raptors-Celtics: Betting, DFS Angles for This Defensive Battle article feature image

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

This game could have been wicked good, perhaps an Eastern Conference Finals preview, but no. Boston’s MVP candidate just had to have a knee injury …


I suppose it could still be an ECF preview, but for now the Celtics need to dig deep and keep eking out gritty wins. Here’s what you need to know for Raptors at Celtics. — Mark Gallant

1. The Short-handed Celtics Could Struggle Against Toronto’s Depth

Watch The Weakside: C.J. Miles went for 20 last time out between these two teams, and it was mostly due to very good weakside defenders for Boston surprisingly falling completely asleep. Jaylen Brown, Semi Ojeleye, Terry Rozier — everyone fell asleep, with some thanks to the off-ball screens of the Raptors’ second unit. Boston did something uncharacteristic in that game and overloaded to try and stop the pick-and-roll, and that opened up all sorts of opportunities. Boston must be sharper or they’ll get caught.

Watch how the Celtics’ got caught ball-watching here. One little screen and that’s Miles getting loose.



Tito Three Sticks: Terry Rozier, aka “Tito Three Sticks,” has been lights out since Kyrie Irving went down. He finished with 18 and 4 against Toronto and was a minus-8, which was much better than most of the squad. Irving was a team-worst minus-22 in that contest. The Raptors picked on Irving’s pick-and-roll coverage consistently. Rozier’s better on that end, and that’s important. All three ballhandlers for Toronto in Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Delon Wright lit Boston up.

Rozier had issues of his own vs. Toronto last time out, specifically off-ball. He gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar here, and Delon Wright misses a wide open three that he was able to shoot because of it. The miss isn’t important, it’s that Rozier had several of these plays.



Yabu-Dabba-Doo: The Celtics’ net rating with Guerschon Yabusele on the court before the All-Star break was minus-4.9. Their net rating with him on since is plus-4.0. He can hit 3s, and he’s a big, strong defender; he’s a mobile tank. He’s like Glen Davis if you converted his body form to just pure chiseled muscle and added more versatility. He’ll have a bigger role than he did in their last game. That might wind up mattering, especially against that Raptors bench that has struggled a bit lately.

Get Back to Where You Once Belonged: The Raptors outscored Boston by 11 in fast-break points in their win Feb. 6, although at that point the Celtics were dog tired and just trying to get to the All-Star break. The Celtics have allowed 20 or more fast-break points only five times this season. They’re just not usually that undisciplined. Notably, they are 3-2 this season in those games.

Out of Their Depth: There’s been talk about worries with Toronto’s bench unit, but in March the Raptors are still the No. 1 team in bench net rating at plus-10.5 per 100 possessions, and they’re seventh since March 15. Boston’s short-handed without Irving, Marcus Smart, Daniel Theis and Marcus Morris. Keeping up with the Raps’ depth will be tough. If the Raptors’ second unit wins their minutes, they’ll probably win and/or cover. — Matt Moore

2. Boston Has to Be Elite Defensively to Hang

These teams have met twice this season. In the first matchup, Irving didn’t play, but the Celtics rallied at home to win 95-94. The wings of Boston really bothered the Raps, who turned it over on a whopping 19.1% of their possessions and shot just 54.5% at the rim. In the second matchup, the Raptors blew out the Celtics: It was 83-60 starting the fourth quarter, and it finished 111-91. In that affair, Boston scored just 83.3 points per 100 possessions, which is in the bottom-1 percentile of offensive performances this season. You might see a trend there: With or without Irving, Boston cannot seem to score on Toronto. That puts a ton of pressure on the Celtics’ defense, which can keep them in games, but the room for error is minuscule. In the second matchup, Toronto added 8.7 points in transition. If Boston can’t get to 100 points, giving up even one or two easy baskets can tank its chance at winning this one. — Bryan Mears


3. Target the Under in High-Profile Late-Season Games

When the league’s best teams (win rate of 65% or higher) meet, the under is 425-346-4 (55%). Late in the season (March-April), the under record improves to 103-71-2 (59%). — John Ewing

4. VanVleet Is a DFS Value, Even Off the Bench

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

As Matt detailed above, the Raptors’ bench has been fantastic this season, and a big part of that has been the play of Fred VanVleet. He’s been an outstanding value from a fantasy perspective recently as well, posting an average Plus/Minus of +4.64 over his past 10 games on DraftKings. He’s been fantastic all season on a per-minute basis, averaging 0.97 DraftKings points per minute, and he’s played at least 24.5 minutes in four of his past five games. The Celtics are a tough matchup — they rank first in the league in defensive efficiency — but their point guard defense has been much less intimidating since losing Marcus Smart. — Matt LaMarca

5. Stevens Has No Issues Following Up Big Wins

Since Brad Stevens became coach of the Celtics in 2013, Boston is 36-24-1 ATS (60%) in the game after winning straight-up as an underdog. Stevens is the second-most profitable coach in the NBA in this spot behind just Terry Stotts. Narrowing the trend to just Eastern Conference opponents, Boston’s ATS win rate increases to 67.6%. — Evan Abrams

Pictured above: Al Horford
Photo credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports