Celtics-Timberwolves Betting Preview: Value in the Over/Under?

Celtics-Timberwolves Betting Preview: Value in the Over/Under? article feature image

Photo credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Robert Covington

Betting odds: Boston Celtics at Minnesota Timberwolves

  • Spread: Timberwolves -2.5
  • Over/Under: 217
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET
  • TV: NBA TV

>> All odds as of 1:30 p.m. ET. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NBA odds and track your bets

The 11-11 Timberwolves — who are playing very well since trading away Jimmy Butler eight games ago — will host the 12-10 Celtics on Saturday. The over/under in this game has shot way up. Is that right, or is there now value on the under?

Our analysts discuss.

Mears: How I’m Betting the Over/Under

Over the past 10 games, the Timberwolves are 7-3 against-the-spread but just 2-8 to the over. Over that span, they have the second-best Net Rating (+7.2) behind only the Thunder and Nuggets. The Wolves’ defense ranks second, allowing just 101.0 points per 100 possessions.

During the past game eight games specifically, the Wolves have allowed only 98.6 points/100. Before this run, however, the Wolves owned one of the worst defenses in the league, which you can tell by the fact that they still rank just 18th on defense on the season despite the recent domination.

In analyzing the drastic splits between the beginning of the season and now, thankfully there’s an easy explanation: The Wolves traded Butler for Dario Saric and Robert Covington eight games ago.

Covington has played just 277 minutes — not a small sample, but also not a huge one — and over that time the Wolves have been 15.9 points/100 better defensively than without him. That’s in the 99th-percentile of all players this season.

The starting unit with Covington has defended at a rate of 99.0 points/100 (85th percentile), and the bench unit with Cov has been the best defensive unit in the league, allowing just 81.5 points/100. The dude is a defensive stud, and he’s really turned it on since being traded away from Philly.

All this to say: This is not a game between the Celtics, the second-best defensive in the league, and one of the worst ones in Minnesota. It’s not even a game between the Celtics and a middling defense. This is a battle between top five units, and I don’t think that’s being reflected in the over/under of 217, which for some reason has been bet way up from the opening number of 213.5.

Seventy-seven percent of bets are on the over and only 23% are on the under as of writing (see live data here), which I’m guessing is because the Celtics have gone for 128 and 124 points in their last two games. But those were against the Pelicans (fast-paced) and the Cavs (just bad).

This matchup is different, and I think 217 is too high. Bryan Mears

Betting Trends to Know

For the fifth time this season, the Celtics are playing on a back-to-back on a Saturday on the road. The Celtics are 1-3 straight-up and 0-4 against the spread on back-to-backs this season. They’re one of just three teams that doesn’t have an ATS win on a back-to-back. (The Nets are 0-5 and Hawks 0-3).

This is a sharp turn from how effective the Celtics had been playing on a back-to-back in Brad Stevens’ first five seasons as head coach, during which the Celtics went 54-33-1 (62.1%) ATS, profiting bettors 18.7 units.

Stevens was the most profitable NBA coach over that span by more than six full units. When the Celtics have been underdogs on back-to-backs, Stevens has gone 39-16 (70.9%) ATS, covering the spread by 5.5 points per game, including 35-13 (72.9%) ATS as a road dog.

The Timberwolves blew out the Spurs by 39 points on Wednesday and stay at home to face the Celtics.

Under Tom Thibodeau, the Wolves have excelled early in the season in the first half of games, especially when they’re at home. Minnesota is 51-39-2 (56.7%) against the first-half spread in December or earlier under Thibs, including 31-15-1 (67.4%) against the first-half spread at home in that spot, making Thibodeau the most-profitable coach in the NBA in that situation.

In December or earlier in Minnesota, the Wolves are 32-57-3 (36%) against the second-half spread under Thibs, including 9-13 against the second-half spread in 2018.

Exactly how bad have the Wolves been against the second-half spread in December or earlier under Thibs? Bettors have lost 28 total units betting on Thibs in that spot; the next closest coach is Jason Kidd, who lost bettors 14.3 units. Evan Abrams

Editor’s note: The opinions on this game are from the individual writers and are based on their research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.

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