Celtics-Raptors Betting Preview: Can Boston Cover up North?

Celtics-Raptors Betting Preview: Can Boston Cover up North? article feature image

Photos from USA Today Sports. Pictured: Kawhi Leonard and Gordon Hayward

Betting odds: Boston Celtics at Toronto Raptors

  • Spread: Raptors -2.5
  • Over/Under: 208
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ESPN

>> All odds as of noon ET. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NBA odds and track your bets

It’s just a couple days into the season, and we’re already getting what projects to be an Eastern Conference Finals preview. Of course, we had to round up our analysts to break down everything you need to know.

Moore: What I’m Watching for Tonight

Boston’s offense still showed some signs of rust and clunk in its dominant win over the Sixers; the Celtics were mostly carried by Jayson Tatum ISO-ball. And that’s kind of the point with Boston.

Things don’t have to be working perfectly for the Celtics to hit you with wave after wave of weaponry. The same can be said of the Raptors, although instead of individual talent, it’s more about how Toronto operates and makes use of its various mechanics.

The matchup that bears watching closest is obviously on the wing with Tatum and Gordon Hayward vs. Kawhi Leonard. Leonard seemed to settle in fine with Toronto in its first win over Cleveland, but you can expect Boston to load up a bit more on him.

Our power rating has this line with the Celtics favored; I have it projected at Celtics -1.5. Boston is better, but this game will tell us a lot about where both teams stand early in the season.

This is a great test for both squads: It’s far enough away from the playoffs where the coaches won’t keep it vanilla and it features two teams that have yet to go toe-to-toe in the playoffs. — Matt Moore

What’s Boston’s Identity?

One thing I’m watching for this year is whether Boston will play more to the identity of its vets or young players. Kyrie Irving, Al Horford and Hayward prefer to play more slowly, operating in the half court.

And it showed in the first game: Boston didn’t get out in transition very much, and the Celtics actually lost 5.9 points per 100 possessions in transition against the 76ers.

The Raptors will likely boast one of the league’s top defenses, and they have studs in Kyle Lowry, Danny Green and Leonard to throw at Boston’s best offensive players.

If this game becomes a half-court slugfest, I think that actually helps Toronto, in a vacuum. What makes Boston stand out is the young wing athleticism of guys such as Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

But will the Celtics play to that strength? Or will they continue to build their identity around the veterans? The question probably doesn’t matter in most games, but it certainly will in the playoffs. — Bryan Mears

Betting Trends to Know

Under Brad Stevens, the Celtics are 100-78-3 (56%) against the spread (ATS) as underdogs, including 74-48-1 (61%) ATS when getting points on the road.

However, in Toronto the Celtics are only 1-9 straight up and 3-7 ATS under Stevens. Boston has lost and failed to cover in six straight games up north. — John Ewing

The last time the Celtics faced the Raptors, Boston lost to Toronto north of the border by 18 points (96-78), shooting just 33% from the field. Under Stevens, Boston is 115-72-4 ATS (61.5%) after losing to a team in its previous meeting; he’s the most profitable coach in the NBA in that spot.

When Boston dropped its previous meeting by double digits, the Celtics are 42-26-3 ATS (61.8%) in their next meeting, including 24-8-2 ATS (75%) since 2015, covering the spread by 4.0 points per game. — 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.