Celtics vs. Lakers Odds, Picks & Betting Predictions: Sharp Money Hitting Over/Under
Photo credit: Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Marcus Smart and LeBron James
Celtics at Lakers Picks, Betting Odds & Predictions
- Spread: Lakers -7
- Over/Under: 222
- Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
- TV: ABC
The NBA’s most storied rivalry will resume again today for an afternoon matchup. In their first meeting this year, the Celtics easily took care of business, blowing out the Lakers at home.
Will L.A. get revenge against a Kemba Walker-less Boston squad? Or will the Celtics continue to dominate as a road underdog? Let’s break it down.
Betting Trends to Know
The Boston Celtics are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games, and they’ve thrived this season in this particular spot. They’re 11-4 ATS as underdogs and 16-10-1 ATS on the road.
That meshes with their historical performance under Brad Stevens, too: As a dog, Stevens’ Celtics are 119-90-3 (56.9%) ATS, good for a 11.0% ROI. As a road dog, they’re a ridiculous 90-59-1 for a 18.1% ROI.
Sharp Action Report
Despite the strong trend listed above about the Celtics under Brad Stevens crushing as road dogs historically, it seems the pros are on the Lakers here. The market opened at Lakers -6.5 at home, and we’ve already tracked two steam moves at that number, pushing it up to -7.
The public seems split right now, which isn’t surprising given the popularity of both of these teams: 50% of the bets are on the Celtics; 52% of the total money wagered on the spread is on the Lakers.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see some buyback on the Celtics in this spot, especially if it starts pushing up toward Lakers -8.
The biggest sharp angle, though, seems to be on the total…
We’ve tracked two steam moves on the under already today, first at the high number of 226.5 and then again at 224. As a result, it now sits all the way down at 222. The public is on the over, as it’s getting 55% of the bets, but 66% of the total money wagered on the total has been on the under.
That’s not entirely surprising given both of these teams’ defenses plus the absence of Boston PG Kemba Walker, who has a big impact on the scoring efficiency for the Celtics. We’ll see if there’s any buyback on the over at a number nearly four points lower than the opener.
How I’m Handicapping Today’s Game
I’m in agreement with the sharps on the under: I think that’s the right side, especially at that high opening number given Kemba Walker’s importance to this team.
On the season, he’s easily been their most important offensive player: Their offense has dipped by a whopping 7.7 points per 100 possessions with him off the floor, which is one of the highest marks in the league. Diving deeper, the offense takes much better shots, increasing its 3-point rate by 4.8%, and the offense is also more efficient shooting from nearly everywhere.
The interesting thing about Kemba, though, is that his complete on/off differential profile is completely neutral: With him on the floor, the Celtics have posted the exact same Net Rating compared to him off. The reason is that they’ve been worse with him defensively to the same extreme mark that they’ve been better with him offensively.
Looking for more Celtics-Lakers coverage? Check out Matt Moore’s betting preview for Sunday’s showdown at Staples Center.
That definitely sounds like an under play to me, although the number is now nearly four points lower than the opening mark, which highlights how beneficial it can be to grab opening lines as opposed to betting against a more robust market with liquidity, higher limits and sharper numbers. I think there’s some value in the 223/224 range on the under, but I don’t think there’s enough at 222 to make a play.
The more interesting bet is the side, especially if you believe Kemba is closer to a neutral player (that’s probably understating his value, to be honest) than a highly valuable one to the spread.
But let’s look at the market. The Lakers have moved from -6.5 to -7, but that’s not on account of public money; rather, as shown above, it’s sharp steam. I think the Celtics are typically undervalued in this spot — and I thought it was possible the public would be all over the Lakers with Kemba out, thus pushing it up quite high and leading to a chance to get the Celtics at an inflated plus number — but a bet on the Celtics is not a bet on an inflated public line it seems.
That said, I don’t think the Lakers are over seven points better here than the Celtics, and if it gets above that current number, I think there’s some value on the Celtics, as scary as it might be to go against the steam moves.
These teams have been largely even over the last two months in terms of play, and this line is suggesting that either the Lakers are four-plus points better on a neutral court or that Kemba is worth quite a bit. I’m unsure about either of those things.
The biggest question for the Celtics this season and especially against the Lakers is whether they can protect the rim. That was a concern entering the year given their center options, but they’ve largely been excellent in that regard. And in the first game against the Lakers, they held LA to a very low FG% mark at the rim in a blowout win.
That game probably isn’t too representative of anything today, as the Celtics absolutely dominated in transition and got super hot from beyond the arc. But the point remains that if they can protect the rim in what will likely be a slow-paced game, they have the offensive shot-creators to hang within a big number like we’re seeing today.
I also think it’s possible the market is underrating the Celtics and a Kemba drop-off given the leap we’re seeing from Jayson Tatum. Most people asked would likely say that the Lakers will have easily the best two players in the game in LeBron James and Anthony Davis — and most nights that’s probably true — but Tatum is definitely getting to that point. It’s possible in a halfcourt, get-your-shot type of affair, the Celtics don’t have much of a downgrade with him operating the offense vs. Kemba.
All in all, I like the under if it gets back to 223/224, and I like the Celtics if it gets above +7.
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.