Celtics vs. Raptors Odds & Pick: Boston is a Sneaky Moneyline Play

Credit:

Getty Images. Pictured (L-R): Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam.

  • Toronto has been on a tear to open bubble play, but Boston's 3-point shooting threatens the Raptors where they are most vulnerable.
  • Raheem Palmer breaks down betting odds and offers his pick for Friday night's marquee NBA matchup between the Celtics and Raptors.
  • Read on to find out why he is backing Boston against the spread and to win outright as underdogs.

Celtics vs. Raptors Odds, Picks

Celtics odds +2.5 [BET NOW]
Raptors odds -2.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline +114/-136 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 219.5 [BET NOW]
Time 9 p.m. ET
TV TNT

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Even with the loss of Kawhi Leonard in free agency, the defending champion Toronto Raptors have been a well-oiled machine all year. They’ve won seven straight games dating back to March 2020 before the lockdown and are 3-0 straight-up and ATS since the NBA’s bubble restart with wins over the Lakers, Heat and Magic. 

They now have their sights on the Boston Celtics, who are coming off a 149-115 drubbing of the Brooklyn Nets as nine-point favorites. This is a good chance for both teams to test their mettle, as this is a possible Eastern Conference semifinals preview with the Raptors in the 2-seed and the Celtics holding the third.

The Celtics and Raptors have traded wins this season, with Boston winning 112-106 on October 25, the Celtics winning again 118-102 on Christmas Day and the Raptors winning 113-97 on December 28. 

Where is the betting value in this matchup? Let’s break it down.

Boston Celtics

The Celtics have had an up-and-down start to the the bubble. They dominated the Blazers and Nets but dropped games against the Bucks and Heat without Jimmy Butler. They’ve mostly struggled defensively, giving up 114.9 points per possession since the restart, good for 16th out of the 22 teams in the bubble.

The Celtics aren’t a very deep team, so having Kemba Walker play regular normal minutes is one thing that will help to get this team in sync. He has been slowly ramping up his action since the start of the bubble, getting up to 27 minutes on Tuesday night. He’ll be returning to action against Toronto after a break on Boston’s back-to-back against the Nets on Wednesday night.

The Celtics’ combination of wings is one of the best in the league. Jaylen Brown has been on an absolute tear during this restart. He’s been a terror on both ends of the floor, putting up 30 points, six rebounds and one assist against the Blazers and 21 points, four rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes in Wednesday’s win against the Nets. Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart have also continued to provide the Celtics with quality play.

For as great as the Celtics are at the wing position, they’re lacking inside. Daniel Theis has emerged as an option at center, but there isn’t much else in the cupboard. Enes Kanter can get it done offensively but is consistently a defensive liability.

One of their biggest problems is that they typically can’t play their five best players (Kemba/Smart/Tatum/Brown/Hayward) at the same time given the lack of size. Although they’ve attempted to play bigger teams off the court with this lineup, it wasn’t very successful in their game against the Heat on Tuesday. 

How the Celtics navigate this will play a role in their success.

Toronto Raptors

The Raptors are first in Net Rating (+9.0) during the NBA restart, but they’re 20th on offense, scoring 105.2 points per 100 possessions. Most of the league has seen Offensive Ratings decline, and the Raptors have been no exception.

Nonetheless, it’s clear defense has been the driving force behind Toronto’s wins against the Lakers, Heat and Magic. The Raptors have been holding teams to 96.1 points per 100 possessions since the start of the bubble. 

One of the most intriguing things about this squad is that they have the league’s second-ranked defense despite allowing the highest percentage of 3-point attempts (40.7%). Additionally, 13.6% of opponent attempts have come from the corner, the highest +EV shot on the floor besides a dunk.

This seemingly goes against almost everything we’ve learned in the analytics era. So how are the Raptors an elite defense with this philosophy?

Put simply, the Raps pick and choose who they allow to shoot uncontested 3s. Toronto is content letting James Ennis, Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic go a combined 1-11 from 3, as they did Wednesday.

That said, how the Raptors handle the Celtics offense, which has four above-average 3-point shooters in Tatum, Brown, Walker and Hayward will speak volumes.

Betting Analysis & Pick

The Celtics’ two wins against Toronto have one thing in common: They shot the lights out. In their one loss in December, they hit just 21% of their 3s.

As great as this Raptors team is, their lone weakness is not having a guy who can get them a basket when they need one. To oversimplify: The Celtics have the edge in offensive firepower and top level talent.

The Celtics have the top-ranked offense since the restart, scoring 121.9 points per 100 possessions. Although these numbers came against porous defenses like the Blazers and Nets, they’ve still shown the ability to score 112 vs. the top-ranked Bucks defense and put up a 113.2 Offensive Rating in a slow-paced game against the Heat, who are underrated defensively.

The Raptors have been the more consistent team, but I like the Celtics in this matchup provided Kemba plays. This is a good spot for the C’s to put together a win against a quality opponent, and they’ve shown they can make Toronto pay for giving up open jumpers. I’m willing to bet on that happening.

As a whole, I think we see a high-scoring game. In the three previous matchups, the average pace was 99.3. The Raptors are playing at a pace of 102.2; the Celtics are at 101.9.

We’ll probably see a pace of about 100 possessions in this game. In addition, we’re seeing more fouls being called in the bubble. Since the start of the bubble, the Celtics are averaging 32.5 free throw attempts, up from 23.4; the Raptors are averaging 30.6, up from 23.0.

I like Celtics +3 and the over. I also like the Boston ML as I think the Celtics win this game outright.

The PICK: Celtics +3 or better, over 218.5

[Bet now at DraftKings and get a $1,000 sign-up bonus.]

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