Why the Domantas Sabonis Injury Creates Betting Value on Celtics to Win the East
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images. Pictured: Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown
- Matt Moore explains why the Domantas Sabonis injury news creates betting value on the Boston Celtics to win the Eastern Conference.
The Indiana Pacers are an instant fade with Domantas Sabonis out with plantar fasciitis. They were only outscored by opponents when one player was on the bench — with any other combination, they had a positive net rating.
That player was Sabonis.
Without Sabonis, the Pacers don’t have a big who can pass to set up their scorers, and they don’t shoot enough 3s to compensate for the loss of offense. It’s a crippling blow to a team that could have been a real pain in the ass for their first-round opponent and a boon to bettors.
Now, with Sabonis out, their offense will be shakier.
On a game-by-game basis, expect the over to gain a little value. While scoring will definitely be a problem without Sabonis, sportsbooks tend to overreact to instances like this one. For example, since Sabonis was traded to Indiana, the over is 10-9 with him not in the lineup.
The more interesting (and better expected value) play is on the big picture and what happens with Sabonis out.
The Pacers haven’t given a definitive timeline for Sabonis’ absence or return, but with only a week to go before the resumption of regular-season seeding games, it’s safe to assume Sabonis won’t return until at least the playoffs — which is why my eyes immediately turned to the Boston Celtics.
Let me explain.
The Pacers enter resumption play in the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference — two games back of the Miami Heat in fourth and 4.5 back of the Boston Celtics in third, but a half-game ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Sixers look ready to storm the gates with Ben Simmons shooting 3s (!!!) and playing power forward, which as I wrote, could drastically reimagine their offensive structure in a good way.
The Celtics are too far back for the Pacers or Sixers to catch. Miami is 0-2 vs. the Celtics with one game to play, so Boston has the tiebreaker. That means if Miami goes an impressive 6-2 in resumption play, the Celtics only need to go 4-4 to hold a higher seed.
So let’s go ahead and lock Boston into a top-three seed. None of the Pacers, Sixers or Heat will fall to the 7-seed eight games back.
Let’s assume Indy finishes below .500 after losing Sabonis in the eight remaining games. The Sixers would need to finish a full game ahead to seed higher than the Pacers, but from where we’re at, that seems likely. The Pacers face the Sixers, Rockets, Lakers and Heat twice. The Heat may not have motivation depending on what occurs, but are good for at least one win given they went 2-0 vs. the Pacers this season.
That puts the Sixers in prime position to move out of the 6-seed and into the 4-5 matchup. That, ironically, is against their best interest as it positions the Bucks as their second-round opponent (in all likelihood). But Philly remains dangerous, for sure, and would be a test for Milwaukee.
Meanwhile, the big winner is Boston.
The Celtics owned the Sixers the last three seasons on account of having Al Horford and Aron Baynes, two of the three best Joel Embiid defenders in the league. Baynes and Horford both departed in the offseason. (The third, Marc Gasol, looms in the 2-seed with the Raptors.)
Without those two, Boston had a much harder time with the Sixers, even in a season in which little went right for Philly. Boston won the season series 3-1. Embiid was simply able to carve up Boston’s weak frontcourts.
Getting the Sixers out of the Celtics’ way ticks up the value on Boston’s Eastern Conference title odds of +700 at DraftKings.
Boston has played Toronto well the past few seasons, including 2-1 this season. The Raptors will absolutely pose a challenge, but they have struggled vs. good teams, and the Celtics may have the best player in the series in Jayson Tatum.
The fall of Indiana moves Boston’s biggest matchup threat likely out of the semifinals bracket and into Milwaukee’s — not having to go through both Milwaukee and Philadelphia is a Boston boon.
I was already keeping an eye on the Celtics. It’s also possible the random and unstable environment of the bubble means that the Pacers won’t slip. But as a bettor who has been drawn to what Boston brings to the table with excellent coaching, perimeter shot creation, veteran athleticism and multiple big-shot makers — which are necessary vs. playoff defensive schemes — the value on the Celtics raises the most with this news.
The Pacers always seem to be overlooked, so it’s sadly fitting that the biggest betting takeaway from Sabonis’ injury is actually about another team. Boston is the biggest beneficiary from how the dominoes are likely to fall from here.