Rockets-Celtics Betting Preview: Follow Sharp Money on Houston?

Rockets-Celtics Betting Preview: Follow Sharp Money on Houston? article feature image
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Photo credit: USA Today Sports. Pictured: James Harden and Kyrie Irving

Betting Odds: Houston Rockets at Boston Celtics

  • Spread: Celtics -2
  • Over/Under: 225.5
  • Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: ABC

>> All odds as of 12:15 p.m. ET. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NBA odds and track your bets


The Celtics bounced back last game after losing four straight but will face another tough test today at home against James Harden and the Rockets.

Sharp bettors so far today are on the Rockets. Should you tag along or back the public Celtics? Our analysts discuss.


Betting Trends to Know

On Sunday, the Rockets have the task of tangling with one of the Eastern Conferences’ best teams in the Celtics. Under coach Mike D’Antoni, the Rockets have struggled against the East, going just 34-47-2 (42%) against the spread (ATS), losing bettors 14.9 units, making D’Antoni the second-least profitable coach in the NBA in this spot behind former Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue. — Evan Abrams

Every team in the NBA is currently averaging at least 100 points per game. If that continues, this will be the first year in NBA history that has occurred. That leads me to this: The Celtics have held their past two opponents under 100 points, which is a rare occurrence these days.

Teams this season that have held consecutive opponents under 100 points are 55-31-2 (64%) ATS in their next game, covering the spread by 3.6 points per game. When those teams have been listed as a favorite in their next game, they are 37-15 (71.2%) ATS this season, covering by 4.6 PPG. — Abrams

This is just the seventh regular-season game that the Rockets have been underdogs when both James Harden and Chris Paul play. Houston went 4-2 straight-up and ATS in the previous six games. — John Ewing

The Celtics opened as three-point favorites. In the Brad Stevens era, Boston has gone 24-11-2 (68.6%) ATS as a home favorite of three or fewer points. In all other home games as a favorite, the Celtics have gone 83-74-1 (52.9%) ATS. — Ewing


Mears: Where’s the Value on Today’s Line?

This line is very interesting. On the one hand, the trends are certainly in the Celtics’ favor, as noted above.

Generally, the Celtics are a great bet at home, going 20-13 ATS there this season, and the Rockets are a poor bet on the road, going just 11-19-1 this year.

And yet, the Celtics have looked pretty terrible of late. They did snap a four-game losing streak last game to the Wizards but 1) they still struggled offensively in that one and 2) Washington is one of the worst road teams in the league. So we shouldn’t overreact to that win.

Pictured: Brad Stevens. Photo credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

In its past five games, Boston has ranked 28th in the league with an atrocious -5.8 point differential. The Celtics have still been fine defensively, sitting seventh in that span, but the offense has been spectacularly bad, ranking dead last in efficiency and 28th in effective field goal percentage. They’re also dead last in offensive rebound rate and free throw rate.

They obviously won’t be that bad moving forward — they have too much talent — but it does bring up some systemic issues with the squad that could be problematic today and especially in the playoffs.

Put most simply: The Celtics just don’t do anything with ease offensively.

Even on the year, in which they rank fourth in point differential and 10th on offense, there are some glaring weaknesses. For starters, they’re really bad at rebounding (especially on the offensive glass) and getting to the foul line. Further, they almost never get to the rim, ranking 27th in the league in frequency of shots at that location.

The Celtics fine in terms of corner-3 rate, but they’re dead last in actually hitting them.

You probably get the point: Nothing is easy for the Celtics given their current offensive scheme, and that sets them up for a ton of room for error. They’re almost wholly reliant on hitting jump shots — especially in the mid-range — and if those don’t go down, there’s no Plan B.

They’re kind of like the Warriors in that way. Golden State is certainly not offensively optimized, especially in relation to what it should be with perhaps three of the best shooters in NBA history. Instead, the Dubs rely on their talent to overcome poor optimization.

The good news for Golden State is the talent is overwhelming and almost always overcomes it; the bad news for the Celtics is that they aren’t the Warriors. Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum are good, no doubt, but they aren’t Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.

Houston, meanwhile, is literally the epitome of offensive optimization in basketball. The Rockets continue to shatter records in terms of 3-point rate, and they’re so skilled at creating easy opportunities — be it behind the arc, at the rim or at the free throw line. They have much larger room for error as a result.

So far today, sharp bettors are on the Rockets, as evidenced by one of our Bet Labs Pro Systems:

And I’m inclined to agree with them. The Celtics will progress at some point, but, again, these problems aren’t random — they’re likely indicative of bigger issues that won’t fully progress.

Could Boston get hot from mid-range and win at home, as it has done many, many times? Sure. Is it wise to bet on that right now given how bad the Celtics have looked recently and their long-term problems? I don’t think so. — Bryan Mears


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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