Sunday NBA Odds & Picks for Celtics vs. Suns: Expect Low-Scoring Showdown in Phoenix (Feb. 7)
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics.
Celtics vs. Suns Odds
|Moneyline||+130 / -155|
|Time||2 p.m. ET|
Before the ball gets kicked off on Super Bowl Sunday between the Chiefs and Buccaneers, there’s some national TV NBA action on tap with the Boston Celtics taking on the Phoenix Suns in an early afternoon matchup.
Both squads have identical records entering this matchup and both sit just outside the top tier of teams in their respective conference a third of the way through this NBA season.
So where is the value between these two teams? Let’s dig into the matchups.
The Celtics were bitten by the injury bug before the season started and they haven’t had much luck up to this point. Their starting unit has taken the worst of it so far.
Kemba Walker sat out the start of the season before getting back into the lineup in January. Jayson Tatum missed five games after testing positive for COVID-19. Marcus Smart went down with a calf strain right before the Celtics started their current road trip and now Jaylen Brown will be held out for the second straight game on Sunday due to a sore left knee.
Despite their best players going in and out of the lineup, the Celtics rank ninth in the NBA in Offensive Rating (112.3) and 12th in Defensive Rating (109.7) with a +2.6 Net Rating.
They also have two of their four best players active and showed how they can ride their best players to victory on both ends of the floor.
Tatum’s defense on Kawhi Leonard was suffocating at times and was a large part of the Celtics’ win Friday. Tatum guarded Leonard on 19 possessions and allowed Leonard to shoot 0-for-2 and score one point on those plays.
Jayson Tatum pickpockets Kawhi and draws a foul on the other end, superstar game from him pic.twitter.com/dMMXk3aCIN
— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) February 6, 2021
The defensive numbers have slipped some since Smart went down and things will be even tougher without Brown, who is another versatile defender for the C’s. But if Tatum can bring that same energy in Phoenix, it will go a long way for this shorthanded squad on the road.
The Suns have their own injury issues to deal with entering this matchup. Devin Booker returned from a four-game absence last week, but hasn’t played more than 31 minutes as he nurses a hamstring injury.
Per our NBA Insiders tool, the Suns will not have Cameron Payne off the bench for the seventh straight game and Dario Saric will miss his 11th game in a row. Jae Crowder is listed as doubtful with a foot injury, which will have two-fold impact. Crowder’s 3-point shooting provides spacing for the Suns’ starting unit and the Suns hold opponents to 105.8 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor, which is the best among their starters.
Of course, Crowder is not the engine that makes this team go — that distinction goes to Chris Paul. The 35-year-old point god is showing that he doesn’t age and is averaging 16.4 points and 8.4 assists per game. This season, his team has embraced the plodding pace that Paul prefers. The Suns went from ninth in Pace last season (101.74) to 28th this season (98.01).
But he’s also the tip of the spear for this defense, which ranks fifth in the NBA in Defensive Rating this season, according to NBA Advanced Stats. Paul doesn’t mind being a defensive pest or doing the dirty work, even at his age — he leads the team in deflections per game (2.2) and loose balls recovered (1.1).
We can expect the Suns defense to force the Celtics to play late clock situations often and vice versa, as both teams rank in the top 10 in frequency of plays with four or fewer seconds on the shot clock.
This is matchup of two teams who play at a slow or average pace in an early game out West on Super Bowl Sunday. I don’t anticipate that either of these teams wants to run much, but given their places in the standings, both squads will be focused.
While I don’t think the intensity will mirror a postseason matchup, I think the style of play will. This total has dropped considerably from where it opened at 219, but the Suns and Celtics are 4-4 combined with a total at or below 215 this season.
I’m going to back the under here down to 215.5 at BetMGM, but wouldn’t go lower than that.
Pick: Under 215.5