Celtics vs. Pelicans Odds & Picks: Back Boston Against Struggling New Orleans
Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Jayson Tatum.
- A struggling Pelicans team hopes to get out of a funk in a national TV matchup with the Celtics.
- New Orleans has lost four of its last five games, most of which have been in convincing fashion.
- Nick Alfano breaks down why he's backing Boston to cover as favorites on the road.
Celtics vs. Pelicans Odds
|Moneyline||-140 / +120|
|Time||3:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Saturday Night and via PointsBet.|
The Boston Celtics have been a disappointing team to watch this season. A preseason contender for the Eastern Conference title, Boston is only one game above .500 after splitting a pair at home with the Hawks.
If you think the Celtics are the NBA’s most disappointing team, though, I present to you the New Orleans Pelicans.
A squad thought to be on the cusp of a playoff berth with a strong young nucleus, New Orleans dropped five of six and has the fourth worst record in the West.
So call this the “Disappointment Bowl” if you must, but I’m expecting an intensely competitive game as indicated by the short spread. Despite this, I still see value on Sunday afternoon.
I will admit, this game is more about how poor the Pelicans have been than what I think the Celtics do well. However, there are many aspects of this matchup that signal success for Boston.
The Celtics can really shoot the ball from 3-point land. With a minimal post presence, Boston depends on long-range shooting. It currently lives and dies by the 3-ball, shooting 37.7% from beyond the arc this season, which is the 10-best mark in the NBA entering play on Saturday night, according to NBA Advanced Stats.
New Orleans gives up the most 3-point makes and attempts per game in the league, allowing guys like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker to really hunt shots. Clear, open looks will be abundant for Boston on Sunday.
Despite the absence of All-NBA defender Marcus Smart, the Celtics have held opponents in check recently. Over its last six games, Boston has the league’s sixth-highest Defensive Rating at 107.5, according to NBA Advanced Stats. The Pelicans have been putting up high point totals recently but haven’t faced a defense that is clicking like this one.
Lastly, Boston will have had a full day of rest heading into Sunday. The Celtics have lost the second leg of their last three back-to-backs and the defeats have come at the hands of low-standing teams like the Kings, Pistons and Hawks.
It’s clear that having fresh legs improves Boston’s play, and I’m excited to see the energy it comes out with.
New Orleans Pelicans
I honestly don’t know where to begin when it comes to New Orleans’ recent performances. It’s not just that it has lost, but it’s how it has lost.
For starters, the Pelicans have lost five of their last six games and allowed more than 120 points in those defeats.
Four of those five losses have come by double digits, most notably their Friday night tilt against Phoenix where they were outscored, 41-12, in the fourth quarter. According to ESPN’s Win Probability model, New Orleans had over a 90% win probability on multiple occasions … and then lost by 18.
Bottom line: This team is in shambles. The Pelicans have the second worst Defensive Rating in the league (115.9) and worst Defensive Rating of any team in their last six games by a whopping 2.8 points.
They rank last in Opponent Effective Field Goal Percentage (56.7%) and as I mentioned above, have no interest in defending the 3-point shot.
New Orleans’ budding duo of Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson makes the Pelicans a fun watch, and both have been getting buckets over the past couple weeks, but Boston has the wings to defend them.
The Pelicans completed a historic collapse less than 48 hours prior to this game’s tip-off, and they need major roster and rotational realignment that will take more than two days.
I envision some combination of Lonzo Ball, Eric Bledsoe and Ingram guarding Brown and Tatum. That’s great news for the Celtics, as that trio ranks in the bottom 25 of Individual Defensive Rating for all NBA players that have played in at least 15 games and average at least 15 minutes per game, according to NBA Advanced Stats.
The kicker in this matchup is the availability of New Orleans center Steven Adams. He missed Friday’s disaster due to a right ankle sprain and is questionable for this one. Per Cleaning the Glass, Adams is worth 10.9 points per 100 possessions to the Pelicans, the majority of that value coming on defense.
Whether Adams plays does not change my pick, but I will make it a multi-unit play if he sits.
Kick your feet up on Sunday afternoon and take the Celtics.
Pick: Celtics -2.5, up to 3.5