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NBA Odds & Picks for Lakers vs. Celtics: Play the Over in Prime Time Showdown

NBA Odds & Picks for Lakers vs. Celtics: Play the Over in Prime Time Showdown article feature image

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: LeBron James and Jayson Tatum.

  • The Boston Celtics host the Los Angeles Lakers in a prime time NBA showdown Saturday night.
  • The Lakers are also in the midst of a seven-game road trip, so as strong as they're capable of showing defensively, it wouldn't be surprising to see them less than locked in.
  • With this in mind, Raheem Palmer is targeting the total in this matchup. Check out Palmer's full betting analysis below.

Lakers vs. Celtics Odds

Lakers Odds -2.5
Celtics Odds +2.5
Moneyline -138 / +118
Over/Under 218.5
Time 8:30 p.m. ET
Odds as of Saturday morning and via BetMGM.

In one of the NBA’s most storied rivalries between the league’s two most accomplished franchises, the Los Angeles Lakers meet the Boston Celtics on Saturday Night in a nationally televised game on ABC.

While Magic vs. Bird and Kobe and Gasol vs. Pierce, Garnett and Ray might be a distant memory, Saturday night brings another chapter of this rivalry and a possible NBA Finals preview. We were a Celtics win away from that exact matchup in the bubble, and the teams split their two regular-season meetings a year ago.

So where’s the value tonight? Let’s dig into the matchup.

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Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers haven’t had many missteps this season and have been a well-oiled machine. Even after consecutive losses to the 76ers and Pistons, the Lakers enter the night with a 14-6 record, rank first in Defensive Rating (105.5) and seventh in Offensive Rating (114.8) in their non garbage time minutes according to Cleaning the Glass.

Just a few months clear of their bubble run, the Lakers are at the top of the league while essentially coasting. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are averaging 33.1 and 32.8 minutes per game, respectively, which ranks among the lowest of their careers. This roster can play 11-deep, and on any given night the likes of Dennis Schröder, Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Markieff Morris or Talen Horton-Tucker can step up in support of LA’s two stars.

Before the recent hiccups, the Lakers were 10-0 on the road and hadn’t lost two straight games the entire season. While dropping a game against a 76ers team that has the best record in the East wasn’t particularly shocking, their loss against the Pistons as seven-point favorites was a disappointment.

Davis was out of the lineup, but it was a winnable game until they hit a late scoring drought. It’s fair to wonder if fatigue was a factor on the second night of a back-to-back and in the fifth game of seven-game roadtrip for the Lakers.

With the prospect of losing three straight games on the horizon, we should see a motivated Lakers team for this one. Davis is listed as questionable at the time of publication, but he presents a huge mismatch against Daniel Theis, Tristan Thompson, Robert Williams and Tacko Fall. He dominated the Celtics in the Lakers’ win last February, putting up 32 points and 13 rebounds. If he’s good to go, it gives Los Angeles a clear advantage.

If he can’t, we’ll likely see a starting lineup that consists of James, Kuzma, Schröder, Caldwell-Pope, and Marc Gasol. This unit has just played 34 minutes together and has a Net Rating of 9.8, with an Offensive Rating of 125.7 and a Defensive Rating of 115.9. By comparison, the Lakers’ traditional starting lineup with Davis in Kuzma’s place has a Net Rating of 17.1 with an Offensive Rating of 121 and a Defensive Rating of 103.9.

The Lakers are a much better shooting team than we saw last season, and that’ll be key as it was one of the main factors in Boston’s win. In that matchup, the Lakers shot just 7-of-26 from behind the arc. This season, they’re shooting 38.8% from 3-point range, fifth-best in the league after ranking just 21st in that department a year ago.

Boston Celtics

Saturday’s game will just be the second all season where the Celtics have both Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker available. That’s just how unlucky Boston has been early on this season.

The Celtics have also been without key role players such as Williams, Carsen Edwards, and Payton Pritchard, but the inability to get their three stars on the floor at the same time has been a key factor in the inconsistencies the team has faced in a 10-7 start.

Despite all that, the Celtics still are eighth in Offensive Rating (112.2) and 11th in Defensive Rating (109.2) with a +3 Net Rating, eighth-best in the NBA. The reason? Jaylen Brown. The fifth-year wing deserves much of the credit for guiding the ship and has made a case for Most Improved Player with career highs all across the board, averaging 27.1 points, 3.5 assists, 5.6 rebounds while shooting 52.2% from the field and 44.1% from behind the arc.

Now with Tatum and Walker back in the fold, things should be even easier for him.

In the first game with the trio together — Wednesday’s loss to the Spurs — it was clear the Celtics hadn’t fully meshed yet. They allowed 112.5 points per 100 possessions, and gave up 36 points in a second quarter that saw them fall down by 15 points, a deficit from which they were never able to fully recover.

Defense in general is something that Celtics will look to clean up as they work their way back to full strength. They have struggled to defend the rim, where they rank just 24th, allowing an eFG% of 66.3%. They also haven’t gotten back in transition, as they’re 29th in transition points+/possession at 4.2 according to Cleaning the Glass.

Finally, with a turnover percentage of 15%, 23rd among NBA teams, the Celtics could be playing a dangerous game against a Lakers team that is scoring 14 fast-break points per game.

Walker turned the ball over on the team’s final possession against the Spurs on Wednesday, leading to a dunk that all but iced the game:

Dejounte Murray picks Kemba Walker’s pocket in the closing seconds to seal the Spurs win! 😯

🎥: @FOXSportsSW

— USA TODAY NBA (@usatodaynba) January 28, 2021

Lakers-Celtics Pick

If Davis is playing, this number is short as my projections make this game Lakers -3. He’s a difficult matchup for a Celtics team that doesn’t have the best front court. However, this Celtics team with Tatum and Brown could be one of the most difficult wing combinations the Lakers will face all year.

Last season, both of the matchups went over the total, and while the Lakers are 20th in pace and the Celtics are 14th, these are still two of the league’s best offenses, and I’m not sure that’s being accounted for in the current market number.

The Lakers are also in the midst of a seven-game road trip, so as strong as they’re capable of showing defensively, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them less than locked in. Likewise, the Celtics’ defense hasn’t been up to their standards of previous years.

During this season with lots of lineup uncertainty, we have to handicap these matchups multiple ways. If Kuzma starts over Davis, that’s notable in that the Lakers are 12 points worse per 100 possessions defensively in those situations. However, even if Davis plays, I think this total is a bit short. I like the over 218.5 and would play it up to 219.

I would also play the Lakers -2 if Davis is in the lineup, so be sure to monitor lineup news throughout the day.

Pick: Over 218.5 (-110) and Lakers -2 (if Davis plays)

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