Suns vs. Celtics Odds, Preview, Prediction: Take the Points With the Home Underdog (December 31)

Suns vs. Celtics Odds, Preview, Prediction: Take the Points With the Home Underdog (December 31) article feature image

Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics.

Suns vs. Celtics Odds

Suns Odds-4.5
Celtics Odds+4.5
Time1 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Phoenix Suns head to Boston to cap off 2021 against the Celtics. Both teams are exiting the year with a few stars in the league’s health and safety protocols, but will have to contend with the rosters that are in place to close out the New Year.

Will the Celtics put an end to their three-game skid or will Phoenix get a win in Friday's matinee matchup to finish the year? Let's break down both sides.

Is Phoenix's Bench Up to the Task?

The Suns have both big men Deandre Ayton and JaVale McGee in the league’s health and safety protocols and they are joined by Jae Crowder and Abdel Nader. These absences hurt not only their depth but their defense on both the perimeter and the interior.

Due to those absences, the Suns will likely start a lineup that includes both Cameron Johnson and Jalen Smith. This is not an ideal situation. While Smith has played well in games in which he has seen minutes in the upper 20s, neither the Thunder nor the Grizzlies have an interior force that’s quite the same as Robert Williams. Moreover, Smith was not relied on as a starter, he played against the bench behind JaVale McGee.

Although the Suns' defense may falter due to their injuries, they still have the ninth-best Offensive Rating (110.8) in the league due to the excellent play of Chris Paul and Devin Booker. The Suns have made a living making "bad shots" and it's due to the elite midrange scoring from Paul and Booker.

The Celtics allow their opponents to shoot midrange shots at the fifth-highest frequency in the league (34.1% of possessions) and this is an angle the Suns can work to exploit.

Boston's Record Doesn't Match Its Metrics

The Celtics have a few of their own players missing today's contest and that list is highlighted by Jayson Tatum. While they also expect to miss Dennis Schroder, Bruno Fernando, Aaron Nesmith, and Enes Freedom due to health and safety protocols, they are returning Marcus Smart who should help their defense.

The Celtics are having a strange year and they are 16-19 on the season and just 3-7 over their last 10 games. Despite this, the Celtics have the 11th best Adjusted Net Rating in the league (+1.2), and they are anchored by their defense.

The Celtics have the eighth-best allowed eFG%, and they defend all shots on the floor at a high level, but they struggle when teams attack the rim. But with the Suns' current roster, they may not be able to exploit this particular weakness.

While Tatum has been out, Jaylen Brown has truly stepped up. Brown and Tatum have almost been interchangeable this season and have not played many full games together. They have similar roles in the offense, and it's been interesting to watch them play on their own as opposed to with each other.

This season, when Brown has been on the floor without Tatum, the Celtics have a +6.8 point differential, per Cleaning the Glass. They have not scored incredibly efficiently; however, they have played lockdown defense and held their opponents to just 103.4 points per 100 possessions.

On the offensive side of the ball, Brown should get all the opportunities he can handle and his Usage Rates of 39.6% and 35.9% over his last two games are indicative of that.

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Suns-Celtics Pick

When these two teams played on Dec. 10, a major reason for the Suns' success and 21-point victory was their advantage on the glass. They won that battle 53-46. However, without McGee and Ayton I think this will be difficult to replicate considering both these teams are neck and neck in Rebounding Rate.

Additionally, the Suns held the Celtics to just 15.4% from 3-point range, a mark that is far below their season average of 33.5%. I would expect both of these to regulate given the Celtics' pedigree and the Suns' injuries on the interior.

Williams should feast down low in this matchup against Smith, and I think there is value on his double-double prop (+115) and 21.5 Points + Rebounds. This is an edge the Celtics should hold in this game, and if they can punish Smith down low and get him into foul trouble, this could create a vacuum of talent on the block for the Suns.

This line has moved against the Celtics, however, I think the Suns are overvalued in this spot. While the Celtics are missing Tatum, the collection of players that the Suns are slated to be without leaves them too thin.

I'll grab the points with the home dog.

Pick: Celtics +4.5

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