Wizards vs. Celtics Odds, Picks, Preview: Jayson Tatum and Co. Have the Edge in Tuesday’s Play-In (May 18)
- The Boston Celtics are small favorites agains the Washington Wizards in Tuesday's matchup between No. 7 and No. 8 in the East Play-In games.
- The Wizards have been on a hot streak over the past month, but with Bradley Beal nursing a hamstring injury, Jayson Tatum will likely be the most important player on the floor.
- So are the Celtics the more valuable side at home? Phillip Kall gives his Celtics vs. Wizards preview below.
Wizards vs. Celtics Odds
|Moneyline||+112 / -134|
|Time||9 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Tuesday evening and via DraftKings.|
After an intense final few weeks, the dust has settled and the play-in games are set.
The Washington Wizards caught fire in April and won 12 of 16 games to get back in the thick of things. A victory on the last day of the season earned them their spot on the better side of the play-in bracket.
Now, they have two tries to win just one game and make the playoffs, completely reversing their dismal start to the season.
The Celtics had a similar hot run in April and looked ready to compete for a top-four seed. Unfortunately, injuries forced Boston to constantly use different rotations and finished the season 5-9. The silver lining for the Celtics is they locked in their spot earlier than most teams giving them the chance rest their players ahead of Tuesday’s game.
Let’s look further into the matchup to see if Boston can flip the switch or if Washington’s intensity will run the Celtics off the court.
Will Washington’s Wild Run Continue?
Before April 7, the Wizards looked ready to roll over and settle for the draft lottery. They entered their matchup that day riding a four-game win streak, three of which were by double digits. However, their 131-116 win against the Orlando Magic seemed to ignite the Wizards and completely change everything.
Their 17-6 run to end the year is not just some stroke of good fortune either. In that span, the Wizards’ Net Rating ranks top-five per NBA Advanced Stats. Their success also has been a balanced effort as both their Offensive and Defensive Ratings rank seventh in the league.
Offensively, the Wizards’ success has come from turning away from the modern NBA philosophy of high-volume 3-point shooting. During this run, Washington attempted 25.2 3s per game, the fewest over that span.
Instead, the Wizards have taken the second-most attempts in the mid-range (17.1) and in the paint excluding the restricted area (22.6). This allowed their players to take shots they are more comfortable with led to Washington leading the NBA in field goal percentage.
The big unknown for Washington is how Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook hold up in the play-in game. Beal has shown the ability to answer the call in postseason games averaging 24.3 points and over 46% shooting in his past two playoff appearances.
Health will be Beal’s major concern, though. Against Charlotte, he struggled after rushing back shooting 8-for-27 from the field and 3-for-11 from deep.
Beal’s nagging hamstring means more will be on Westbrook’s plate. This may not be good since he has not shown the ability to lead a team to victory in the playoffs. With the Thunder, his three attempts ended in first-round exits where he shot under 40% from the field each time.
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Boston Can Push Through Injuries
After a trip to the Eastern Conference finals last season, being in the play-in tournament is far below the Celtics’ preseason expectations. The main issue has been injuries forcing their best players out. As soon as they were starting to get healthy, Jaylen Brown went down for the season with a wrist injury.
Losing their second-best player late in the season is obviously detrimental for a team with conference championship aspirations. Fortunately, at the trade deadline, the Celtics brought in guard Evan Fournier from the Orlando Magic.
In his short time with Boston, Fournier is averaging 18.6 points and 46.9% shooting in games he started per Basketball Reference. He will likely be taking Brown’s offensive responsibility and so far he looks up to the challenge.
The other player who will be a key to this offense reaching its potential is Kemba Walker. To start the season, Walker looked washed and struggled to provide anything positive for the Celtics. However, as the season has gone on, he has steadily been able to turn things around.
Per Basketball Reference, the Celtics’ Offensive Rating with Walker on the court has increased each month. Starting at an abysmal 99 in January and ending at 125 in May. Walker’s ability to guide the offense is desperately needed if Boston hopes to make a surprise run.
This game essentially comes down to one question: Which side do you trust?
Trusting Westbrook in the playoffs is difficult considering his past failures. Trusting the Celtics is dangerous given their lack of on-court chemistry and injuries.
Boston’s main advantage is that they have the best player on the court. At full health, that distinction would arguably go to Beal, but his nagging injury opens the door for Tatum to take another step as a star.
The other advantage for Boston is pace of play. The Celtics played at a pace of 98.3 this season, which ranks bottom 10. The Wizards played at a pace of 104.1, the fastest in the league and rank second in plays in transition.
In post-season games, teams typically slow things down and hustle back to prevent easy points. Being able to play at that pace comfortably can be a big advantage, especially if your opponent can not.
We’ve seen Westbrook struggle to lead his teams to success in the postseason when it become a halfcourt game and I think that happens Tuesday night. Back Boston to win and escape the play-in tournament.
Pick: Boston -2 (Play up to -3.5)
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