The Boston Celtics (22-22, 20-22-2 ATS) take on the New Orleans Pelicans (16-27, 20-23 ATS) on Monday afternoon to kick off the week. Boston is riding high after a clutch win over the Chicago Bulls on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Pelicans have been trying to claw their way back into the play-in picture after a terrible start to the season.
According to the online sports book Betonline.ag, the Boston Celtics are 6.5-point favorites:
- Point Spread: Boston Celtics -6.5
- Over-Under: 216.5 points
- Money line: TBD
Celtics point guard Marcus Smart is still out due to the league’s health and safety protocols. Head coach Ime Udoka confirmed that he tested positive for COVID. Big man Robert Williams is also out due to personal reasons.
The Pelicans only have two players on their injury report, and both are dealing with long-term injuries. Zion Williamson is still recovering from a broken foot and is now undergoing rehab away from the team. In addition, Kira Lewis Jr. is out after he tore his ACL and sprained his MCL at the start of December.
G: Dennis Schroder
G: Jaylen Brown
F: Jayson Tatum
F: Grant Williams
C: Al Horford
New Orleans Pelicans
G: Devonte’ Graham
G: Josh Hart
F: Brandon Ingram
F: Herbert Jones
C: Jonas Valanciunas
Boston Celtics Overview
The Celtics are starting to show some signs of growth. After struggling to close out games all season, they won two close games this past week. They managed to mount a minor (six-point) comeback against the Bulls in the final two minutes and they beat the Indiana Pacers in overtime, too. While it may not be the prettiest basketball anyone’s ever seen, at least they are beginning to take those next steps.
Udoka has begun to grow as a coach, too. He’s made some noticeable rotational changes in the last week. Although nothing’s perfect, his changes have certainly helped the team. Udoka no longer plays Smart and Dennis Schroder on the floor together at the same time. On top of that, he’s started to close games with different lineups, most of which can space the floor better. Both Grant Williams and Josh Richardson are getting some of those opportunities.
Boston sits at .500 right now, a mark they have not managed to get over since the early stages of December. They have never been more than two games above .500, and the last time they were above that mark at all was during that fateful west-coast road trip at the start of December. A win over the Pelicans would see them jump from 11th place in the East right up to ninth. Plus, they are only 1.5 games out of the seven seed as is.
New Orleans Pelicans Overview
The Pelicans began the season with a 3-16 record. Since then, they have gone 13-11 and actually look like a competent basketball team. They are only 1.5 games out of a play-in spot at the moment, all without Williamson even touching the floor for them. New Orleans’ ugly start to the year doesn’t reflect where they are at right now.
Brandon Ingram looks incredible. Since the Pelicans’ 3-16 start, Ingram is averaging 23.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 5.5 assists while shooting 46.5 percent from the field and 32.4 percent from deep. In that same span, big man Jonas Valanciunas has put up 17.4 points and 11.5 rebounds, and Josh Hart has scored 14.3 points per contest.
New Orleans may be missing their superstar forward in Williamson, but they definitely have some talented players on the roster. Outside of Ingram, Valanciunas, and Hart, they still have guys like Devonte’ Graham, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and rookie Herbert Jones, who has become a staple in their rotation. Jones is an elite defender, so Celtics fans should be on the lookout for him on Monday afternoon.
Ball movement will forever and always be what separates the good version of the Celtics from the bad version of the Celtics. When the ball is moving, good things happen. When the ball is not moving, frankly, nothing happens. The C’s get stuck in isolation-heavy basketball and end up playing poorly. As soon as Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Schroder start hogging the ball, everything goes downhill for the Celtics.
Consistent defense is key. Boston has been depending on elite defensive pressure so far this season with how poor their offense has look. As deceiving as their record might be, the Pelicans have players who could cook the Celtics. Ingram is an All-Star-caliber player, and when it comes down to it, one of the most fluid scorers in the league. Add in a big man like Valanciunas and a sparkplug scorer like Graham, and New Orleans has some weapons to work with.
Lastly, Payton Pritchard should get some extra minutes. He’s looked really solid in the past few games, especially from three-point range. He provides the Celtics with some much-needed shooting, and for the most part, doesn’t get caught up hogging the ball too much. Pritchard has been making a serious case to take more of Schroder’s minutes, and that needs to be reflected in the rotation.
The Pelicans are better than their record shows. That being said, the Celtics have been playing much better in the past week. Expect them to come out fired up after a nice win over Chicago.
Boston Celtics 105, New Orleans Pelicans 98
TIP-OFF: 12:30 p.m. @ TD Garden
RADIO: 98.5 The Sports Hub
TV: NBC Sports Boston