The Most Important Matchups and Best Bets for Friday’s NBA Slate
Friday features another sizable NBA slate, although it’s not quite as large as expected. There have already been two games postponed due to health and safety protocols, but that still leaves us with eight games to choose from. The action gets underway with two games starting at 7:30 p.m. ET and wraps up with two games at 10 p.m. ET.
One of tonight’s games features the Boston Celtics. They will be a bit closer to full strength vs. the Magic, but they will still be without Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker. How will their offense fare with both players out of the lineup?
Let’s dive in.
The Celtics have gotten off to another solid start this season. They’ve won seven of their first 10 games, which puts them first in the Eastern Conference. However, their Net Rating suggests they haven’t been nearly as impressive as their record suggests. They’ve outscored their opponents by an average of just +1.51 points per 100 possessions, which ranks merely 11th in the league. That’s still a solid number, but it puts them well behind the league’s top teams.
They seem like a team that’s due for regression, which could start today vs. the Magic. They’re going to have to survive without Tatum, who has blossomed into one of the best players in basketball. He’s averaged career-highs in virtually every category across the board this season, and he’s maintained his excellent efficiency as a scorer. He’s shooting 47.4% from the field and 43.8% from 3-point range, both of which are excellent marks considering his volume.
His defensive ability remains the most underrated part of his game. The Celtics have allowed -6.7 fewer points per 100 possessions with Tatum on the court this season, so they have unsurprisingly been at their best in that situation.
Without Tatum, the Celtics will have to find some answers on both ends of the court. Jaylen Brown will likely be asked to carry a larger burden on offense, and he should be up for the challenge. That said, he’s not going to be able to do it alone. Marcus Smart, Jeff Teague, and Payton Pritchard will also be asked to increase their usage rates, but none of those guys have the same impact as Tatum on defense.
Add it all up, and the Celtics might not deserve to be favored against the Magic. Orlando isn’t a great team – they rank 23rd in Net Rating – but they are arguably better than the current iteration of the Celtics. The Celtics do have home-court advantage in this contest, but home court has had a minimal impact for the Celtics this season.
We’ve seen some notable line movement for tonight’s contests.
The largest line move involves the Lakers. They’re off to an excellent start this season – they’ve outscored opponents by an average of +10.43 points per 100 possessions – and they’re taking on a Pelicans’ squad that will be at less than full strength. Zion Williamson will be back in the lineup after missing their last game, but Lonzo Ball remains out and Eric Bledsoe is questionable. Playing shorthanded against any team isn’t great, but it’s especially problematic against the Lakers. That’s caused this spread to rise from Lakers -8.5 to Lakers -10 on FanDuel Sportsbook.
The Lakers also appear to be receiving some professional support in the betting market. They’ve received just 30% of the spread bets, but those buts have accounted for 74% of the spread dollars. That means the big money – which tends to come from professional bettors – have sided with Los Angeles.
BEST BETS FROM THE SPORTSGRID BETTING MODEL
Our betting model sees a significant edge in a few contests this evening, including the Memphis Grizzlies vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves.