After a game like they had yesterday I can confirm the Celtics are back. They are in Sacramento tonight as 2.5 point favorites against the Kings. The line has moved down to 1.5 in some places and up to 3 in others but sits at 2.5 now. While I agree it is definitely a sharp move to take the points with the Kings at home, with the Celtics on the second half of a back to back. But the Celtics have a dominating mindset right now. Kyrie talked to the media how the team used the long cross-country plane trip to get closer. He mentioned them wanting to have the identity of a dominant road team and that they wanted to impose their will during this road trip. They have been inconsistent all year but I think this is their turning point. I mentioned how they are always competitive against the Warriors but I did not expect complete domination. After watching that game and listening to their most recent comments I am riding the Celtics for the rest of the season. Now that the team is fully healthy they have the chance to get on the same page and get hot going into the playoffs.
I have previously compared this Celtics team to the 2001 Lakers. This was the team sandwiched in the three peat so when you look back it is easy to forget this team’s regular season struggles. They got it together right around the same time as the Celtics are now and ended the season on an 8 game win steak. That streak was extended for the first 11 games of the playoffs as they swept their way to the finals. Their only playoff loss was game 1 of the NBA finals when Allen Iverson went off for 48 points. They dominated the next four games to win the NBA finals and their struggles have been forgotten since. After the performance they had last night, can you really see any team beating the Celtics at that level in a 7 game series? Milwaukee is great but the playoffs are totally different than the regular season. The perception that they have great depth will not matter once rotations are tightened up. Depth is nice in the regular season. It gives your starters a break and the bench gives the team energy with their performances. But the regular season games do not have the same intensity as the playoffs. There are a lot more closeouts on the open shots these role players are knocking down. The playoffs are an entirely different atmosphere. The Raptors were the team with great depth last year and they were swept out of the playoffs in the 2nd round. The same will probably happen to Milwaukee this year.
Another pick I like today is the Sixers -4.5. This is a “don’t overthink it” situation. The Bulls have had their little run but that appears to be over. This is a generous line due to the Bulls recent success and Joel Embiid sitting out. Still this is a game I see the 76ers winning in blowout fashion. My last pick is the Pelicans +4.5. They have quietly played very well since the whole Anthony Davis trade deadline fiasco. Julius Randle has been a beast and Jrue Holliday is also playing very well. The public perception of the team has still dropped since the trade deadline and we see this effect the game lines. The Pelicans are coming off a comeback win in Utah and host the Jazz tonight. Alvin Gentry was quoted in his post-game press conference saying he had a couple beers after the game. This is a team that is playing for each other and celebrating together. It’s the complete opposite of what happened to the Lakers locker room that imploded because of this situation. I see the Pelicans dominating tonight. That’s my big easy, big easy lock of the night.